November 8

The Origins of Veterans Day and the Words to Their Service Songs

By Rick Banas of BMA Management, Ltd.

On Friday of this week, we celebrate Veterans Day.

The day originally was known as Armistice Day and marked the end of fighting in World War I when an armistice (cease fire) between the Allies and Germany went into effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 1918.

Armistice Day became a legal holiday in 1938. In 1954, the word “Armistice” was changed to “Veterans,” with Nov. 11 becoming a day to honor our Veterans of all wars.

In a salute to all of our Veterans, we are providing a little background, lyrics, audio, video & links to the Service Songs for the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, United States Navy and United States Air Force.

United States Army – Service Song

The song for the Army was written by First Lieutenant Edmund L. Gruber, who later became a Brigadier General, while he was stationed in the Philippines in 1908 and was originally known as the “Caisson Song.”  The words go like this…

       The Caissons Go Rolling Along    Video   Song
           Verse One
               Over hill, over dale
               As we hit the dusty trail,
               And the Caissons go rolling along.
               In and out, hear them shout,
               (Counter march! and right about!)
               Hear those wagon soldiers shout
               While those Caissons go rolling along.

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

           Verse Two
               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.

           Verse Three
               Was it high, was it low,
               Where the heck 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.

In 1956, the song was renamed “The Army Goes Rolling Along” and adopted as the official song of the Army. The lyrics have been changed to reflect the story of the Army’s past, present and future.

Here are the current lyrics as posted on the U.S. Army Bands website:

       The Army Goes Rolling Along    Video   Song

               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

           Verse One
               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 (TWO! THREE!)
               For where e’er we go,
               You will always know
               That The Army Goes Rolling Along.

           Verse Two
               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.

           Verse Three
               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.

United States Marine Corps – Service Song

To be correct, says the U.S. Marine Corps Press website, the Marines do not have a song.  Instead, they have a hymn.  When played, Marines are expected to stand at attention.

The hymn had widespread use by the mid-1800s, which makes it the oldest official “song” of the U.S. Armed Forces.  No one knows who wrote the music or the lyrics.

       The Marine Hymn    Video   Song
           Verse One
               From the Halls of Montezuma
               To the shores of Tripoli;
               We fight our country’s battles
               On the land as on the 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.

           Verse Two
               Our flag’s unfurled to every breeze
               From dawn to setting sun;
               We have fought in ev’ry 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

           Verse Three
               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.

United States Navy – Service Song

“Anchors Aweigh,” the official song of the U.S. Navy was composed in 1906.  Lieutenant Charles A. Zimmermann, Bandmaster of the Naval Academy, wrote the tune, and Midshipman First Class Alfred Hart Miles is credited with writing the title and the first two stanzas.  Midshipman Royal Lovell, of the Class of 1926, composed the concluding stanza.

       Anchors Aweigh (Original)    Video   Song
           Verse One
               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 Two
               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 Three
               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 (Version Two)
           Verse One
               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 Two
               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.

United States Air Force – Service Song

The words and music to the Air Force Song were written by Major Robert Crawford in 1939.  The song was originally composed for the Army Air Corp., prior to the time that the Air Force became a separate branch of our Armed Forces.

       Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder    Video   Song
United States Air Force Logo
               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!

           Additional Verses
               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. Hey!
               Nothing’ll stop the U.S. Air Force!

               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 U.S. Air Force!


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

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