Well, it’s Wednesday and I am in a musical mood- so, I hope maybe folks will enjoy and learn a little bit about the stories behind our Military hymns and service songs.
I imagine one would have to have lived under a rock if they’d never heard these before…
*This is the original version of the hymn
The Marines’ Hymn is a tribute to the Corps from the start, honoring warriors of the past- Marine Warriors who won “the shores of Tripoli” and the “halls of Montezuma.”
The role of the Marine is expressly for Fighting. They “fight for right and freedom” and “to keep our honor clean.” They fight “in the air, on land, and sea.”
For the Marines, their History is as much of their identity as the uniform they proudly wear, so it’s a little interesting that no one really knows who wrote the hymn. It was pretty much the universal hymn since the mid-1800s.
In 1878 Colonel A.S. McLemore told the leader of the Marine Band that the tune had been adopted from the French comic opera Genevieve de Barbant, by Jaques Offenback.
No matter the origin however, as it has remained the beloved Corps hymn for over 150 years.
Just in case anyone missed it from the hymn video above, Thirteen years after it’s official adoption of the Marine Corps in 1929, the Commandant approved a slight change in the words of the first verse, fourth line. In November 1942, because the use of aircraft in the Corps was increasing, the words were changed to “In the air, on land, and sea.”
The Caisson Song of the US Army was written by Edmund Gruber in the Philippines during World War I. Originally it was the proud anthem of the U.S. Field Artillery Corps. During a long march in the Philippines, Lt. Gruber overheard an officer bark at the troops, “Come on! Keep ’em Rolling!” (Incidentally, Franz Xaver Gruber, a relative of Edmund’s is the one who composed the Christmas Song “Silent Night”). Edmund was inspired by the order to ‘Keep ’em rolling’ and that night wrote the now-famous song. Fellow soldiers helped with the lyrics and in almost no time, all six regiments of the U.S. Field Artillery had adopted “The Caisson Song” as their marching tune.
During the last days of World War I, senior artillery leaders wanted to make “The Caisson Song” official. The senior leaders mistook the song as being written during the Civil War, and allowed bandmaster John Phillip Sousa to incorporate most of the song into his own composition “The U.S. Field Artillery March”.
The song became so popular during World War I, it sold 750,000 copies! Discovering that Edmund Gruber actually wrote the melody, Sousa made certain Gruber received his royalties.
In 1948, the Army held a nationwide contest to find an official song. After four years of pouring over nearly 800 submitted scores, the Adjunct General’s office decided to adopt the already popular Caisson Song.
Member of the Army’s Special Services Division, H.W. Arberg arranged the U.S. Army song , naming it “The Army Goes Rolling Along”. The Army copyrighted the song in 1956.
Anchors Aweigh was originally written to rally the Naval Academy’s football team. Lieutenant Charles A. Zimmerman, the U.S. Navy bandmaster from 1887 to 1916, composed a march for each graduating class but none of the tunes were ever popular outside of each year’s graduates.
In 1906, Zimmerman was approached by Midshipman Alfred Hart Miles to write something more inspiring, “one with swing to it so it could be used as a football marching song, and one that would live forever“.
Together they composed the tune and lyrics that became “Anchors Aweigh” which was dedicated to the class of 1907. The new fight song seemed to do the trick as Navy won that year over Army. The march was soon adopted as the official Navy song and still continues to inspire Naval Academy graduates.
Semper Paratus, the motto of the US Coast Guard, meaning, “Always Ready” was officially recognized in 1910. No one really knows how Semper Paratus was chosen as the Coast Guard’s phrase however.
However it came about, Captain Francis S. Van Boskerck was inspired to write an official U.S. Coast Guard song that would rival “Anchors Aweigh” or “The Caisson Song”. In 1922 while stationed in Savannah, Georgia in the cabin of his cutter Yamacraw, Boskerck penned the lyrics for “Semper Paratus”.
Five years later, while stationed in the Aleutian Islands, Boskerck composed the music for the song on an old piano in Unalaska, Alaska. Considering the extreme locations for the creation of the song, the first line “From Aztec shore to Arctic Zone, To Europe and Far East” is fitting.
Semper Paratus is still the proud standard and song of the United States Coast Guard today.
Wild Blue Yonder, the song for the USAF came about in 1938 when the Army Air Corps decided they needed an official song.
Liberty Magazine sponsored a contest where over 700 scores were submitted. Robert Crawford’s song was selected by a committee of Air Corps wives and officially introduced at the Cleveland Air Races in 1939. Crawford, later a Major in the Air Traffic Control during WW2 sang the song himself for the song’s first public performance as he had had musical education at Princeton University, studied on a scholarship at the Fontainebleau Conservatory in France and continued at Juilliard.
When the Army Air Corps became a separate branch of the military in 1947, Crawford’s march changed names from “The Army Air Corps” to “The U.S. Air Force”.
On July 30, 1971, the original first page submitted by Robert Crawford in 1939 was carried into space in the Apollo 15 “Falcon” and broadcast to the world by Major Alfred W. Worden, who had a tape recorder aboard the “Endeavor” command module. The all-Air Force crew arranged to take the sheet music with them as a tribute to Crawford and the U.S. Air Force.
To all our Veterans, and those who serve today, Thank You for your incredible service.
Have a blessed and safe day all.