Marches and Songs of the US Military Services

The United States Air Force

Wild Blue Yonder

In 1938, Liberty magazine sponsored a contest for a spirited, enduring musical composition to become the official Army Air Corps song. Of 757 scores submitted, Robert Crawford’s was selected by a committee of Air Force wives. The song was officially introduced at the Cleveland Air Races on September 2, 1939. Fittingly, Crawford sang in its first public performance.

The first page of the score, which Crawford submitted to the selection committee in July 1939, was carried to the surface of the moon on July 30, 1971 aboard the Apollo 15 “Falcon” lunar module by Colonel David R. Scott and Lieutenant Colonel James B. Irwin. Interestingly, at the moment the “Falcon” blasted off the surface of the moon with Scott and Irwin on board, a rendition of the “Air Force Song” was broadcast to the world by Major Alfred M. Worden, who had a tape recorder aboard the “Endeavor” command module which was in orbit around the moon. Scott, Irwin and Worden comprised the first and only “All-Air Force” Apollo crew and arranged to take the page of sheet music with them as a tribute to Crawford and the United States Air Force.

Robert Crawford was born in Dawson, Yukon, Canada on July 27th 1899, just after the great Klondike Gold rush of 1897-98, but spent most of his boyhood in Fairbanks, Alaska. He attended Case University of Technology before transferring to Princeton University where he graduated in 1925 but continued his studies at the American School of Music in Fontaine Blue, France. He learned to fly in 1923 picking up the name The Flying Baritone. During the 1930s he conducted a variety of bands, orchestras and chorus and also sang solo. In WW2 he joined the Pan American Air Ferry Service which delivered planes for the US Army Air Corps and later Air Transport Command. He died in 1961 and is remembered at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia where the band rehearsal quarters were titled Crawford Hall.

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!

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!

The Marine Corps Hymn

(From the Halls of Montezuma)

The United States Marine Corps motto is Semper fidelis (always faithful) and this song became their march. Over the years it has become the foremost of all service songs in America.

The earliest beginnings of this tune can be trace back to 1805 when the Marine Corps flag bore the inscription To the Shores of Tripoli. Years later, after the Mexican War (1846-1848), the inscription was changed to read From the Shores of Tripoli to the Halls of Montezuma. It was directly after this war that the first verse of The Marines Hymn was written by an unidentified Marine on duty in Mexico, and it was he who transposed the two-line Marine inscription in order to improve the metre.

Some thirty years later, around 1880, the song received its musical setting through a modified version of Gentarmes Duet (Act II #13) from Jacques Offenbach’s opera Genevieve De Brabant. The melody of this duet had been highly popular in Paris for some time but there talk that Offenback may have borrowed it from a Spanish folk song.

Although every campaign in which the Marines have participated seems to produce new sets of lyrics for the song. Three verses have remained the most popular and are now the official version. In 1942 the fourth line of the first verses was officially changed from On the land as on the sea, to In the air, on land and sea. Since its first printing in 1918 the songs popularity has grown with great solidity so that by 1930 The Marine Hymn was familiar to almost everyone in the country. The present U.S. Marine Corps was created by Congress in 1798 and functions as a complete operating unit within the U.S. Navy. A combined globe, eagle, and anchor forms the Corps emblem.

From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli

We fight our country’s battles on the air, on land and sea

First to fight for right and freedom, and to keep our honour clean

We are proud to claim the title of United States Marines.

Our flag unfurled to ve’ry 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 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 Army and the Navy ever look on heaven’s scenes

They will find the street are guarded by the United States Marines.



A Soldiers Song – Excerpt from Soldiers Online – July 1994
By F. Peter Wigginton

(journalist with the American Forces Information Service in Alexandria, Va.)

It [The Army Song] got its beginnings during a difficult march across the Zambales Mountains in the Philippines. As a lieutenant leading a small detachment to select a route, Brig. Gen. Edmund L. “Snitz” Gruber overheard a section chief call to his drivers, “Come on! Keep them rolling!”

Gruber, an artillery officer whose relative, Franz, composed “Silent Night,” was stationed with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery, in the Philippines. In March 1908, about a year after Gruber overheard that section chief in the mountains, six young lieutenants – including William Bryden and Robert Danford – gathered in his thatch hut and decided they needed a song for the field artillery.

“A guitar was produced and tuned and – in what seemed to us a few moments – as if suddenly inspired, Snitz fingered the melody of the now-famous song,” recalled Danford, who retired as a major general. Danford and Bryden helped complete the lyrics.

Gruber taught the song to officers of the 1st Battalion as they arrived at Fort Stotsenburg. Wrote Danford: “A few evenings later at the post reception for the new unit and adieu to the old, ‘The Caisson Song‘ was given its first public rendition. Its popularity was instantaneous, and almost in no time all six of the regiments then composing the U.S. Field Artillery adopted it.”

During the last days of World War I, senior artillery leaders wanted an official marching song. An artillery officer who did not know Gruber and thought “The Caisson Song” dated back to the Civil War, gave the piece to noted composer and bandmaster John Philip Sousa and asked him to fix it up.

Sousa incorporated Gruber’s piece into his composition, which he titled, “The U.S. Field Artillery March” – a few beginning measures being his own and the balance from Gruber.

The resulting song became a blockbuster record during World War I, selling about 750,000 copies. Gruber heard of it and asked Sousa, “How about some money, since I wrote the song?” Embarrassed, the innocent Sousa made certain Gruber got his royalties.

In 1948, the Army conducted a nationwide contest to come up with its own official song. None of the five winners achieved any notable popularity. In 1952, the secretary of the Army appealed to the music industry for a composition. Composers submitted an avalanche of more than 800 songs. But no submission sparkled enough to be accepted. So a soldier music adviser in the Adjutant General’s office was asked to try his hand at it. As a result, H.W. Arberg adapted “The Caisson Song” to become the official U.S. Army song, “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”

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.

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 goes rolling along.

Men in rags, men who froze,

still that Army met its foes,

and the Army went rolling along.

Faithful in God, then we’re right,

And we’ll fight with all our night,

And the Army goes rolling along.

United States Navy

Anchors Aweigh

Known the world wide as the song of the US Navy, Anchors Aweigh began its life as a request and became one of the most recognized naval marches in the world.

Lt Charles A. Zimmermann USN, the composer, was the son of a bandsman of the US Naval Academy Band. His father had served in the band during the Civil War and Charles joined on July 1, 1882 as a third cornetist. In 1887 at the age of 26 he became the youngest ever to assume command of the Band.Early in his career Zimmermann began his tradition of writing a march or class song for each graduating class of the Academy beginning with the class of 1892. In 1906 along with Midshipman First Class Alfred H. Miles composed this march for the class of 1907. Navy lore has that Zimmermann and Miles sat down at the Academy’s Chapel organ where Zimmerman composed the music and Miles chose the title and wrote the word of two stanzas. The title symbolizing not only a ship lifting its anchors to sail away but also that Senior Midshipmen would sail away to begin their Naval career

The song made its first public appearance on December 1, 1906 at the 1906 Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia’s Franklin Field. In those days Army dominated the game, but the song proved so inspiring that the Navy football team won that game for the first time in several seasons by a score of Navy 10, Army 0. A tradition was born. The song was subsequently dedicated to the Class of 1907 at Annapolis. Miles graduated with the class and enjoyed a long career and retired from the Navy as a Captain. Zimmermann remained at Annapolis as the Naval Academy bandmaster until his death on January 16, 1916 at age 54. He was given a full military funeral with Midshipmen serving as pallbearers. Lt Zimmermann is buried at the Naval Academy cemetery where a granite monument present for him was erected with the inscription by his Midshipmen Friends .

But the story of Anchors Aweigh continues past the death of Lt. Zimmermann. Future stanzas were later added to it. In the 1920 period the lyrics were revised by George D. Lottman. It is this final stanza of the US Navy Song, Anchors Aweigh which is the best known stanzas:

Anchors Aweigh, my boys, Anchor Aweigh,

Farewell to college joys, we sail at break of the 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.

Stand Navy down the field, Sails set to the sky,

We’ll never change our course, So Army you steer shy!

Roll up the score, Navy, Anchors aweigh

Sail Navy down the field

And sink the Army, sink the Army Grey!

Get under way, Navy, Decks cleared for, the fray,

We’ll hoist true Navy Blue, So Army down your grey!

Roll up the score, Navy, Army heave to,

Furl Black and Grey and Gold

And hoist the Navy, hoist the Navy Blue!

Blue of the seven seas, Gold of God’s great sun,

Let these our colors be Till all of time be done!

By Severn shoe we learn Navy’s stern call:

Faith, courage, service true,

With honor over honor over all.


Semper Paratus (Always Ready)

Words and Music – by Captain Francis Saltus Van Boskerck, USCG

Words and Music Copyright by Sam Fox Publishing Co, Inc.

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.

From North and South and East and West,
The Coast Guard’s in the fight.
Destroying subs and landing troops,
The Axis feels our might.
For we’re the first invaders,
On every fighting field.
Afloat, ashore, on men and Spars,
You’ll find the Coast Guard shield.


We’re always ready for the call,
We place our trust in Thee.
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 fight for you.

Aye! Coast Guard we are for you!

18 Responses to “Marches and Songs of the US Military Services”

  1. Valerie says:

    Do you know of a medley that combines all these songs??

    Thank you!

  2. jack says:

    Thanks Very Much for writing
    I have heard the marches of the US Forces played usually in their entirety in a medley on July 4th from Washington on PBS when they persent the National Symphony and guests.
    I hope thsi has been helpful

  3. Linda says:

    Can you tell me if there is a CD that has all of these songs on it.

    Thank you,

  4. Connie J says:

    I am looking for a compilation of the US Military Brass Band Marching music where marching music like Semper Fidelis, The General, Anchors Aweigh and many more are included. My father was a USAFFE vet and he becomes nostalgic everytime he hears one of the these played. Can you tell me where I can get a cd of this?

  5. Kim Whimpey says:

    So very interesting. I am looking for the piano music for all of these military songs. I play the piano at a Veterans resthome and thought they would enjoy music like this as well as other music from their era. Could you help me.

  6. Kathryn Moss-Helm says:

    Very proud of our military personel. I now have the words to the songs that should make all americans stand a little taller. God Bless us Everyone and give those that give in military present or past extra messure for they give much for what some take SO for granted.

  7. David RIchoux says:

    There is also an official song for the US Merchant Marine called “Heave Ho! My Lads, Heave Ho!” and a piano score is available here:
    I am currently trying to pin down the official song for the Navy Armed Guard (sailors who manned the guns and radios on merchant ships) but I have not gotten a definite answer yet.

  8. Luke says:

    thank you for telling me the navy marching song to remember my Papa Chuck.

  9. Maybelle says:

    Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article.
    I’ll make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely return.

  10. Kim S says:

    Is there a collected score of these songs somewhere? I play trumpet, and would like to properly know the melodies for future gigs. (Existing scores are not always reliable, for example “Taps” has the wrong rhythm at 8notes and in the Rubank’s method.)
    Great site, though! Good to have “one-stop” info on songs from all military branches.

  11. russ says:

    is there a song with the lyrics,

    the eagle,globe and anchor of the corps
    for service on the land and ship and shore?

  12. devin says:

    mama mama dont you see,what this army done to me,i used to wear my faded jeans,now i wear my army greens.

    (seprate)i used to eat at mickey D’s now im eating MRE’S.

    (seprate) i used to love my beauty queen now i love my m-16.

    (seprate)down by the river, we took a little walk,ran into echo, we had a little talk, we pushed him, we kicked him we threw them in the river.

  13. devin says:

    that is a couple cadences from ROTC.

  14. jack says:

    Many thanks for your kind comments

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  17. laurie green says:

    i love to sing.thanks for posting.

  18. Gail says:

    THANK YOU for this! I’m glad I found it. The tunes and some words are so familiar! And, I love the background of the songs history!

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