Songs of the Armed Forces

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Commentary on the Official Music of the Various Armed Services.

History of The Marines' Hymn: (excerpt from Warrior Culture of the U.S. Marines, Copyright 2001 Marion F. Sturkey) 

The U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Air Force all have their own songs.

For the U.S. Navy, Anchors Aweigh was written in 1906 by Lt. Charles Zimmerman and midshipman Alfred Miles. Initially the song was a tribute to the Naval Academy Class of 1907. Various people revised it later, trying to weed out the nonsense. Another midshipman, Royal Lovell, penned the final stanza in 1926. Anchors Aweigh has a snappy little tune, but no one knows what the words imply. The original first stanza in 1906 had dealt solely with the game of football. Even today, the song offers a bittersweet "farewell to college joys." The lyrics end by "wishing you a happy voyage home." Many musical experts think that Anchors Aweigh is a ballad for football players who like sailboats. But, no one really knows for sure.

The U.S Army adopted a snazzy tune for The Caisson Song. Unlike the words in the Navy's song, the words of the Army's song make sense. According to the words of each stanza, The Caisson Song clearly is a melody for rural motorists. Edmund Gruber wrote the original lyrics in the Philippines during World War I. Naturally, since most of the fighting was 8000 miles away in Europe, Gruber made only a passing reference to warfare. Yet, he was careful to be "politically correct." He apparently sought the help of first grade students in composing the lyrics. The banal "Hi, hi, hee" is a dead giveaway. No one has a clue as to what it might mean. Still, at least it rhymes.

The U.S. Air Force did not exist in 1938. But, that year Liberty Magazine sponsored a contest for an official song for the Army Air Corps. The magazine received 757 entries. A group of Army Air Corps wives (yes, believe it or not, wives) selected the entry from Robert Crawford, "Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder".

After World War II the Army Air Corps evolved into the U.S. Air Force. This fledgling flying club adopted Off We Go' as their official song. It suited the illusionary nature of the new Wild-Blue-Yonder-Wonders with references to "those who love the vastness of the sky" and the fictitious "rainbow's pot of gold." The final stanza speaks of the "gray haired wonder," an admirable gesture of non-discrimination for the new civilianized Air Force.

These three songs, Anchors Aweigh, The Caisson Song, and Off We Go into the Wild Blue Yonder, are often played at public events. They obviously delight the members and advocates of the affected service: Navy, Army, or Air Force. When their song is played, sailors, soldiers, and zoomies leap to their feet and shout, cheer, clap their hands, and jive with the music. They have a jolly time, almost like a high school pep rally.

The U.S. Marine Corps is the United States' military band of brothers dedicated to war fighting. The proud Brotherhood of Marines is guided by principles, values, virtues, love of country, and its Warrior Culture. This brotherhood of American Patriots has no song. Instead, Marine Warriors have a hymn. When The Marines' Hymn is played, United States Marines stand at attention. They silently show their pride in their fellow Marines, their Corps, their Country, their heritage, and their hymn. The Marines' Hymn is a tribute to Warriors. Marine Warriors stormed fortress Derna, raised the American flag, and gave us "the shores of Tripoli." Marines fought their way into the castle at Chapultepec and gave us the "halls of Montezuma." Marines exist for the purpose of war fighting. Fighting is their role in life. They "fight for right and freedom" and "to keep our honor clean." They fight "in the air, on land, and sea." The Marine Corps is Valhalla for Warriors. U.S. Marines need no song. They have a hymn.

Ironically, no one knows who wrote the hymn, which was in widespread use by the mid-1800s. Col. A.S. McLemore, USMC, spent several years trying to identify the origin of the tune. In 1878 he told the leader of the Marine Band that the tune had been adopted from the comic opera Genevieve de Barbant, by Jaques Offenback. Yet, others believe the tune originated from a Spanish folk song. Whatever! Regardless of its origin, The Marines' Hymn has remained a revered icon of the United States Marine Corps for almost 200 years.

In 1929 The Marines' Hymn became the official hymn of the Corps. Thirteen years later in November 1942 the Commandant approved a change in the words of the first verse, fourth line. Because of the increasing use of aircraft in the Corps, the words were changed to "In the air, on land, and sea." No other changes have been made since that time. When you have attained absolute perfection, there is no need for further modification:


From the Halls of Montezuma,
To the Shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country's battles
In the air, on land, and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
Of UNITED STATES MARINES.

Our flag's unfurled to every breeze,
From dawn to setting sun;
We have fought in every clime and place
Where we could take a gun;
In the snow of far off northern lands
And in sunny tropic scenes;
You will find us always on the job --
The UNITED STATES MARINES.

Here's health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve;
In many a strife we've fought for life
And never lost our nerve;
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven's scenes;
They will find the streets are guarded
By UNITED STATES MARINES.

Sir Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister, became an ardent admirer of the U.S. Marine Corps. In the company of guests of state, he often demonstrated his respect for U.S. Marines by reciting, from memory, all three verses of The Marines' Hymn.







The Caisson Song

By Major (later Brig. Gen.) Edmund L. Gruber

Written in the Philippines in 1907

Compiled by John M. Holman, Hampton History Volunteer

Over hill, over dale
As we hit the dusty trail,
And those caissons go rolling along.
In and out, hear them shout,
Counter march and right about,
And those caissons go rolling along.

{Refrain:}
Then it’s hi! hi! hee!
In the field artillery,
Shout out your numbers loud and strong,
For where e’er you go,
You will always know
That those caissons go rolling along.

In the storm, in the night,
Action left or action right
See those caissons go rolling along
Limber front, limber rear,
Prepare to mount your cannoneer
And those caissons go rolling along.
{Refrain:}

Was it high, was it low,
Where the hell did that one go?
As those caissons go rolling along
Was it left, was it right,
Now we won’t get home tonight
And those caissons go rolling along.
{Refrain:}




The Caisson Song {Revised}

Official Song of the U.S. Army

Written & adapted by H. W. Arberg

March along, sing our song,
With the Army of the free
Count the brave, count the true,
Who have fought to victory
We’re the Army and proud of our name
We’re the Army and proudly proclaim

First to fight for the right,
And to build the Nation’s might,
And The Army Goes Rolling Along
Proud of all we have done,
Fighting till the battle’s done,
And the Army Goes Rolling Along.

{Refrain:} Then it’s Hi! Hi! Hey!
The Army’s on its way.
Count off the cadence loud and strong,
For where e’er we go,
You will always know
That The Army Goes Rolling Along.

Valley Forge, Custer’s ranks,
San Juan Hill and Patton’s tanks,
And the Army went rolling along
Minute men, from the start,
Always fighting from the heart,
And the Army keeps rolling along.
{Refrain:}

Men in rags, men who froze,
Still that Army met its foes,
And the Army went rolling along.
Faith in God, then we’re right,
And we’ll fight with all our might,
As the Army keeps rolling along.
{Refrain:}







Anchors Aweigh

By Lt. Charles A. Zimmerman &
Midshipman Alfred Hart Miles -- 1906

The Official Song of the U.S. Navy

{Verse 1}
Stand Navy down the field, sails set to the sky.
We’ll never change our course, so Army you steer shy-y-y-y.
Roll up the score, Navy, Anchors Aweigh.
Sail Navy down the field and sink the Army, sink the Army Grey.

{Verse 2}
Get underway, Navy, Decks cleared for the fray,
We’ll hoist true Navy Blue So Army down your Grey-y-y-y.
Full speed ahead, Navy; Army heave to,
Furl Black and Grey and Gold and hoist the Navy, hoist the Navy Blue

{Verse 3}
Blue of the Seven Seas; Gold of God’s great sun
Let these our colors be Till all of time be done-n-n-ne,
By Severn shore we learn Navy’s stern call:
Faith, courage, service true With honor over, honor over all.




Anchors Aweigh {Revised Lyrics}

By George D. Lottman

{It is Verse 2 that is most widely sung.}

{Verse 1}
Stand, Navy, out to sea, Fight our battle cry;
We’ll never change our course, So vicious foe steer shy-y-y-y.
Roll out the TNT, Anchors Aweigh. Sail on to victory
And sink their bones to Davy Jones, hooray!

{Verse 2}
Anchors Aweigh, my boys, Anchors Aweigh.
Farewell to college joys, we sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay.
Through our last night on shore, drink to the foam,
Until we meet once more. Here’s wishing you a happy voyage home.




The Army Air Corps Song

By Robert Crawford -- 1938

Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun;
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder,
At ‘em boys, Give ‘er the gun! (Give ‘er the gun now!)
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under,
Off with one helluva roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame. (Shout!)
Nothing’ll stop the Army Air Corps!

Minds of men fashioned a crate of thunder,
Sent it high into the blue;
Hands of men blasted the world asunder;
How they lived God only knew! (God only knew then!)
Souls of men dreaming of skies to conquer
Gave us wings, ever to soar!
With scouts before and bombers galore. (Shout!)
Nothing’ll stop the Army Air Corps!

Here’s a toast to the host
Of those who love the vastness of the sky,
To a friend we send a message of his brother men who fly.
We drink to those who gave their all of old,
Then down we roar to score the rainbow’s pot of gold.
A toast to the host of men we boast, the Army Air Corps!

Off we go into the wild sky yonder,
Keep the wings level and true;
If you’d live to be a grey-haired wonder
Keep the nose out of the blue! (Out of the blue, boy!)
Flying men, guarding the nation’s border,
We’ll be there, followed by more!
In echelon we carry on. (Shout!)
Nothing’ll stop the Army Air Corps!



Semper Paradus

Official song of the United States Coast Guard

Original Versions and Changes

The original words and music were written by Captain Francis S. Van Boskerck, USCG in 1927. The first line of each chorus was changed in 1969. The current verse, and a second chorus, were written by Homer Smith, 3rd Naval District Coast Guard quartet, Chief Cole, others and LT Walton Butterfield USCGR in 1943.


1st chorus (original, 1927 version)

So here's the Coast Guard marching song,
We sing on land or sea.
Through surf and storm and howling gale,
High shall our purpose be.
"Semper Paratus" is our guide,
Our fame, our glory too.
To fight to save or fight to die,
Aye! Coast Guard, we are for you!

2nd chorus (added 1943)

So here's the Coast Guard battle song,
We fight on land or sea.
Through howling gale and shot and shell,
To win our victory.
"Semper Paratus" is our guide,
Our pledge, our motto too.
We're "Always Ready" do or die!
Aye! Coast Guard we are for you!


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