5 facts about the iconic US Army song - We Are The Mighty
MUSIC

5 facts about the iconic US Army song

The United States Army was founded on June 14, 1775, making it the oldest branch of the military. Our soldiers have a damn proud heritage of defending our right to freedom and we are lucky to have them. You might not be familiar with the lyrics of their official song, but you definitely know the tune.


Here are a few more things you might not know about it:

1. It was written by a West Point graduate in 1908

First Lieutenant (later Brigadier General) Edmund Louis “Snitz” Gruber (that’s a mouthful)
wrote what was originally called “The Caissons Go Rolling Along” during a particularly challenging march while stationed in the Philippines. A caisson was a wheeled cart used by the Army to carry ammunition and supplies.

Gruber overheard one of his section chiefs shout to the drivers, “Come on! Keep ’em rolling!” Inspiration struck.

2. That West Point grad had music in his blood

“Snitz” was the second Gruber in the family to compose a famous, belovéd, and enduring song; one of his ancestors was Franz Gruber, who gave us all “Silent Night.”

3. It became a popular march before it became the official U.S. Army song

In 1917, John Philip Sousa transformed the song into a march and renamed it “The Field Artillery Song”

Yep. I’d march to that.

4. It took a minute for the U.S. Army to adopt it as an official song

After nationwide contests in 1948 and 1952 failed to uncover an appropriate song, Army leadership was polled and the overwhelming majority voted for “The Caissons Go Rolling Along” — but only after new lyrics were written. About 140 sets of lyrics were submitted, and finally phrases by Dr. H. W. Arberg were selected by a committee.

In 1956, it was renamed “The Army Goes Rolling Along” and adopted as the official U.S. Army song.

5. It is played first when performed as part of a medley of service songs

Per Department of Defense guidance, the order of performance for service songs is:

Army: “The Army Goes Rolling Along”

Marine Corps:
“The Marine’s Hymn”

Navy:
“Anchors Aweigh”

Air Force:
“U.S. Air Force Song”

Coast Guard:
“Semper Paratus”

It is authorized to play the songs in reverse, featuring “The Army Goes Rolling Along” as the finale, but on the condition that the relative order of songs must be maintained.

(P.S. I dare you to tell me this medley doesn’t make your heart burst with patriotic pride. Watching veterans stand for their service kills me every time.)

Here are the official lyrics to the U.S. Army song:

“The Army Goes Rolling Along”

Intro: 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: 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.

Refrain: 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: 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)

Verse: 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)

Articles

This circus song was supposed to be a badass military marching theme

Czech-born composer Julius Fucik was known for his love of military marches. So much so, he was the “Bohemian Sousa.”


The classically-trained music producer trained under such legendary composers as Antonín Dvořák and served in the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Army with the “Austrian March King” Josef Wagner.

5 facts about the iconic US Army song
Julius Fucik in Imperial Army uniform.

Fucik so loved to compose marches, he pretty much served in the Austrian military just to do that. By 1897 he had joined the Army twice in order to play music.

It was that same year, while in the 86th Infantry Regiment in Sarajevo that he composed “Einzug der Gladiatoren” — “Entrance of the Gladiators.”

More than 120 years later, the cultural meaning of the song has sure changed. No longer associated with martial might, the song is now more easily teamed up with clowns, lions, and everything else in a modern three-ring circus.

What happened was his work was rearranged for a smaller band by Canadian Louis-Philippe Laurendeau in 1910, who called his version “Thunder and Blazes.”

The music website Sound And The Foley points out that this was the same time when circuses like PT Barnum’s and the Ringling Brothers’ were becoming a strong cultural phenomenon in the United States.

Though no one knows just how and when the song first became inextricably linked with the circus or even which circus used it first, the fact is that the two are now culturally linked.

Both Laurendeau and Fucik died in 1916, never knowing their work become synonymous with the circus…instead of being battle anthems.

MUSIC

This musician survived the Holocaust despite being everything the Nazis hated

Django Reinhardt was a lot of things — most of which the Nazis hated. He was a gypsy, a European Romani, the storied wandering people who were targeted by the Nazis for extermination through forced labor (if they weren’t shot on sight). Reinhardt was also a jazz musician, practicing a form of music Hitler and Goebbels felt was part of a conspiracy to weaken Germany. Jazz was forbidden from the beginning of Hitler’s rise to power.

Yet, during World War II, Reinhardt stayed at his home in France long after the nation fell to the Nazis. In fact, Nazis were some his biggest fans.

5 facts about the iconic US Army song
Something you don’t see every day: four black men, a Jewish man, and a Gypsy all hanging out with a prominent Nazi Luftwaffe officer.
(BBC)


At a time when the European Roma were considered racially inferior and German prejudices allowed them to be targeted alongside German Jews and other races for extermination, Reinhardt was able to maintain a quiet life for himself and his family. The reason was his superior musical talent. As gypsies were forced out of cities and into concentration camps by the tens of thousands, he kept his head down and played on.

Despite losing the movement in two fingers during an fire-related accident earlier in his life, Django was an amazing musician. His speed on the strings and frets allowed him to play furiously with just two fingers and a thumb. He picked up his performing skills in small clubs throughout Europe before the war and would perform alongside Jazz legends like Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, and Dizzy Gillespie. He would even perform a jam session with the great Louis Armstrong.

www.youtube.com

His skill was critical to his survival. He played jazz, but he knew when not to play jazz. He would even branch out musically, writing masses for the plight of his people and even a symphony. Jazz musicians had to follow certain rules under Nazi occupation, at least in occupied Bohemia and Moravia, where these rules come from:

1. Pieces in foxtrot rhythm (so-called swing) are not to exceed 20% of the repertoires of light orchestras and dance bands;
2. In this so-called jazz type repertoire, preference is to be given to compositions in a major key and to lyrics expressing joy in life rather than Jewishly gloomy lyrics;
3. As to tempo, preference is also to be given to brisk compositions over slow ones so-called blues); however, the pace must not exceed a certain degree of allegro, commensurate with the Aryan sense of discipline and moderation. On no account will Negroid excesses in tempo (so-called hot jazz) or in solo performances (so-called breaks) be tolerated;
4. So-called jazz compositions may contain at most 10% syncopation; the remainder must consist of a natural legato movement devoid of the hysterical rhythmic reverses characteristic of the barbarian races and conductive to dark instincts alien to the German people (so-called riffs);
5. Strictly prohibited is the use of instruments alien to the German spirit (so-called cowbells, flexatone, brushes, etc.) as well as all mutes which turn the noble sound of wind and brass instruments into a Jewish-Freemasonic yowl (so-called wa-wa, hat, etc.);
6. Also prohibited are so-called drum breaks longer than half a bar in four-quarter beat (except in stylized military marches);
7. The double bass must be played solely with the bow in so-called jazz compositions;
8. Plucking of the strings is prohibited, since it is damaging to the instrument and detrimental to Aryan musicality; if a so-called pizzicato effect is absolutely desirable for the character of the composition, strict care must be taken lest the string be allowed to patter on the sordine, which is henceforth forbidden;
9. Musicians are likewise forbidden to make vocal improvisations (so-called scat);
10. All light orchestras and dance bands are advised to restrict the use of saxophones of all keys and to substitute for them the violin-cello, the viola or possibly a suitable folk instrument.

And yet, the Nazis still loved jazz.

“The Germans used Paris basically as their rest-and-relaxation center, and when the soldiers came, they wanted wine and women and song,” Reinhardt’s biographer Michael Dregni told NPR. “And to many of them, jazz was the popular music, and Django was the most famous jazz musician in Paris… And it was really a golden age of swing in Paris, with these [Romas] living kind of this grand irony.”



Intel

The Smashing Pumpkins and Marilyn Manson put on a tour for military vets

5 facts about the iconic US Army song


The Smashing Pumpkins and Marilyn Manson are teaming up with Easter Seals Dixon Center for their upcoming End Times tour to raise awareness and “change the conversation” about veterans in our communities, according to a new article in Rolling Stone magazine.

Both Manson and Billy Corgan come from military backgrounds: “We can speak to the personal effect that yes, we can be artists and yes, we can play these roles in public, but at the end of the day, if we don’t serve all our communities – [and] veterans are an integral part of our communities – we’re not really doing service as artists or as people,” Corgan told Rolling Stone.

The tour begins in Concord, California on July 7th.

Continue reading at Rolling Stone 

OR: The 13 funniest military memes of the week

AND: Watch the top 10 military drama TV shows

MUSIC

The history of the ‘Dead March’ played before military executions

The U.S. military hasn’t executed a prisoner since the 1961 hanging of Pvt. John Bennett at Fort Leavenworth. Prior to 1959, prisoners sent to the gallows by the U.S. military were afforded certain last rights demanded by regulations that included an escort, a chaplain, a last meal, unlimited letters to loved ones, and a military band.

Listeners might be familiar with aa few bars of legendary Polish composer Frederic Chopin’s Funeral March, either through military film or television – or through the WWE’s Undertaker entrance music. The Army’s regulations called for every execution (or series of executions) have a military band accompany the prisoner(s) to the gallows playing the classical tune.

The updated guidance for military executions as of 1959 did not call for the band, but still included the meal, letters, and religious paraphernalia. Only ten military members have been executed for crimes outside of wartime, and only two of those were executed after Apr. 7, 1959, and they did not walk to the gallows to the “Dead March.” Private Bennett and John E. Day, both convicted killers, were hanged in the boiler room of the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth to no fanfare.


How Chopin’s “Funeral March” became the official U.S. military death march is another story. The song comes from the composer’s Sonata No. 2 in B Flat Minor. Chopin was celebrated for his piano miniatures, and the Funeral March (the sonata’s third movement) was written much earlier than any of his sonatas. Chopin is said to have penned the work commemorating the 1830-1831 November Uprising, where ethnic Poles attempted to shake off the yoke of the Russian Empire.

The hopeful uprising was soon put down by the Russian Army, and the Tsar tightened Russia’s grip on Poland. Chopin’s original manuscript featured the date of the uprising’s start, Nov. 28, 1830. The piece’s dark tone and minor keys immediately associated it with death and it was played at the composer’s funeral – as well as those of John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, and even Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev.

The song would come to ingratiate itself in pop culture around the world as a song (rightly) associated with death and dying, from Saturday morning cartoons to Deadmau5.

The U.S. military’s (and many other armed forces around the world) bands, drums, and buglers all played an important battlefield communications function for centuries. Troops, unable to hear the orders of their officers over the din of fighting, would hear and could respond to general orders as played through songs.

In the years following Chopin’s Sonata No. 2, it became increasingly popular. The Funeral March was the most popular part of an already-popular musical hit. Soon after, the song’s popularity took on a life of its own and the song came full-circle from one of seriousness and piety toward the dead to one of parody. The music that called to mind death and the fragility of life was now being used to make fun of the same concepts.

The piece hasn’t always been just for executions. It accompanied the American Unknown Soldier from World War I as he made his way aboard ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean one night in Le Havre, France. It has been used for many a prominent U.S. official as they lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

No matter how parodied it was or why it was used, the Funeral March would endure as a powerful piece of music, not just for the U.S. military, but for the world at large. Even to this day, it evokes the foreboding we associate with death and dying.

And that could be why it didn’t endure in military execution regulations. At this point, it just seems overly macabre and slightly cruel.

Articles

The legendary rock band KISS has surprising roots from World War II

The legendary rock band Kiss is known for their makeup, over-the-top stage show, and hits like “Rock ‘n Roll All Night” and “Detroit Rock City.”


They aren’t known as historians, although two of the band’s members — Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer — have remarkable stories to tell about what their families went through during World War II. And equally remarkable is how these stories link the two members of Kiss to each other.

Backstage at a Kiss concert in northern Virginia in late July, lead guitarist Tommy Thayer talked about his father’s military service. James B. Thayer retired as a brigadier general in the mid-60s, but in 1945 he was an first lieutenant in charge of an anti-tank mine reconnaissance platoon that made its way across France into southern Germany. The unit saw a lot of action, including battles with Waffen SS troops – among the Third Reich’s most elite fighters – that involved bloody hand-to-hand combat.

As the platoon made its way farther south they stumbled upon the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. “The SS had just fled,” Tommy Thayer said. “They left behind 15,000 Hungarian-Jewish refugees who were in bad shape.”

Ironically enough, based on time and location, among the refugees that U.S. Army Lieutenant Thayer liberated was most likely a family from Budapest that included a teenage girl who would later give birth Gene Simmons, Kiss’ outspoken bassist and co-founder.

“My mother was 14-years-old when they took her to the camps of Nazi Germany,” Simmons explained. “If it wasn’t for America, for those who served during World War Two like James Thayer, I wouldn’t be here.”

As a result of this connection, the band has thrown its clout behind the Oregon Military Museum, which will be named in honor of the now 93-year-old Brigadier General Thayer. Tommy Thayer is on the museum’s board, and the band recently played at a private residence in the greater Portland area to raise money and awareness for the effort.

“The idea that Americans enjoy the kind of life that the rest of the world is envious of is made possible – not by politicians – but by the brave men and women of our military,” Simmons said. “The least we could do is have a museum.”

“There is evil being done all over the world,” Simmons said. “And the only thing that keeps the world from falling into complete chaos is our military.”

Beyond supporting the Oregon Military Museum, in the years since 9-11, Simmons has worked as a military veteran advocate. Among some of his more high-profile efforts is the band’s hiring of veterans to work as roadies for Kiss on tour.

While other celebrity vet charities could rightly be criticized as something between Boomer guilt and vanity projects, the bass guitarist’s desire to help vets is fueled by what his mother’s side of the family went through to make it to America a generation ago.

Simmons has a few things to say about national pride, something he thinks the country has lost a measure of.

“When I first came to America as an eight-year-old boy people were quiet when the flag was raised,” Simmons said. “We all stood still.”

To Simmons’ eye that respect is lacking in too many Americans now, particularly younger Americans who are surrounded by information and media but may not appreciate the relationship between history and their daily lives.

“Just stop yakking for at least one minute,” he said. “The rest of the day is all yours to enjoy all the benefits that the American flag gives you.”

Articles

A ‘silent service’ vet will front the military’s biggest music festival

Josh Anchondo started his adult life in the Navy, specifically Kings Bay, Georgia. Now, he’s self-styled luxury-events emcee known as DJ Supreme1 and his work takes him to the party hotspots of South Florida and Las Vegas. But he loves to give back to groups like Toys For Tots, Susan G. Komen, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

This time, he’s playing for his second family: the U.S. military.


The Palm Beach Gardens-based DJ is headlining the next BaseFEST Powered by USAA on June 2, 2018, at Naval Station Mayport, near Jacksonville, Fla. He’s come a long way from the days of being in the silent service.

“We would be deployed 90 days at a time,” says the former sailor Anchondo. “No sunlight, no newspaper… So my escape being submerged for that amount of time was music.”

5 facts about the iconic US Army song
(Courtesy of Josh Anchondo)

He says it’s like living a dream to be able to provide a temporary escape to those going through similarly rough situations. He did five years in the Navy as a sonar technician and the last 20 as a DJ — yes, there’s a little overlap there.

“I know for a fact the military got me to where I am today in my career, to being a great man, a great father, and to living up to the core values that I learned in the military,” he says. “Honor, courage, and commitment. Those core values will always be with me.”

In the Navy, he spent all his spare time training to be a DJ — eating, breathing, and sleeping music. His favorite records were primarily old-school (even for the late 1990s) hip-hop. But his sounds also extend to the unexpected, like jazz and pop standards, doing live mash-ups of pop songs along the way.

“I kind of let the crowd take me wherever they want,” he says. “Take us wherever the night takes us.”

5 facts about the iconic US Army song
(Courtesy of DJ Supreme1)

Anchondo, aka DJ Supreme1, is not just a DJ who does music festivals and tours like Dayglow. Like many veterans, he’s an entrepreneur with a heart. He runs his own event productions company and wants to start his own tour — the DoGood FeelGood Fest, focused on doing great work in the community. His company, Supreme Events, even prioritizes charity work.

He acknowledges that DJs have a bad reputation, given what happens in the nightlife around them, but he wants you to know they can have a positive influence as well — and that influence can be amazing. BaseFEST is a huge show for him. He wants his fellow vets and their families to come see and feel his positive vibes at the coming BaseFEST at NS Mayport.

It’s an all-day event that brings the music, food, activities, and more that you might get from other touring festivals — but BaseFEST is an experience for the whole family, with a mission of providing a platform for giving back to family programs on base, boosting morale for troops and their families.

BaseFEST Powered by USAA kicked off in 2017 with two huge festival dates at Camp Lejune and NAS Pensacola, gathering over 20,000 fans for each and creating a fun atmosphere of appreciation and support for service members and their families and friends. The 2018 tour kicked off at Fort Bliss, Texas and runs through Sept. 22 with a stop at Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Articles

Are military bands a thing of the past?

Music in the military has a long history.


While marching toward the enemy, the armies of the ancient Greek city states would sing paeans to the God Apollo in unison. It was an homage to their god, inspired the Greek hoplites to fight, but also was intimidating to the enemy. It also helped the tight, packed formations typical of hoplite warfare keep time in their march.

In a similar way, music played a vital role after the musket was introduced to the battlefield in the 16th century. The weapons were relatively inaccurate and short-ranged, and the concept of massed coordinated volley fire was needed to make them effective in the open-field engagements of the time.

Drums, flutes, and bugles were all used to issue commands over the noise of battle, as well as helping large groups of soldiers keep their ranks as they marched and maneuvered. Young boys were often used for the role, and they could face dangers as great as any of the regular soldiers. More conventional bands were used to entertain troops during the Civil War, often even on the front lines.

Two weeks ago, the House passed legislation that would ban military bands from performing at social functions other than formal military ceremonies and funerals to help cut defense spending.

The Defense Department spent $437 million in Fiscal Year 2015 on “musicians, instruments, uniforms and travel expenses,” according to Stars Stripes.

“For every dollar that is spent on our bands to entertain at social functions, that’s a dollar we’re not spending on national security and on our troops and our families,” said Rep. Martha McSally, R-Arizona, a retired Air Force colonel who sponsored the bill.

The Army currently has 99 bands, the Air Force has 15 bands, the Marine Corps has 12 bands, and the Navy has 11, according to Politico. The bill now heads to the Senate.

The history of military bands is long and storied.

Though bands had played varying roles since the Revolutionary War, it was Army Gen. John Pershing during World War I who set the stage for the military’s current band system after seeing the much more elaborate European army bands in action. He believed the bands to be essential to troop morale and set up a formal training system in place of what was previously fairly ad hoc, greatly expanding regimental bands.

Though by World War II such use of music on the battlefield had largely been abandoned, there were still some examples, if far more eccentric ones. The famed British commando ‘Mad’ Jack Churchill, who clearly had a taste for older styles of warfare, would go into action playing bagpipes to inspire his men while carrying a Scottish broadsword and a longbow. The Soviet Union was known to play patriotic music before it’s troops charged as well.

In modern warfare, however, military bands are seen more and more as an anachronism used for strictly ceremonial purposes, and are confined to the parade ground rather than the battlefield.

It’s been a long time since military bands performed in combat. In an era of tighter budgets and ever more modern warfare, it’s clear Congress is beginning to see military bands more as a frivolity than a necessity.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine will make you want to let the bodies hit the floor

U.S. Marine Chloe Mondesir is not in any way predictable.


First, as is often the case with women, you wouldn’t expect her to be a military veteran (let alone a Marine), but she served as an Ammunition Technician in Iraq. She also holds multiple college degrees (something you wouldn’t expect from a Marine — zing!) and is a mother of an 8-year-old (and her daughter, by the way, knows the lyrics to Drowning Pools’ “Bodies” and headbangs accordingly).

Probably what’s the most refreshing when you meet Mondesir is how fun-loving and energetic she is. If you’re a fan of Season 2 of John Cena’s “American Grit,” then you already know this.

“It’s pretty hot in Iraq so sometimes things get really tough and you need that extra motivation, and music just does it.”

In her Battle Mix video, she even makes the heat of Iraq sound not so bad. She also talks about how she was privy to Usher’s 2004 hit “Yeah” before the rest of her buddies at boot camp, and I grin every time I watch it.

Fun fact: she’s the only one of WATM’s Battle Mix veterans we had to censor. Just another great Chloe Mondesir surprise.

Check out her interview here:

And you can catch her full Battle Mix right here:

MUSIC

How a sax solo became a heart-wrenching tribute to the Challenger crew

Ronald McNair was an accomplished guy. NASA’s second-ever African-American astronaut was a physicist, a world-renowned expert in lasers, 5th-degree black belt in Karate, and jazz saxophonist. Amazingly, he was also dedicated to making sure most of those accomplishments lined up — in space.

The multi-talented astronaut was then working with French composer Jean-Michel Jarre, whose work in the electronic music and synthpop was unparalleled. The two were collaborating on a piece for one of the composer’s upcoming albums that would include a saxophone solo recorded in orbit above the Earth.

McNair was also set to perform a live concert with Jarre’s band — a specially-written solo just for him — during one of their performances through a live feed from his second mission aboard the Challenger space shuttle. Of course, none of this happened. On this mission, Challenger never made it to orbit, disintegrating 73 seconds into its launch from Cape Canaveral on January 28, 1986.


The accomplished astronaut’s musical solo would have been the first piece of live music ever recorded in space.

When Jarre’s album, called Rendez-Vous, was released, it included a track called “Ron’s Piece,” using McNair’s actual heartbeat as the beat of the piece.

The concert also went on as scheduled. Jarre took to the stage in Houston on Apr. 5 of that same year to a cacaphony of synth sounds, lasers, and fireworks. Though McNair wasn’t giving his solo from space, 1.3 million people still checked in to see the concert in McNair’s honor.

5 facts about the iconic US Army song

The Houston, Texas skyline lights up for Jarre’s tribute to McNair.

At the request of McNair’s wife, Grammy-winning jazz musician Kirk Whalum performed McNair’s saxophone solo.

“Going on stage took on a new meaning that day,” he told CNN. “Because not to mention this horde, this mass of humanity, and all the security just to get to this spot, but then they had to hoist my instrument up, and then I was climbing up this crazy ladder to get to the top of this scaffold.”

It was the largest-ever public performance of its kind up to that point.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a sailor remembered 250 prisoners of war through song

Douglas Hegdahl walked freely around the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp, one of many American prisoners of war held there in 1967. He was sweeping the courtyards during the prison guards’ afternoon “siesta.” The American sailor that fell into their laps was known to the guards as “The Incredibly Stupid One.” They believed he could neither read nor write and could barely even see. But the “stupid” Seaman Apprentice Hegdahl was slowly collecting intelligence, gathering prisoner data, and even sabotaging the enemy.

He even knew the prison’s location inside Hanoi.


Hegdahl was a South Dakota native who was blown off the deck of the USS Canberra as the ship’s five-inch guns fired on nearby targets of opportunity. Once overboard, he floated in the South China Sea for 12 hours before being picked up by fishermen, who turned him over to the North Vietnamese.

5 facts about the iconic US Army song

Hegdahl’s enlistment photo and a photo of the sailor in captivity.

Certain he could be tortured for information, the Communists tried to get Hegdahl to write anti-American and anti-war propaganda. They showed him similar documents that other captives – higher ranking captives – wrote for the North Vietnam. Hegdahl thought about it for a moment, then agreed. The Communists were amazed. No other captured American did this voluntarily. They went off to get ink and paper.

The young sailor was thinking quickly. He figured the officers who wrote the propaganda material were probably coerced into doing it. He decided the best thing he could do was play dumb. He was very, very successful. The North Vietnamese thought Doug Hegdahl was a developmentally challenged “poor peasant” and set out to teach him to read and write. After failing at that, they decided to write a confession for him to sign, which he did:

“Seaman Apprentice Douglas Brent Hegdahl III United States Navy Reserve, Commanding Officer, USS Canberra.”

The sailor was first put into a cell with Air Force officer Joe Crecca, who taught Hegdahl 256 names of other POWs and then taught him how to memorize the information to the tune of “Old McDonald.” After that, Hegdahl was imprisoned with Dick Stratton, who was the ranking officer for a time.

Because they thought Hegdahl so developmentally challenged, the Hỏa Lò Prison guards essentially gave him free reign to do a lot of the cleaning and sweeping around the prison yard. He was even allowed to go and clean up around the front gates of the prison itself. That’s how he was able to later tell U.S. intelligence where the prison could be found within the North Vietnamese capital.

5 facts about the iconic US Army song

Hegdahl on sweeping duty at “The Plantation,” Hanoi.

But the sailor didn’t stop there. As the sailor swept the prison grounds, when the single guard assigned to him took his afternoon siesta, Hegdahl would add a little bit of dirt to the gas tank of the nearest truck. Over the course of his captivity, he managed to disable five NVA prison trucks this way.

Eventually, it came time for the NVA to offer early releases to some of the prisoners of the Hanoi Hilton. Even though there was a strict order among the POWs to not accept any early releases, Hegdahl was ordered to accept an early release — the only Hoa Lo prisoner ever ordered to do so — by his senior officer, Lt. Cmndr. Dick Stratton. He was not only the most junior prisoner in the camp, he also had all the information the U.S. government needed to expedite the release of the POWs — all of them. He didn’t want to, but someone needed to tell the U.S. about the torture they were receiving there.

When he was released, not only did Hegdahl recite the names of the 256 men who were shot down or captured in North Vietnam, he could say their dog’s name, kids’ names, and/or social security numbers. These were the means by which other POWs verified the information given. He picked up all of this information through tap code, deaf spelling code, and secret notes.

Released in 1969, Hegdahl was able to accuse the North Vietnamese of torture and murder of prisoners of war at the Paris Peace Talks in 1970. Flown there by H. Ross Perot, he accused the North Vietnam delegation of murdering Dick Stratton, assuring Lt. Cmndr. Stratton would have to be repatriated alive at the war’s end.

But the prisoners back in Hanoi didn’t have to wait long for treatment to change. Once Hegdahl described the treatment of POWs in public and to the media, the ones he left behind saw their treatment improve, receiving better rations and less brutality in their daily life.

In his memoirs, Stratton wrote of Hegdahl:

“The Incredibly Stupid One,” my personal hero, is the archetype of the innovative, resourceful and courageous American Sailor.
MUSIC

This musician made a music video with the SEAL who killed bin Laden

The first DJ to play Tim Montana’s Butte America on country radio in his hometown of Butte, Montana, was Tom O’Neill, the brother of Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill (the man credited with killing the terrorist Osama bin Laden — maybe you’ve heard of him). Turns out, Tom wasn’t the only fan of Montana; while Rob was deployed to locations like Iraq and Afghanistan, he took Montana’s music with him.


Montana is a musician with a “rip-roaring, swamp’rockin’ vibe” — and he’s just getting started. He maintains a can’t-quit attitude that has lifted him from obscurity to Rolling Stone magazine. On one New Year’s Eve, an industry executive told Montana he’d never write a hit on his own. That night, he skipped the celebrations and wrote Low Class, just to prove the guy wrong.

Tim Montana makes his network television debut on Letterman | YouTube

In his youth, Montana had hoped to become a SEAL himself, but an injury prevented him from serving. His patriotism and support for the military, however, never faded (he says we’re all red, white, and blue-blooded). After Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was killed, Montana discovered there would be a Chris Kyle Memorial Benefit and Auction in Fort Worth, Texas. He immediately picked up the phone and volunteered to play for free.

He took it one step further and teamed up with Gibson to auction off a custom Chris Kyle Commemorative Les Paul Standard Special. It sold for $117,500.

So yeah, the guy makes sh*t happen.

And he’s chosen to use music to make his mark. He told We Are The Mighty there’s no way to know what music can do, but it’s cool to think about the possibilities.

“Music evokes emotion. It evokes thought. It captures a moment.”

He maintained his connection with Rob O’Neill, and featured the SEAL in his latest music video for Hillbilly Rich. Check it out:

 

Montana is getting ready to wrap up his latest tour. Check out the details right here, and keep an eye out for this musician, who keeps an eye out for vets.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information