The Armed Forces Medley, sometimes known as the Armed Forces Salute, is the collection of the official songs of the six military uniformed services of the United States performed in order of precedence. The U.S. Space Force does not yet have a song, but the other songs, when played as a medley, are usually played in this order: Semper Paratus, Space Force Song (unnamed as of today), The U.S. Air Force, Anchors Aweigh, the Marines’ Hymn and The Army Goes Rolling Along.
U.S. Coast Guard
According to U.S. Coast Guard history office, no one seems to know exactly how Semper Paratus was chosen as the Coast Guard’s motto. However, there is no doubt about who made the motto into music. In 1927, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Francis Saltus Van Boskerck wrote the music of what would become the Coast Guard song on a dilapidated piano in Alaska that belonged to the wife of a fur trader, likely the only piano on the Aleutian Islands.
The current verse, as well as a second chorus, were written by Homer Smith, 3rd Naval District Coast Guard quartet and Lieutenant Walton Butterfield in 1943. In 1969, the first line of the chorus was changed from “So here's the Coast Guard marching song, we sing on land and sea” to “We’re always ready for the call, we place our trust in Thee.”
These are the lyrics to the truncated version of Semper Paratus which is usually performed with the Armed Forces Medley.
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!
U.S. Air Force
In 1938, Liberty magazine at the urging of the Army Air Corps leaders, decided to have a song-writing contest and offered $1,000 prize to the winning composer if they penned a song about the U.S. Army Air Corps. More than 700 compositions were received but it was Robert MacArthur Crawford who wrote the winning song in 1939.
Adopted in the late 1940s, the song is often referred to as the Wild Blue Yonder, but it is officially called, The U.S. Air Force. Crawford originally named the song “Army Air Corps” but during World War II, the service was renamed “Army Air Forces” and the song title was changed. In 1947, when the Air Force became a separate service, the song was retitled, The U.S. Air Force.
Crawford during World War I attempted to become a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Service but was found to be underage. During World War II, Crawford flew for the Air Transport Command of the U.S. Army Air Force.
These are the lyrics to the truncated version of The U.S. Air Force which is usually performed with the Armed Forces Medley.
Off we go into the wild blue yonder, climbing high into the sun;
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder, at ‘em now, give ‘em the gun!
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!
The song in May 2020 went through its final rewrite to make the song gender neutral.
Anchors Aweigh is the fight song of the U.S. Naval Academy as well as the song of the U.S. Navy. It was composed in 1906 by Charles A. Zimmermann with lyrics by Alfred Hart Miles. When he composed Anchors Aweigh, Zimmermann was a lieutenant and the bandmaster of the U.S. Naval Academy Band. Miles was a midshipman at the academy, a part of the class of 1907. Miles asked Zimmermann to help him compose a song for his class. Another academy midshipman, Royal Lovell would write the third verse.
These are the lyrics to the truncated version of Anchors Aweigh which is usually performed with the Armed Forces Medley.
Anchors Aweigh, my boys, anchors aweigh!
Farewell to foreign shores, we sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay;
Through our last night ashore, drink to the foam,
Until we meet once more, here’s wishing you a happy voyage home!
U.S. Marine Corps
According to the U.S. Marine Band, The Marines’ Hymn is the oldest service song in the nation. The music to the hymn is believed to have originated in the opera Geneviéve de Brabant composed by the French composer Jacques Offenbach. Originally written in 1859, Offenbach revised the work and expanded it in 1867. The revised version included the song “Couplets des Deux Hommes d’Armes” and is the musical source of The Marines’ Hymn.
The author of the words to the hymn is unknown. In 1929 the commandant of the Marine Corps authorized the following verses of The Marines’ Hymn. These are the lyrics to the truncated version of The Marines’ Hymn which is usually performed with the Armed Forces Medley.
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.
According to the U.S. Army Band, The Army Goes Rolling Along was originally written by field artillery officer Edmund L. Gruber while stationed in the Philippines in 1908. Interestingly, according to the U.S. Army Band, one of Gruber’s relatives wrote the holiday classic, Silent Night.
Gruber initially titled the Army song the Caisson Song. Years later, the Army song was adapted into a march by John Philip Sousa and renamed The Field Artillery Song. During World War I, more than 750,000 copies of the song sold and Gruber eventually cashed in, demanding Sousa pay him a portion of the royalties since he was the original author.
In 1956, Gruber’s song became the official song of the Army and it was retitled, The Army Goes Rolling Along. The lyrics were rewritten by Harold Arberg who was a music advisor to the Army’s adjutant general. These are the lyrics to the truncated version of The Army Goes Rolling Along which is usually performed with the Armed Forces Medley.
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 ever we go, you will always know, that the Army goes rolling along.
When the Armed Forces Medley is played, veterans of the services and current active duty and National Guard and reserve members, whether or not they are in uniform are asked to stand as their service song plays.