5 of the best musical instruments to go to war with - We Are The Mighty
MUSIC

5 of the best musical instruments to go to war with

Musical instruments have been going to war since humans started gathering large armies — I don’t have an exact date, but I can tell you it was a long, long time ago. But humans have advanced to the point where we no longer require war drums. Instead, one guy from a unit brings a guitar on deployment and plays the same three goddamn power chords for eight months.

 

5 of the best musical instruments to go to war with
Just remember, it could always be worse.

 


Musical instruments really were a necessity in warfare for much of human history. Music wasn’t just used for battlefield intimidation, it was used as a means to communicate orders to troops so they could be heard over the din of old-timey combat. Buglers were the radiomen of their day when it came to battlefield tactics. Drummers kept a marching army on the move. All the musical instruments were morale builders for troops a long way from home.

 

5 of the best musical instruments to go to war with

 

The legacy of music on the battlefield lives on in the modern-day form of U.S. military bands, like the Marine Corps’ The President’s Own, Today, they are used for ceremonial and morale-building events. Admit it, there would be a lot less interest in some events without the pomp and glory of some well-placed martial music.

It is worth nothing, however, that there is a real hierarchy to musical instruments on the battlefield, depending on which side you’re fighting, how big the instrument is, and the amount of effort it takes to haul it into combat.

1. Whistles

And by whistles, I mean the kind lifeguards use to inform you that there’s no running next to the pool. In World War I, officers used whistles to signal a march forward and “over the top” of the trenches and toward the Kaiser. Whistles were used in battles at the Somme, Verdun, and Belleau Wood.

If it seems like a bad idea to use a loud whistle that would alert the enemy (and their machine guns) as you and your mates were coming to inflict pain in the name of the King (or whomever else), you’d be right. A charge across no man’s land was usually a pretty costly affair. The whistle was also used in a number of other ways, like a warning to stay clear of firing artillery.

A good rule of thumb if you ever find yourself in World War I: steer clear of whistles.

5 of the best musical instruments to go to war with

It’s safe to say that these are a bit out of tune.

2. Harmonicas

These days, most people associate the harmonica with cowboys, cattle drivin’, rustlers, and wild-west lawmen. But it actually originated much earlier than all that. It gained popularity in the U.S. in time for the Civil War and was still pretty popular among American troops well through World Wars I and II.

Small, compact, and lightweight, it was not an instrument you’d get confused with say, an order to go over the top, and it didn’t have to be lugged around like Derek’s stupid guitar. It also made for some really great solo music when you’re sitting around by the fire, bored and waiting for your lieutenant to order you to run through mud at a machine gun.

And, unlike a drum, every once it a while, a well-placed harmonica would stop a bullet.

5 of the best musical instruments to go to war with

Which usually would not end well for you and your buds.

3. Bugles

Bugles weren’t just used for battlefield communication, they dominated every aspect of a troop’s daily life. When to wake up, when to eat, when the duty day was over, even sick call — all communicated through bugle calls.

Unfortunately for the enemy, a bugle call more often than not meant the a hundred or more war horses were on their way to mush you and your battle buddies into the ground.

5 of the best musical instruments to go to war with

“Don’t you dare let that beat drop, son.”

4. Drums

Anyone who’s heard the opening bars of Metallica’s Enter Sandman can probably tell you just how awesome drums can be, even if the beat is very simple. In war, drums were not only used as communications, but also as a way to intimidate an enemy force into believing their numbers were bigger than they actually were.

In modern times, drums are used for ceremonial purposes or, like Enter Sandman, as a means of depriving captured Iraqis of sleep.

5. Bagpipes

Easily the best instrument for hiding an army’s numbers, bagpipes were considered a weapon of war until 1996. It was said that a highland regiment never went to war without a piper in the lead, so the bagpipes meant that that an army was on the move — and the enemy (usually the British) could have no idea how big it was. The pipes hid all other sounds.

By World War II, the pipes were relegated to being a background instrument, used only well behind friendly lines — until Bill Millan landed on Sword Beach during D-Day, sporting a kilt and playing the pipes.

The unmistakable sound of bagpipes on the move probably struck fear into the heart of any enemy, even if that sound came from miles away. It was loud enough to give you plenty of warning the Scots were on the move. They wanted you to be there when their army arrived.

MUSIC

What your squad-mates are really telling you with their music playlists

Whether it’s the barracks on base, a berthing area aboard the ship, or a plywood building at a remote outpost in unfriendly lands, living in close quarters with folks you don’t know all that well is a big part of military life. But there are ways to expedite the process of getting acquainted by picking up on the clues your fellow service members are putting out all around you – like their taste in music, for instance.


So sneak a peek at their smartphones and see what they’re jamming on Spotify, Pandora, Beats, iTunes, or whatever. If you see any of these 7 artists (or the associated genres) here’s what your room-, bunk-, squad-, or shipmates are telling you:

1. The Black Keys

“I’m a new school take on an old school vibe, which is to say I’m at once low maintenance and high gloss. I’m an achiever but not in that obnoxious kiss-ass way that would give me a reputation among the others in the command. I like sports, but I’m not a bro. I’m in a stable relationship with a person back home and plan on getting married, but not until the time is right for both of us. I have two years of college under my belt and will work on finishing the rest in my spare time before my enlistment is up. After that I’ll get out and pretend like none of this every happened. Oh . . . and I’m smarter than you, but I’ll never say it.”

2. Sia

“You’ve probably already picked up on my intensity through my body language and the tone of my voice, although I haven’t said very much to you. I was one of the cool kids in the early high school years but got sick of those people — the meathead jocks and their vain girlfriends — so I pretty much spent the rest of the time with my best friend reading Dave Eggers entire body of work and making chalk doodles on sidewalks after dark using a flashlight. I had one boyfriend who broke up with me right after he stole my virginity. I got drunk after that and started to get a tattoo of his name to try and mess with his head or something, but I chickened out because it hurt so bad, so all I have is a small black dot near the top of my left bun. I knew nothing about the military when I joined but did it because it’s exactly what my parents thought I would never do. Now that I’m here I hate it. And — don’t take this personally — I’m pretty sure I hate you.”

3. Trivium

“I got these tattoos before I joined and want to get a few more regardless of what the rules are. (They keep changing anyway.) I had planned on going to college, but before I got accepted anywhere I got busted for spray-painting graffiti on the side of one of the overpasses in my hometown. My dad lawyer’d up, and my record was wiped clean, but he gave me one option at that point: Join the military. So here I am. Funny thing is I don’t mind it; in fact, I’m actually enjoying it. I told the dudes back home that I was only staying for one enlistment, if that even, but truth is I’ll probably wind up being a lifer. I’m a good friend who knows how to hook a buddy up. I also know about paying assholes back, so don’t be one.”

4. Luke Bryan

“It won’t surprise you based on my build and the intensity of my workouts that I was the quarterback of my high school football team. I went to junior college an hour from my hometown in Texas, but had one too many blowouts with the coach and got thrown off the team. After that I started to party and stopped going to class. I flunked out and didn’t want to go back home, so I joined the military. I come off as a super-friendly, semi-religious guy but really I’m a massive backstabber, especially if things aren’t going my way. I’m very competitive and hate to lose at anything, including making rank ahead of my peers. I talk about trucks all the time but my main ride is a Yaris the insurance money bought after I crashed my F-150 a few years back. I can line dance, which makes me a good wingman in certain bars. I’ll listen to your problems with an earnest expression, but really I don’t care, and if you need me for a crisis I’ll probably have a conflict that’ll prevent me from helping in any meaningful way. Sorry. (Not really.)”

5. Maroon 5

“I was student council vice president and a member of the National Honor Society and had oodles of promise but I kind of gagged on it and couldn’t deal with the weight of my family’s expectations, so after working as a sales associate at Target for a few months I joined the military. The recruiter told me about the great education programs and how I could get into officer training pretty easily based on my profile, but it turns out that was all bullshit, of course, and I’m stuck with this lame MOS that I kinda feel is beneath me but will do a good job with anyway. The command will tempt me with advanced schooling and other incentives based on my cheery disposition and positive outlook, but I’ll get out after my first term and give college another try using my GI Bill benefit. Oh, and I listen to Maroon 5 because I really don’t like music all that much.”

6. Ed Sheeran

“I joined the military after a traumatic breakup with my fiance because I needed massively new surroundings in my life (and I thought the move would also be a nice “you can’t hurt me” signal to my ex) but halfway through boot camp I had massive regrets, and I freaked to the point they pulled me out and sent me to the doc who told me that I was fine and that stress was a natural part of life and that I needed to stay hydrated. After that I heard whispers from the others that I was a drama queen, which is a total lie cause I hate drama and have posted a bunch of memes on Facebook about that fact. I’ve been in three relationships since I got to this command seven months ago, and all of them ended kinda ugly, mostly because they didn’t respect me for my mind and the fact that I listen to song lyrics and get what they mean. And I need a hug.”

7. Drake

“I joined up after high school first thing because my dad and uncle had both served and they said the military was a great place to get started in life. Made sense to me. Otherwise I would have wound up doing a lot of nothing and that always leads to bad things. I have a thuggish exterior like I’m all don’t-give-a-shit but deep-down inside I cry a little bit when they yell at me for what the First Sergeant calls ‘screwing the pooch’ or whatever. (I don’t really cry.) Plus, I’m trying my best, yo. If it’s so easy why don’t you do it? (That’s just me thinking that, not saying that out loud or nothing.) But, like I said before, this military thing makes sense to me. It’s all good. I’m down with it.”

Articles

This incredible rap song perfectly captures life in Marine Corps infantry

Serving in the Marine Corps infantry is one of the most taxing occupations the military has to offer. Whether you’re out patrolling in a hot zone, calling in mortars on an enemy position or just humping hundreds of pounds of gear, it’s tough.


For one former Marine, military service fuels his music and reflects his experiences in the Corps.

“So you’re the newest PFC? Well, welcome to the infantry. Around here we like to do things a little differently. I know your drill instructor taught you those morals and ethics, but you got to put that to the side to kill more efficiently. ”

These are the opening lyrics of “Welcome to the Infantry” performed by Marine rapper, Fitzy Mess, and they couldn’t be more truthful.

Related: 7 things you should know before joining the infantry

Check out Fitzy Mess‘ video below for his cathartic rap song about life in the Marine infantry. And turn your sound up!

(Fitzy Mess, YouTube)
MUSIC

The Marines’ Hymn will make you want to re-enlist

The United States Marine Corps has bravely served our country since 1775, and The Marines’ Hymn reflects that legacy.


Here are five things you might not know about the iconic song:

1. The tune derives from an aria in a 19th century comedic opera

The melody originally came from Jacques Offenbach’s opera Genevieve de Brabant in the mid-1800s.

2. The lyricist is unknown

No one seems to know who wrote the lyrics to the hymn, but they have shifted slightly over time to reflect the evolution of the Corps. In 1942, the final changes were made to reflect the addition of aviation to the Marine Corps mission. The first verse’s fourth line, “On the land as on the sea” became “In the air, on land, and sea.”

 

5 of the best musical instruments to go to war with
Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys fly over the Arabian Sea. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Keonaona C. Paulo)

3. It specifically mentions battles from the 1800s

The opening line “From the Halls of Montezuma” refers to the capture of Mexico City and the Castle of Chapultepec in 1847 during the Mexican-American War.

4. The American flag was first flown in an overseas victory at Tripoli

“To the Shores of Tripoli” pays homage to the First Barbary War, when U.S Marines helped capture the Tripolitan city of Derna in modern day Libya in 1805. It was the first time Old Glory was raised in victory on foreign soil.

5. It’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Marines

The lyrics aptly reflect the spirit of the Corps, mentioning the “fight for right and freedom,” the importance of honor, and even a bit of branch rivalry: “If the Army and the Navy ever look on Heaven’s scenes; they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.”

SemperFiOorah1 | YouTube

Also read: The hater’s guide to the US Marine Corps

Here are the official lyrics:

From the Halls of Montezuma

To the shores of Tripoli;

We 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.

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

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.

Articles

10 best opening sequences from the glory days of military TV shows

During the halcyon days of broadcast television – before streaming media and DVRs existed – there were a host of military-themed shows on the airwaves. As much as the quality of the episodes (in some cases even more so) these programs were known for their openings and the associated theme songs. Here are 10 of the most classic:


MCCALE’S NAVY (1962-1966)

Forget JFK’s story from his time in the Pacific. Everything America knew about the history of PT boats came from “McCale’s Navy.” The show also showed that skippers could be cool and that POWs should be treated well; in fact, the Japanese prisoner “Fuji” was one of the gang. They even trusted him enough to make him their cook.

COMBAT (1962-1967)

“Combat” lasted five seasons before American attitudes toward the purity of war were tainted by the realities of the Vietnam Conflict that came blasting into living rooms via the nightly news. “Combat” set a serious tone with this opening with epic orchestration and a narrator who’s basically screaming at the viewers.

GOMER PYLE, U.S.M.C. (1964-1969)

“Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.” was actually a spin-off of “The Andy Griffith Show” and introduced the public to two concepts that remain true today: DIs are likeable guys underneath their gruff exteriors and (surprise!) the Marine Corps is populated by a goofball or two.

BRANDED (1965-1966)

The drama of the opening theme of “Branded” was by-far the best part of this show. Watching Chuck Connors weather the dishonor of having his rank ripped from his shoulders, his sword broken in two, and the front gate closed behind him after he was shoved through it was heavy stuff.

F TROOP (1965-1967)

Manifest Destiny made into a sitcom. “F Troop” was a comedic take on life in the U.S. Calvary across the western frontier where Indian arrows went through head gear and nothing else.

HOGAN’S HEROES (1965-1971)

Not unlike what “F Troop” did to the reputation of Native Americans, “Hogan’s Heroes” showed the country that the Nazis weren’t inhuman tyrants but rather lovable idiots or clueless buffoons.

THE RAT PATROL (1966-1968)

This opening segment was all about the visual of U.S. Army jeeps going airborne over sand dunes without the guys holding onto the .50 cals in the back flying out or breaking their backs. “The Rat Patrol” was the show that introduced the nation to special ops and the idea that two light vehicles could take on (if not defeat) a column of Panzers.

STAR TREK (1966-1969)

For all of its allegory and social commentary, at its heart “Star Trek” was a show about military life on deployment. The opening remains among TV’s best with Capt. Kirk’s monologue, the Enterprise fly-by, and the soaring (albeit wordless) vocals.

M.A.S.H. (1972-1983)

Set during the Korean War, “M*A*S*H” was derived from Robert Altman’s 1970 black comedy of the same name and the theme song was an instrumental version of “Suicide is Painless” from the movie. The show’s finale was the most watched broadcast of any show ever until Super Bowl XLIV.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNblF1PkSwo

THE A TEAM (1983-1987)

“Punished for a crime they did not commit.” Oh, the injustice of it all. “The A Team” was known for gunfights, explosions, and car crashes that netted ZERO casualties. It’s also the show that made Mr. T into a household name.

MUSIC

This anthem is full of pre-WW2 history that no one knows about

The words of the United States Coast Guard are Semper Paratus — always ready.

Since Aug. 4, 1790, it’s been true. The Revenue Marines were created by Congress in 1790 and, in 1915, the modern Coast Guard we know and love and appreciate when we are lost at sea was formed.

“Coasties” serve in times of peace and in times of war and we are lucky to have them.

The History of the U.S. Coast Guard Song

The song perfectly captures the history and lore of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Posted by We Are The Mighty on Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Coast Guard song is named for its motto Semper Paratus and here are a few things you should know about it, if you want to call yourself a true (trivia- and/or Coast Guard-loving) American:

1. The song turned 90 years old last year

Written in 1927 by Captain Francis S. Van Boskerck, legend has it the song was penned whilst Van Boskerck was in the Aleutian Islands. He used an old piano that belonged to a fur trader’s wife. Two dentists, Alfred E. Nannestand and Joseph O. Fournier, also helped with the early lyrics.

2. Like the other services, the song was the result of a song-search contest*

Van Boskerck and his dentist buddies entered their version into the contest and won. In 1943, Homer Smith would revise the lyrics, and in 1969, the first line of each verse was changed, resulting in the current version of the song.

*For all the songwriters out there looking to make history, rumor has it our young country may soon have a new branch of the military, and with it, the need for an anthem of its own…

3. It contains a decent synopsis of pre-WWII Coast Guard history

“From Aztec shore to Arctic zone,” alludes to the U.S. landings on Mexico’s Gulf Coast during the Mexican War (1846-1848). “Surveyor and Narcissus” refers to the Cutter Surveyor who faced off against the British Narcissus during the War of 1812.

The U.S. Coast Guard patrols the waters around New York in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

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The lyrics are full of Easter Eggs. See if you can identify each historical moment below:

Verse 1
From Aztec Shore to Arctic Zone,
To Europe and Far East,
The Flag is carried by our ships
In times of war and peace;
And never have we struck it yet,
In spite of foemen’s might,
Who cheered our crews and cheered again
For showing how to fight.

Chorus
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.

Verse 2
“Surveyor” and “Narcissus,”
The “Eagle” and “Dispatch,”
The “Hudson” and the “Tampa,”
These names are hard to match;
From Barrow’s shores to Paraguay,
Great Lakes or Ocean’s wave,
The Coast Guard fights through storms and winds
To punish or to save.

Verse 3
Aye! We’ve been “Always Ready”
To do, to fight, or die!
Write glory to the shield we wear
In letters to the sky.
To sink the foe or save the maimed
Our mission and our pride.
We’ll carry on ’til Kingdom Come
Ideals for which we’ve died.

MUSIC

This soldier will DJ at a free music festival for Marines

U.S. Army medic Joshua K. Swensen met people from all over the world while serving and those people influenced his range of musical knowledge. He’s now a music DJ in San Antonio, Texas, a town that not only has a strong military community, but a vibrant vinyl culture as well.

Not only that, but he’s heading out to Camp Lejeune over Independence Day to spin at BaseFEST powered by USAA, a free music festival that brings the entire community together at some of the largest military bases in the United States. Troops, families, and the base community can enjoy music, food & beverages, family activities, adult games, shopping, and more.

BaseFEST at Camp Lejeune will be free and open to the public (but premium tickets will get you drinks and a private beer garden — hey-o!). Swensen is looking forward to bringing his passion to the event.


Also read: This is the Air Force vet who will kick off USAA’s free music festival

5 of the best musical instruments to go to war with
U.S. Army veteran Joshua K. Swensen spins classic vinyl.

“Trends are one thing but good music does not have an expiration date.”

For Swensen, who owns about 2500 pieces of vinyl, putting on a good show for Marines and their family is a way to give back.

“These men and women are working very hard, so the time they get with their families is really precious. Making people dance is one of the best feelings in the world.”

Also performing this 4th of July are Cole Swindell, Tyler Farr, Lindsay Ell, and more. This is the third BaseFEST event in 2018, but not the last. The next festival will take place at 29 Palms, California, after Labor Day Weekend.

Check out the video below to hear this solider-turned-DJ tell his story:

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 things to keep in mind when dealing with butter bars

As a prior butter bar, I want you to know that I have no regrets about my career choice.


Sure, when I signed up for the military, I thought I was going to get to do a little less paperwork and a little more single handedly saving the entire world from terrorism for all time with my bravery, but hey, we all have our roles to play. Mine was to ensure my people were able to conduct mission ops — and deep down, I know that’s important, too.

5 of the best musical instruments to go to war with

I was very calculated about which branch I would serve in (Air Force, duh — I’m not a masochist) and how I would earn my commission (on the beaches of Southern California, like a BAMF). We trained on Fridays, and I was super into it (ROTC nerd to an extreme level) so I also attended optional Saturday morning training, which meant I missed out on the collegiate Thirsty Thursday, Friday night parties, and Saturday night shenanigans (because I was tired from all that training, bro).

So it really wasn’t until active duty that I realized how much lieutenants could party.

Also read: How to not be a dirtbag CGO

1. They like to have a good time

When we were at intel school at Goodfellow AFB, Texas, we set up a “pub crawl” where everyone served signature drinks from their dorm rooms — everything from a shot of Jeremiah Weed to a game of flip cup to Vodka mixed with Airborne tablets (“to help our immune systems.”)

My first Gin and Tonic was consumed in the SCIF while cramming for the Navy test (does one really need to be sober to learn about boats? I mean ships…).

In Korea, the pilots partied so hard I started carrying a sharpie with me so I could make a tic-mark on my palm to track my drinks. Most nights left me waking up with a bar code across my palm.

But beyond the drinking, the butter bars in the office are more likely to liven up the office with pranks and jokes — and let’s not forget who keeps the snack bar full.

Related: This musician and veteran invented Jell-O shots to beat base alcohol rules

2. It’s not their fault they’re n00bs

Butter bars have it great. They have enough training under their belts to feel confident about testing themselves but not enough experience for any serious responsibility. It’s a carefree time. The good ones acknowledge their shortcomings and learn quickly. The crappy ones… well, you can read some of their stories in the comments on this post (and add your own — it’s hilarious!).

The point is, butter bars are precious. They’re bright eyed and ready for a good time. They don’t know that the sh*t is about to get real. Look out for them. Show them the way.

3. They’re the future brass

Four-stars have to start somewhere, right? Their experiences as CGOs will have an effect on their leadership style down the road, so help them out. Teach them the mission. Remind them of what’s important. Show them the value of mutual respect.

They’ll remember it later and we’ll all be better for it.

And for all you 0-1s out there, work hard before you play hard. You might be at the bottom of the officer ranks now, but you’ve still got men and women who rely on you.

Oh, when you do just want to have a little fun, here’s a playlist for your partying needs (it’s okay to admit you like pop songs — you’re in safe space):

MUSIC

Why musicians can’t make videos aboard Navy ships

The USS Missouri has a long and storied history. She earned numerous battle stars for her service in three American wars. She was the site where Japan signed its formal surrender, ending World War II. The last battleship produced by the United States, she was decommissioned in 1955 and reactivated in 1984 to support the Gulf War. She even made appearances in the 1992 movie Under Siege and in 2012’s Battleship.

5 of the best musical instruments to go to war with
Even when you put actors on a Navy ship, the first thing they learn to do is skate.

Its most infamous moment came in 1989, when Cher sang “If I Could Turn Back Time” in front of the ship’s crew wearing a one-piece bathing suit and stockings that didn’t leave much to the imagination.

5 of the best musical instruments to go to war with
At least she was wearing a jacket.

 

Almost no one but the director (and, presumably, Cher) was happy with the video. According to the book “I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution,” MTV pretty much banned the video outright because of the visibility of Cher’s butt cheeks. The network later rolled that back and would play it only after 9pm – though MTV still pushed the envelope as “Safe Harbor” programming for broadcasters in the U.S. began at 10pm.

See how safe the harbor is in the music video below.

The outfit, of course, completely surprised the U.S. Navy, who had given their blessing for the shoot. Once he saw the singer’s costume on the set of the video, the Navy’s entertainment liaison for the Missouri asked the director to choose something else for Cher to wear. The director, of course, declined.

 

5 of the best musical instruments to go to war with
The crew seems fine with it.

After all the flak the Navy took for the video, it decreed that never again would musicians be allowed to film music videos on ships of the U.S. Navy. In an attempt to placate the Navy, Cher later filmed parts of the song in a less-revealing outfit and without the crew present, but the new video was too little, too late.

For Cher, the song completely revived her 20-plus year long career. It was her second consecutive number one hit on the Billboard charts and was a certified gold record.

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.

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)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist JP Guhns

UPDATE: THE VOTING IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON MONDAY, SEPT. 25, 2017 AT WE ARE THE MIGHTY!

Welcome to the finals for Mission: Music, where veterans from all five branches compete for a chance to perform onstage at Base*FEST powered by USAA. CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO VOTE every day to determine the winner!

JP is a United States Marine with four combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also a singer/songwriter, life documenter, spirited lover, and careful father.


5 of the best musical instruments to go to war with
JP Guhns (U.S. Marine Corps)

As a teenager, he went to the funeral of his brother’s close friend where someone pulled out an acoustic guitar and played “What I Got” by Sublime. JP fell in love with the way music assisted in healing that day. He also had to say goodbye to friends and loved ones of his own, including his brother and sister. Music became a way for him to document life, writing about love and loss.

Currently, the JP Guhns team is based out of South Carolina. JP is determined to push his blend of southern rock and alternative country out to anyone on a “poor man’s budget and a dad’s schedule.”

He has two children, a wonderful wife, and a strong ambition for life.

Return to the voting page and check out the other finalists!

For every vote, USAA will donate $1 (up to $10k) to Guitars for Vets, a non-profit organization that enhances lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and a forum to learn how to play. Your votes help those who served rediscover their joy through the power of music!

5 of the best musical instruments to go to war with
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