Throughout history, music has had an immeasurable impact on cultures all over the world. It is often said that music is a universal language, something that brings people from all walks of life together. The influence of music plays a huge role in day-to-day life, so it’s no wonder that each branch of the armed forces has an anthem of its own. The U.S. Army’s official song has a unique history and a lasting place in American culture. Find out how it came to be such a valued tradition to the men and women who serve in this branch.
Army Song History
Edmund L. Gruber (later to be Brigadier General) wrote a hymn called “The Caisson Song” in 1908 by during his time as a field artillery first lieutenant stationed at Fort Stotsenburg in the Philippines. Although it wasn’t the Army’s official anthem yet, the lyrics chronicled the daily routines of the horse-drawn field artillery units. In 1917, John Philip Sousa altered the tune of “The Caisson Song” to make it more march-like and upbeat. After the melody was altered, the name was changed to “The Field Artillery Song.”
By 1948, all the branches of the armed forces had an official song except the Army. In order to find an official anthem, they held a nationwide contest but still couldn’t settle on one to fit the bill. Four years later, in 1952, Frank Pace, the secretary of the U.S. Army at that time, asked for another round of composition submissions. From these they chose one called “The Army’s Always There,” written by Sam Stept, to become the official U.S. Army song. It was first performed at President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s inauguration, but the public didn’t like the melody, so it was back to the drawing board.
Ultimately, in 1956, the Army decided to write new lyrics, set them to the tune of Gruber’s “The Caisson Song,” and call it “The Army Goes Rolling Along.” The new lyrics were written by Harold W. Arberg, the adjutant general’s music advisor. The lyrics honored the history of the Army, lauded its present progress, and celebrated its bright future. On November 11, 1956 (Veteran’s Day), Wilber Marion Brucker, the secretary of the army at that time, dedicated the song, and the Army finally had an official anthem of its own.
Singing “The Army Goes Rolling Along”
“The Army Goes Rolling Along” is sung at the end of every Army ceremony, and every soldier is required to sing it while standing. They are typically accompanied by the U.S. Army Band, but sometimes when the band is unable to play, the troops sing a cappella or with a recording. During ceremonies when all the branches of the armed forces are present, they sing their official anthems together in a medley. The Department of Defense established a sequence in which to sing the official anthems when this occurs, and the Army’s song is the first one sung in the medley, followed by the anthems of the Marine Corps, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Coast Guard, in that order. Sometimes, the order is reversed so that “The Army Goes Rolling Along” is the finale of the medley. This is rare and has to be approved by the Department of Defense before it is performed. Civilians are allowed and encouraged to sing the tunes of the armed forces, so long as they sing them in the official order when singing a medley.
The Army Song in Pop Culture
This official anthem isn’t just popular in the Army. The melody has been used many times in everyday culture, and the words in the chorus are the most widely known lyrics. In the 1960s, soon after “The Army Goes Rolling Along” became the Army’s official song, Hasbro used the melody in a commercial for their newly released G.I. Joe toys. Twenty years later, in the 1980s, they used the melody again to market the Army Ant toys. In addition to countless other commercials and marketing material, the melody and lyrics have been used in over 40 different movies and TV shows. Even several college fight songs are based on the tune, and North Carolina State University’s fight song is just a sped up version of the melody.
Here at Low VA Rates, we love hearing the official songs of any branch of the military. To learn more about the U.S. military or VA home loans, contact us or visit our website at www.lowvarates.com.