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Re-tooled Military Songs

Must we seem so eager to destroy?
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I'm not so sure about other nations, but in the U.S., the various military services have signature songs such as:
The Marine Hymn ("From the halls of Montezu-uma, to the shores of Tripoli...)
The Air Force Song ("Off we go, Into the wild blue yonder..."),
Anchors Aweigh, for the Navy, and
The Army Song ("Over hill, over dale, as we hit the dusty trail, and the caissons go rolling along...")

These songs are uniformly boisterous, rousing marches that, lyrics completely aside, evoke an atmosphere of great celebration and joyous fervor. They are played at various occasions, for some of which they may be perfectly appropriate. But among those occasions are functions that serve as rituals for "sending the boys (and girls and men and women) off to battle."

Now, I understand that it takes some "encouragement" to get people to willingly face the risks of battle, and I do not deny the nobility in choosing to face such risks for selfless causes. Nor do I deny my own debt to those who face and have faced those risks and consequences.

But are we so immature as a society that we must treat the thing as some great party that makes us all just want to cheer? Don't we, and don't most of the individuals in the military see battle as something only to be used as a last resort, and then with great, deep sadness and regret that the only way we can protect ourselves is to destroy someone else (not to mention the innocents who will also inevitably suffer)? I know that the U.S. in particular is often portrayed as a big bully looking for a fight, but I don't believe most Americans feel that way, and I consistently hear from individuals at all ranks in the military that they are as sorrowed that violent force must be used as they are grateful for its effectiveness.

So I think these songs help to reinforce a negative stereotype that is more fictional than true, and I wish we could see them re-worked. The new songs need not be mournful. They can inspire without depressing, but they should convey less eagerness to kill and more regret that a horrible duty has been found necessary. Two examples of musical compositions that I think set a more appropriate tone are "America the Beautiful," and the German National Anthem (Haydn's "National Hymn").

Oh, and just to be specific, I'm talking only about the music here. The words to the songs are a whole "nother" can of worms.

beauxeault, Jan 22 2002

Early WWIII song by Tom Lehrer http://members.aol....lehrer/solongmo.htm
So long, Mom, I'm off to drop the bomb... [csea, Jun 19 2005]

[link]






       I'll restrain myself here on the subject of jingoism and its banal jingles of pomp and patriotism, as I'm sure I'll just bring down the wrath of the righteous upon my head. I'll leave it to Siegfried Sassoon:   

       I'd like to see a Tank come down the stalls,
Lurching to rag-time tunes, or `Home sweet Home',
And there'd be no more jokes in Music-halls
To mock the riddled corpses round Bapaume
  

       The point isn't whether singing is right. It's that the song, or more precisely, the musical tone of the song, is inadequate - crass, cheap and ultimately (IMO anyway) insulting. Leave that bollocks for the *rousing* bits of Hollywood schlockbusters and other such crudely sentimental and manipulative tat.   

       Croissant.
Guy Fox, Jan 22 2002
  

       I agree with the sentiment in this one, beauxeault. The problem is that the simple-minded, tub thumping of the traditional songs is so terribly effective.

Having been to a couple of 'last night at the proms' type affairs, I can tell you that it's nigh on impossible not to get caught up in the jingoistic, rabble-rousing. (Mind you, I did go with the specific intention of getting caught up in it all, so it makes a bit of a difference I suppose).

It seems the simple truth is, that the bad guys (as I see them) just have all the best songs. But croissant anyway.

Addendum: My own candidate as a song to fill this particular role is 'The Ballad of Joe Hill' (with lyrics suitably adapted to whichever cause you desire).
DrBob, Jan 22 2002
  

       As far as I'm concerned, nobody can truly advocate the concept of human rights while denying the necessity of wars waged to protect those rights. As war is necessary, then, I see no reason, when we fight justly, to go into battle preoccupied with the possibility of pain and death, or the suffering of our defeated foes. Rather, I'd prefer that our troops were buoyed by the knowledge that they are striving for a good which is greater than themselves, with the expectation that that good will triumph. Our music in times of war ought to reflect that.
Guncrazy, Jan 22 2002
  

       I can't comment about the Air Force song but I always thought the phrase was *wide* blue yonder ?
lubbit, Jan 22 2002
  

       You don't whistle in the dark?
entremanure, Jan 23 2002
  

       [beauxeault] I think you're missing the whole point. Those songs arn't about "encouraging" the troops into battle. Those songs are about the solidarity of the Brothers and Sisters in arms who engage in those battles. Those songs arn't saying "whoopee! we're off to war!" , they're saying "we're fighting this war together and if we stick together we just might get through it". The decision to go to war (at least in a democracy) is made by the politicians, and in effect the society that elects them. The soldiers have to make the best out of a situation that has chosen them. If a little bit of "rabble-rousing" helps our troops to get through a day of slogging through rice paddies or hunting terrorists in a rat's den of caves, I say sing it LOUD! Fishbone.
whiprsnapr, Jan 23 2002
  

       [GuyFox] and [DrBob]: Are you confusing jingoism with patriotism? There's a difference between "I love my great country" and "Your miserable little country is a pile of goat ordure".
angel, Jan 23 2002
  

       [angel]: Goat ordures would be disgusting. But then again, those high society people think that caviar makes a good appetizer, too.
Guncrazy, Jan 23 2002
  

       No, angel (though I do see them as two sides of the same coin). The distinction that I was trying to make (though obviously not very well), was between the different attitudes which might be summed up as "Hurrah! We're off to war. Break out the brass band!" and "It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it. Save the songs 'til it's over."
DrBob, Jan 23 2002
  

       Once the decision has been made to go to war, what possible benefit could there be to saving our enthusiasm until it's over?   

       If we're going to fight, we damn well ought to do it wholeheartedly, encouraging our troops and each other with speeches, editorials, general flag-waving--and yes, song.
Guncrazy, Jan 23 2002
  

       Thanks to most of you who have taken this idea seriously. I'll admit I had some concern about seeming unpatriotic to those who might not pay attention to what I actually said. But those fears were mostly unfounded.   

       Guncrazy, I think you and I are closer to agreement than you might imagine. And to others who say "by all means let's support the troops with song and however else we can," I say, by all means, let's do. And sure, those songs get my heart pumping, too, and they're great for the image of war that we paint in the movies.   

       But I don't think I've ever met an actual person who, faced with the need to put himself in harm's way to protect someone else, actually responds honestly with the attitude suggested by these songs. Most soldiers, policemen, etc. whom I actually know, when they speak honestly about their true feelings, speak of a much quieter resolve which has weighed the cost both to themselves and to those they will target. They generally tend to regret that such unpleasant measures have to be taken to make the world a better place, but they have such respect, or even love, for that better place and those who live there, that they have committed themselves to doing the best they can to be effective in the fight. And I hear the same from people I don't know personally.   

       Perhaps my impressions are skewed, but to me, those sentiments don't sound like "Off we go, into the wild blue yonder," but something much more honorable -- much more noble. And I worry that we cheapen our depiction of ourselves and our defenders if we miss that nobility. I seek not to weaken our support, but to honor them more fully than it seems we do.   

       I will acknowledge, though, that the "brothers and sisters in arms" sentiment mentioned by whiprsnapr does seem to fit more securely in the existing songs, and is a legitimate basis for their use that I had overlooked. Thanks for pointing that out, whiprsnapr.
beauxeault, Jan 23 2002
  

       Wasn't it Sun Tzu, famous tactician, that said "You do not greet a returning army with celebrations for conquering, but sorrow for the battle needing to be fought" ?
Almafeta, May 30 2003
  

       As one of the few that play these songs professionally, I can say I have only on one occasion played for the deployment of a ship/squadron/any other military unit, and that was at a time when war was far over the horizon. I have often played these songs upon the return of the troops, and I must say that is the absolute most rewarding type of performance I have ever played. The point I was trying to make (however, roundabout the manner) is; that I, and at least some of my superiors, also think the band should not be there when the troops are leaving. I have seen news reports showing troops deploying, in which a military band could be heard in the background. I would simply like to submit: that in my experience, military bands do have music available to them that is less boisterous. I also want to mention that on appropriate occasions we do play America, the Beautiful, and similar songs.   

       Not really the point, but… As for Haydn's "National Hymn," if this is the current German National anthem, then we are prohibited from playing arrangements of it, and in order to play it as Germany’s anthem, we need a specific reason (like honoring a dignitary).   

       In short, I like the idea of not celebrating their departure, but doing away with the service songs at any military ceremony, is IMO not a good idea.
swamilad, May 31 2003
  

       Homesick for boot camp, reensure?
thumbwax, May 31 2003
  

       Why not use Germany's song. We already stole their idea for secret prisons in Poland...
fishboner, Jan 09 2010
  
      
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