Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - March 4, 2011

Loud and strong

While sometimes a column topic is hard to come by, at other times it seems to hit me over the head. This was a case of the latter. A couple of weeks ago, husband Art and I heard the Glenn Miller Orchestra at Junction City, Kansas' C.L. Hoover Opera House. One of the numbers was the Armed Forces Medley that includes parts of the Army, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force songs. Veterans who had served were asked to stand and be recognized when their service song was played.

Just two nights later, we attended the Wamego High School performance of "Give My Regards to Broadway," a musical that also contains the medley. Again, service members were asked to stand and be recognized.

It occurred to me that although I was familiar with the songs, I wasn't familiar with their history, despite having sung them since grade school. It seemed time to do some research.

The Army song, originally called "Caisson Song," was written by First Lieutenant Edmund L. Gruber while he was stationed in the Philippines in 1908. The original lyrics reflected Gruber's activities in a horse-drawn field artillery battery. The song was transformed into a march in 1917 and renamed "The Field Artillery Song" by John Philip Sousa, who, ironically, led the Sousa band at the Hoover opera house in 1902.

The lyrics I learned as a girl were:

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.


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 1956, it was adopted as the official song of the Army after some significant updating of the words and the title changed to "The Army Goes Rolling Along."

The new lyrics are:

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 won,
And the Army Goes Rolling Along.


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.

The Continental Marines were formed in 1775 and have served in nearly every conflict in U.S. history. Some of the lyrics of the Marine Corps hymn were popular phrases before the song was written. The line "To the shores of Tripoli" refers to President Jefferson sending the Marines to the Mediterranean Sea in 1801 to defend American merchant ships from the Barbary pirates. "The Halls of Montezuma" references the U.S. victory over Mexican forces holding Chapultepec Castle west of Mexico City in September 1847 during the Mexican-American War.

The actual author of the song is unknown, but it is believed to have been penned by a Marine on duty in Mexico.

From the Halls of Montezuma
To the shores of Tripoli,
We will 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 Marine.

The Navy's song was born in 1906 when Midshipman First Class Alfred Hart Miles asked long-time naval academy band leader Charles A. Zimmerman to compose music for his words to a fight song for his class. It was to be used at the annual Navy-Army game. The lyrics were obviously better suited to game day than going into battle.

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.

The song was performed at the game and Navy won 10-0, an event that was a bit unusual. The song was dedicated to the Navy, but the words were later modified by George D. Lottman to make it a bit more suitable for sea duty. It is the second verse that is most widely known:

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.

While well known and often performed at Navy functions, it has never been adopted as the official song of the Navy and as a result, different versions are performed.

The original words and music for the Coast Guard song were written by Captain Francis S. Van Boskerck in 1927. The original words contained references to ships of a now bygone era and so were modernized in 1969. The Latin phrase "Semper Paratus" is also the Coast Guard's motto and means "Always ready." The chorus words are:

We're always ready for the call,
We place our trust in Thee.
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 and die,
Aye! Coast Guard we are for you!

The "U.S. Air Force" is the official song of the Air Force. The original can be traced back to 1939 and is known informally as "The Air Force Song." It also is often referred to as "Into the Wild Blue Yonder," "Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder" or simply "Wild Blue Yonder." Before 1947, the service was a division of the Army and referred to as the Army Air Corps and so the song's first title was "The Army Air Corps." Robert MacArthur Crawford wrote the lyrics and music. In 1947, the words "U.S. Air Force" replaced the original "Army Air Corps" in the title and the lyrics. It became the official song of the Air Force on Sept. 27, 1979.

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. Hey!
Nothing'll stop the U.S. Air Force.

Learning about these songs was interesting, yet I wasn't sure I'd write a column about them. Then Saturday, while returning home from Wichita, Art tuned in to Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion." The show was set in San Diego and a Navy band performed. The band played - what else? - the Armed Forces Medley.

How could I have not received the message concerning this week's column loud and strong?

(Some information was obtained from service websites.)

During WWII, Mom's friend Stan was a medic in the Navy. Stan
translated the Navy's song into Latin and could sing it in Latin as well.

2011 Index