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Chesty Puller: A History of this Marine Corps Legend

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Burwell Puller was a born fighter and he saw expeditionary service in Nicaragua, Haiti and China, and fought in World War II and the Korean War. He is considered the most decorated Marine in Marine Corps history.

Chesty Puller, as he is affectionately known in the ranks, served for 37 years as a mustang officer (prior enlisted officer), 27 of those years were overseas or at sea. He attended the Virginia Military Institute and enlisted in the Corps in 1918. About a year later, he was appointed a Marine Reserve second lieutenant, but due to personnel cuts in the Marine Corps after World War I, Chesty was placed on inactive duty ten days later. He rejoined the Marines days later to serve as an officer in the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, a Haitian military force set up in cooperation with the United States. Many of its officers were U.S. Marines, while its enlisted personnel were Haitians.

Chesty Puller spent almost five years in Haiti and he saw frequent action against the Caco rebels. He returned to the United States in 1924 and he was commissioned a Marine second lieutenant in March. He served at the Marine Barracks, Norfolk, Virginia, completed the Basic School in Philadelphia, and served with the 10th Marines at Quantico, Virginia. He was then detailed as a student naval aviator at Pensacola, Florida, in February 1926.

In 1928 Chesty Puller joined the Nicaraguan National Guard Detachment and earned his first Navy Cross in Nicaragua. Outnumbered, he led his troops in five engagements and relentlessly pursued the enemy until he had defeated them. He returned to the United States in July 1931 and attended numerous military education courses, but returned to Nicaragua in 1932 and earned his second Navy Cross. The Marines were in Nicaragua to train and lead nascent military forces in fighting against an insurgency that was threatening U.S. interests in the country.

Chesty Puller earned his second Navy Cross when he was leading his platoon of 40 men on patrol 100 miles from the nearest support base. They were ambushed by a guerilla force of 150 enemy. Puller used high ground to aggressively attack and took out the enemy. Two of Puller’s men were killed, six were wounded. The enemy was crushed and those who weren’t killed fled into the jungle. While returning to the base, a week’s march away, the platoon was attacked twice more and in both instances Puller and his men repelled the attacks and inflicted severe casualties.

In January 1933, Chesty Puller left Nicaragua and joined the Marine Detachment in Peiping, China. He commanded the famed Horse Marines while in China. In 1934, he assumed command of the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Augusta. In June 1936, he became an instructor in the Basic School at Philadelphia and three years later in 1939, left to serve another again as commander of the Augusta’s Marine detachment. Eventually Puller ended up with the 4th Marines at Shanghai, China in 1940 as a battalion executive and commanding officer.

In September 1941, Chesty Puller took command of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, at Camp Lejeune. That regiment was detached from the 1st Division in March 1942 and as part of the 3rd Marine Brigade, it sailed for the Pacific theater. The 7th Marines rejoined the 1st Marine Division later in 1942, and Puller, still commanding its 1st Battalion, earned his third Navy Cross at Guadalcanal.

The action which brought him that medal occurred in October 1942. For three hours Puller’s battalion, stretched across a mile-long front, was the only defense between vital Henderson Airfield and a regiment of seasoned Japanese troops. The Japanese repeatedly attacked Puller’s defensive lines and Puller moved up and down the line encouraging his men and directing the defense. After reinforcements arrived, he commanded the force until the next afternoon. The Marines suffered less than 70 casualties, while 1,400 Japanese soldiers were killed and 17 truckloads of their equipment was captured.

After Guadalcanal Chesty Puller became executive officer of the 7th Marines. He was serving in that capacity when he earned his fourth Navy Cross at Cape Gloucester in January 1944. When two battalion commanders were wounded, Puller took over their units and moved through heavy machine gun and mortar fire to reorganize the Marines for an attack. Under his leadership, they took a strongly-fortified enemy position.

In February 1944, Chesty Puller took command of the 1st Marines at Cape Gloucester and commanded the regiment for the remainder of the campaign, sailing with the unit to the Russell Islands in April 1944, and commanding it at Peleliu in the fall of 1944. Upon his return to the United States in November 1944, Puller was named executive officer of the Infantry Training Regiment at Camp Lejeune in January 1945, and took command of that regiment the next month.

In August 1946, Chesty Puller became director of the 8th Marine Corps Reserve District and after that he commanded the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor until August 1950. Puller then was assigned to Camp Pendleton where he was charged with reestablishing and commanding the 1st Marines, the same regiment he had led at Cape Gloucester and Peleliu.

In September 1950, Chesty Puller landed with the 1st Marines at Inchon, Korea. He would earn the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross for heroic actions in battles in the latter part of November 1950. Puller would earn his fifth and final Navy Cross as a colonel just a few days later in December 1950. He was cited for “extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations.” The battle was fought in sub-zero temperatures at the frozen Chosin Reservoir against the North Koreans who badly outnumbered Puller’s regiment.

Chesty Puller’s men repelled countless enemy attacks by larger forces. As usual, Puller moved along the defensive line, ducking machinegun, artillery and mortar fire, organizing, leading and directing his troops. Puller fortified the line and more importantly kept supply routes open for the division. As they moved to south, the enemy launched two additional attacks and once again, Puller was in the action.

He commanded that regiment until January 1951 when he was promoted to brigadier general and named assistant commander of the 1st Marine Division. In May 1951, Puller returned to Camp Pendleton to command the newly reactivated 3rd Marine Brigade, which was redesignated the 3rd Marine Division in January 1952.

Chesty Puller was promoted to major general in September 1953, and in July 1954, he assumed command of the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune. Despite illness he retained command until February 1955, when he was appointed deputy camp commander. He served in that capacity until August, when he entered the U.S. Naval Hospital at Camp Lejeune prior to retirement. He was promoted to lieutenant general in 1955.

Chesty Puller died in October 1971. He earned 14 decorations in combat, including his five Navy Crosses, the Army Distinguished Service Cross and a Silver Star, as well as a Legion of Merit with a Combat “V” device, and three Air Medals. He is also the recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals.

Chesty Puller’s other medals and decorations include the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon with four bronze stars; the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal with one bronze star; the World War I Victory Medal with West Indies clasp; the Haitian Campaign Medal; the Second Nicaraguan Campaign Medal; the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal with one bronze star; the China Service Medal; the American Defense Service Medal with Base clasp; the American Area Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal with four bronze stars; the World War II Victory Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Korean Service Medal with one silver star in lieu of five bronze stars; the United Nations Service Medal; the Haitian Medaille Militaire; the Nicaraguan Presidential Medal of Merit with Diploma; the Nicaraguan Cross of Valor with Diploma; the Republic of Korea's Ulchi Medal with Gold Star; and the Korean Presidential Unit Citation with Oak Leaf Cluster.

What is the most effective military strategy of all time?

Military people love to talk strategy, whether they are looking at current operations or arm chairing military history. Many of our uniformed friends often look at objectives or goals and then try to determine what strategy to employ to achieve those objectives. In older terms, military strategy is seen as the basic arrangement of troops and the planning and organization of campaigns.

The man considered by most as the father of Western military strategy is Carl von Clausewitz whose book, On War has trained countless military leaders how to look at warfare. Eastern military strategy is often credited to Sun Tzu who wrote The Art of War, which focuses more on asymmetrical war.

We’ve taken a look at the multitude of strategies out there and have come up with USAMM’s top five list that answers the question, what is the most effective military strategy of all time?

Divide and Conquer
Tukulti-Ninurta, the king of Assyria during the Middle Assyrian Empire, conquered and divided Babylon. The Assyrians conquered and subjugated Syria, Palestine, Armenia and Mesopotamia, cleverly having one group turn on itself. Forces can be divided from within, or by showing tactical deployments that make an enemy respond to a ruse. U.S. Marines did something similar in the 1990s during Operation Desert Storm when more than 8,000 Marines were dispersed along an area. The trick fooled the Iraqis who expected the Marines to lead the attack. Saddam Hussein sent troops to fight the Marines which divided his forces. It is a simple approach to applying effort to any task. In the case of warfare, an army takes action to divide an opposing force, thereby weakening one of its elements and using superior numbers to destroy it. In short, it is better to take on half of an army than all of it. So does divide and conquer answer the question, what is the most effective military strategy of all time?

Total War
Like many military strategies, this strategy is not modern and it mobilizes a nation’s entire resources and society to fight a war. This includes civilians and national resources. The national interests are given priority over the individual and all effort is poured into supporting the uniformed members of society. Total war as we know it as a modern strategy was something that emerged during World War I and World War II when nations involved in the conflicts focused on their military industrial complexes to achieve war objectives. Total war, however, isn’t for the squeamish since it makes civilians combatants. Everyone from an enemy nation, or from the opposing side, is considered to be a part of the war machine and therefore, an enemy. Gen. Tecumseh Sherman used the strategy of total war when he did his infamous March to the Sea. Later, during World War II, the United States used the total war strategy and that is best exhibited by the dropping of the atomic bombs. What is the most effective military strategy of all time? If that question is asked of those during the World War II era, especially Americans, they will likely answer total war.

Shock and Awe
Many connect this phrase to recent U.S. military operations, specifically in Iraq where the term was used by U.S. leaders to describe military action against Iraq. However, military strategists state that a shock and awe strategy makes an adversary unwilling to fight because of overwhelming displays of military power. The atomic bombs dropped on Japan are good examples to illustrate shock and awe. The show of force displayed by the attacks on Nagasaki and Hiroshima were so intense that it forced Japan’s unconditional surrender. Prior to the atomic attacks on Japan, shock and awe strategies were used by Germans in the Blitzkrieg, by the Roman Legions, and it is mentioned by Sun Tzu in the Art of War. For some, what is the most effective military strategy of all time is answered by shock and awe, a state of helplessness induced onto the enemy by overwhelming combat force and rapid action.

Guerilla Warfare
The United States fought some of its war for independence using guerilla warfare. Knowing they were outnumbered and outgunned, they relied on ambushes and other unconventional tactics to keep the British off balance, especially in South Carolina where Swamp Fox Francis Marion combatted Brit forces using the wilderness to his advantage. The word guerrilla is a Spanish word meaning ‘little war.’ That translates to mean militarily that in a conflict there are opposing sides where one side is stronger than the other. Sound familiar? In Vietnam there was no doubt who the stronger nation was, but given that the Viet Cong chose to fight a guerilla war, a conventional military like the U.S. military fell victim to guerilla tactics where quick strike raids, ambushes, sabotage and other irregular actions were the norm. The VC could never meet the American military on a battlefield for a conventional fight, so they used irregular forces and techniques in hopes of fighting a war of attrition. They normally would strike quickly in an ambush, then flee without having to engage in a prolonged battle. The VC also used a large system of tunnels that could move forces underground without the detection of U.S. forces. When they were on the surface, the Viet Cong were experts in jungle warfare, a battleground U.S. forces were unfamiliar with. Guerilla warfare also resurfaced in Iraq and Afghanistan, and military academics have for the past 20 years been asking themselves, what is the most effective military strategy of all time? The answer in these modern times at least seems apparent.

Asymmetric Warfare
The flip side of the guerilla warfare coin is asymmetric warfare or asymmetric engagement which is a war where the resources of the two belligerents are vastly different. For example, the U.S. military is fighting an asymmetric war in Iraq and Afghanistan whereas the opposing forces in those countries are fighting a guerrilla war. This type of warfare is what some call irregular war or a counterinsurgency.

A review of history shows that while total war seems to answer the question, what is the most effective military strategy of all time, the answer, when applied to these modern times, might more accurately be guerilla warfare which has managed to cripple some of the most powerful militaries known to man. So, when a uniformed person asks, what is the most effective military strategy of all time? The answer likely depends on who is answering the question.

Presidents Who Served in the Military

The commander-in-chief. If you wear a U.S. military uniform you know the person who has that title is ultimately your boss. It is something that is uniquely wonderful about the United States. The founding fathers, at the strong urging of George Washington, intentionally designed for the military to be controlled by a non-military leader.

Throughout our country’s history, there’s been a lot of debate about whether or not military service makes for a better commander-in-chief. Would military service make a president wiser on the use of military force? Or would a president who has not served in the military be better because they would listen more to the advice of their military joint chiefs?

Whatever side of the argument you sit on, here’s USAMM’s list of presidents who served in the military.

George Washington
Our list of presidents who served in the military naturally starts off with George Washington. He served in the Virginia militia and the Continental Army rising to the rank of general. He fought in the French and Indian War and the American Revolutionary War and he became the first president of the United States.

Thomas Jefferson
In 1770 Virginia’s governor appointed Jefferson to lead his county’s militia in the rank of colonel. During the Revolutionary War Jefferson was responsible for providing militia soldiers as replacements for the Virginia regiments of the Continental Army. He saw no action. Jefferson became the third president of the United States in 1801.

James Madison
In 1775, after serving briefly as a private, Madison was commissioned as colonel and commander of the Orange County Regiment, Virginia Militia. Madison was responsible for the training and readiness of his regiment, but his frail health prevented active service. Madison was inaugurated as the fourth president of the United States in March 1809.

James Monroe
In 1776, Monroe left college joined the Virginia militia in the Continental Army. After his training and commissioned as a lieutenant, Monroe was a part of the surprise attack on a Hessian encampment at the Battle of Trenton and he nearly died from battle wounds (severed artery). He was at the encampment at Valley Forge and served in the Battle of Monmouth. He rose to lieutenant colonel in the militias and became the fifth president of the United States.

Andrew Jackson
Jackson served in the War of 1812 as part of the Tennessee militia and he fought two campaigns against the Creek Indians in the winter and spring of 1813. In 1814, Jackson was commissioned a major general in the Army of the United States to fight the British at Pensacola and in New Orleans. He soundly defeated the British and went on to become the seventh president of the United States in 1829, and one in our list of presidents who served in the military.

William Henry Harrison
Harrison joined the Army in 1791 and after serving in the Northwest Territory, he resigned from the Army in 1798. During the War of 1812, Harrison was appointed as a major general with the Kentucky militia and later became the commander of the Army of the Northwest. He recaptured Detroit in the fall of 1813 and defeated the British on the Thames near Ontario. He became the ninth president of the United States in 1840.

John Tyler
In 1813, Tyler joined the Virginia Militia as a captain and his company was ordered to Williamsburg, Virginia to resist the advancing British. When the British withdrew, Tyler and his men returned home. John Tyler became the tenth president of the United States in 1841.

James K. Polk
Polk was appointed as captain in the Tennessee Militia in 1821 where he would later rise to the rank of major. He is often credited with being a colonel, but the National Guard Bureau states he was a major. He would become the 11th president of the United States and one in our list of presidents who served in the military.

Zachary Taylor
Taylor served in the U.S. Army for four decades and was the first president to have spent his life in military service before entering politics. He commanded troops in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War and the Seminole Wars. He also served in the Mexican War. He was elected president in 1848, becoming the 12th president of the United States.

Millard Filmore
Fillmore became the 13th president of the United States, rising to the presidency from vice president after Zachary Taylor died a little more than a year after taking office. Filmore served in a New York militia during the Civil War, but saw no action. He rose to the rank of captain, but because his service records are scarce, some sources state he was a major in the militia.

Franklin Pierce
In 1831, Pierce was appointed a colonel in the New Hampshire militia, but the Mexican War took him into the U.S. Army as a brigade commander where he rose to the rank of brigadier general. He participated in numerous engagements in Mexico and legend has it he had a bullet hole in the brim of his hat, but his military service was plagued by rumors of cowardice and injuries (a knee injury and diarrhea) that kept him from the battlefield several times. Nonetheless, in 1853 he became the 14th president of the United States.

James Buchanan
Buchanan is one of four presidents to rise to the post of commander-in-chief from the enlisted ranks. He served in the War of 1812 as a private in the Pennsylvania militia having joined in 1814. He joined the cavalry and rode to Baltimore to aid in the battle against the advancing British forces. Buchanan was one of 10 men who volunteered for a secret mission, a raid to round up additional horses for mounted militia units. After the British were driven from Baltimore, Buchanan's company was dismissed. Buchanan became the 15th president of the United States in 1856, and one in our list of presidents who served in the military.

Abraham Lincoln
A little known fact is that Abe Lincoln served in the Illinois militia and served in the Black Hawk War as a captain. What likely makes his service unremarkable is that he saw no action and he and his men returned home when they realized they would not be utilized in the war. In 1861, he became the 16th president of the United States and he would later be assassinated in 1865.

Andrew Johnson
Served as a brigadier general in the Union Army during the Civil War, but saw no action. He was appointed as the military governor of Tennessee by Lincoln and managed reconstruction efforts. He became the 17th U.S. president after Lincoln was killed early in his second term. Johnson would later become the first president to be impeached.

Ulysses S. Grant
Grant is known for commanding the Union Army in the Civil War, but he also served with distinction in the Mexican War as a junior officer. He rose to the rank of general of the Army and became one of only two five-star generals to become president. He is also the first West Point graduate to become president. He became the 18th U.S. president in 1869 and one in our list of presidents who served in the military.

Rutherford B. Hayes
Was commissioned as a major in the 23rd Ohio Infantry at the onset of the Civil War. He was wounded in action four times during his war service and in 1863 he was promoted to colonel after his troops helped stop confederate raiders in Ohio. In 1864, Hayes was wounded for the fourth time in the Battle of Cedar Creek and after the battle he was promoted to brevet brigadier general and eventually brevetted a major general of volunteers. Hayes became the 19th president in 1877.

James Garfield
In 1861, Garfield was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the 42nd Ohio Infantry and reported to Kentucky where he was placed in command of the 17th Brigade. At the Big Sandy River his troops were outnumbered five to one but held until reinforcements arrived. Garfield then attacked the confederates at Middle Creek, Kentucky, and won after a five-hour battle. He was promoted to brigadier general and assigned to the 20th Brigade in Tennessee. Garfield reached Shiloh on the second day of the battle and helped drive back the confederates. For his actions at the battle of Chickamauga, Garfield was promoted to major general of Ohio Volunteers. James Garfield became the 20th president of the United States in 1881.

Chester A. Arthur
Served as a judge advocate in the New York militia, but during the Civil War he became the quartermaster-general. In 1862, he was promoted to brigadier general. Arthur became the 21st president in 1881.

Benjamin Harrison
An attorney by trade, in 1862, Harrison put on a uniform was promoted to colonel and given a regiment to command from the 70th Indiana Infantry. He saw action at Russellville, Kentucky and spent the next fifteen months in Kentucky and Tennessee with his regiment. In 1864, he fought with Sherman's army and in the Atlanta campaign. The unit saw its fierce fighting in Georgia. After the Battle of Nashville, Harrison was brevetted brigadier general but in May 1865, he received his commission as brigadier general and was honorably discharged a month later. Benjamin Harrison became the 23rd president of the United States in 1889, and one in our list of presidents who served in the military.

William McKinley
McKinley joined the Army as a private at age 18 during the Civil War. Years later he would serve as commander-in-chief during the Spanish-American War. During the Civil War he served with the 23rd Ohio Volunteers and rose to the rank of captain. On one occasion, as a commissary sergeant at the battle of Antietam, he drove a wagon of hot rations to his troops during battle. As a captain and aide-de-camp in the Shenandoah Valley, he galloped under fire to give an independent regiment the word to fall back. He left military service with a brevet commission of major. In 1897, McKinley became the 25th U.S. president, the third enlisted man to do so.

Theodore Roosevelt
Roosevelt was appointed a second lieutenant in Company B, 8th Regiment, New York National Guard in 1882 where he served for four years and left as a captain. He served in the U.S. Army as a colonel in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. He is the only president to receive the Medal of Honor which was presented posthumously in 2001. He became the 26th president of the United States in 1901.

Harry S. Truman
Truman joined the Missouri National Guard on June 14, 1905 as a battery clerk serving for about a year, separating as a corporal. However, when the United States entered World War I, he reenlisted in the National Guard and became a first lieutenant in the field artillery. In August 1917 his unit became part of the Regular Army as the 129th Field Artillery of the 35th Division. Truman commanded Battery D. Truman was discharged from the U.S. Army as a captain in 1919. He became 33rd president of the United States in 1945 and another man hailing from the enlisted ranks to reach the military’s top post.

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Eisenhower is the second West Point graduate and second general of the Army (five-star general) to serve as president of the United States when he became the 34th U.S. president. He graduated West Point in 1915 and spent much of World War I stateside in training assignments. Eventually his unit was mobilized and sent overseas, but he never saw action because the Armistice was signed. He spent much of his military career as a planner which aided him considerably. From 1941 to 1944, he rose from the rank of colonel to five-star general. In 1943, he was appointed Supreme Commander of Allied Expeditionary Forces and he commanded Operation Overlord. Two years later, he accepted surrender from Germany and became the Army’s chief of staff retiring in 1948 from the Army. He is probably one of our most known presidents in uniform.

John F. Kennedy
Kennedy served in World War II in the U.S. Navy Reserve for four years starting in 1941. He rose to the rank of lieutenant and commanded a PT (patrol torpedo) boat in the pacific in the Soloman Islands. He completed more than 30 missions and in 1943, he was steering his boat to attack a passing enemy destroyer when he was rammed by a Japanese ship. He and his crew swam several miles to an island where they were stranded for a week. Kennedy injured his back in the attack and he earned the Purple Heart. He became the 35th president and one in our list of presidents who served in the military. In November 1963 he was assassinated by a former Marine, Lee Harvey Oswald.

Lyndon B. Johnson
Johnson served in the U.S. Naval Reserve and rose to the rank of commander. He joined the reserve in 1940 as a lieutenant commander (he was a congressman at the time). In 1942, he proceeded to the pacific for inspection duty. Johnson was awarded the Silver Star by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The citation reads: “For gallantry in action in the vicinity of Port Moresby and Salamaua, New Guinea, on June 9, 1942. While on a mission of obtaining information in the Southwest Pacific area, Lieutenant Commander Johnson, in order to obtain personal knowledge of combat conditions, volunteered as an observer on a hazardous aerial combat mission over hostile positions in New Guinea. As our planes neared the target area they were intercepted by eight hostile fighters. When, at this time, the plane in which Lieutenant Commander Johnson was an observer, developed mechanical trouble and was forced to turn back alone, presenting a favorable target to the enemy fighters, he evidenced marked coolness in spite of the hazards involved. His gallant actions enabled him to obtain and return with valuable information.” The other crewmen on board did not receive any awards and interviews with the crew members reveal that the plane was never attacked. One month later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a directive that national legislators could not serve in the armed forces. Johnson went on to become the 36th president and often wore his Silver Star lapel pin.

Richard M. Nixon
Nixon served in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II, joining in 1942 and rising to the rank of commander. In 1943, he was assigned to the south pacific as a logistician, commanding forward detachments. He left active duty in 1946, resigning his commission, but remained in the reserve until he retired from it in 1966. He became the 37th president of the United States, and one in our list of presidents who served in the military.

Gerald Ford
Ford served in the Naval Reserve during World War II as a lieutenant commander for four years joining after the Pearl Harbor attacks. He joined the USS Monterey where he served as an assistant navigator and antiaircraft battery officer. His ship saw action in the Pacific theater and Ford helped take several islands, participated in supporting carrier strikes and he supported several beach landings. He earned nine campaign stars on his Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal. He left service in 1946 and became the 38th president of the United States.

Jimmy Carter
Carter served in the U.S. Navy after graduating from the Naval Academy in 1946. He became the 39th U.S. president. In 1948, he began submarine duty and served aboard the USS Pomfret and later served on the USS Barracuda. Carter planned to enter the Navy’s nuclear power plant operation and be one of the first crewmen aboard America’s first nuclear subs, but his father died and he requested a release from active duty to tend to his father’s peanut farm. He left the Navy in 1953 and served in the inactive reserve until 1961.

Ronald Reagan
Reagan enlisted in the Army Reserve in April 1937 as a private assigned to Troop B, 322nd Cavalry in Des Moines, Iowa. He was appointed second lieutenant in the Cavalry later that year. When World War II broke out, Reagan was ordered to active duty in April 1942 and due to eyesight difficulties, he was classified for limited service only, which excluded him from serving overseas. He served in California as a liaison officer and transferred to the Army Air Forces Public Relations team. Eventually, he joined the 1st Motion Picture Unit in California and he remained a part of the military’s public relations and movie apparatus until he separated from active duty in December 1945 and his unit created some 400 training films for the Army Air Forces. He was the 40th president.

George H.W. Bush
Bush served as a U.S. Navy pilot in World War II and rose to the rank of lieutenant j.g. He entered the Navy in 1943 and in 1944 he shipped out to the Pacific theater where he flew Avengers. He participated in numerous missions but on one mission his aircraft was downed by enemy fire. Bush managed to bail out but his two crewmates did not. He was picked up in the ocean after floating in open water for four hours. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross. Bush was released from active duty in 1945, but was not formally discharged from the Navy until 1955 as a lieutenant. Bush flew 58 missions, completed 128 carrier landings, and recorded 1228 hours of flight time. He went on to become the 41st president.

George W. Bush
Unlike his father, Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard and not the Navy, and he also served stateside during war, while his dad had served in World War II. Like his father, he was a pilot and joined the Air National Guard in 1968. He trained at Moody Air Force Base and learned to fly the F-102. He was on active duty to learn how to fly and then spent the rest of his years in uniform in the part-time military. His military service came under scrutiny in 2004 during the elections. He became the 43rd U.S. president and one in our list of presidents who served in the military.

What Qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal Veteran?

The Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA), as amended (38 U.S.C. § 4212), prohibits discrimination against protected veterans. Under VEVRAA, a veteran may be classified as a “disabled veteran,” “recently separated veteran,” “active duty wartime or campaign badge veteran,” or “Armed Forces Service Medal veteran.” These classes of veterans are known as protected veteran status.

What qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal veteran?

Most recently in 2020, the Department of Defense announced the approval of the award of the Armed Forces Service Medal to eligible military personnel for qualifying coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) operations and activities. The period of the award is from Jan. 31, 2020 to a date to be determined.

Prior to those dates, the Armed Forces Service Medal had been issued several times dating back to 1992 for operations in Yugoslavia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Haiti, and other locations both overseas and domestically. Award of the medal granted veterans who earned it protected status. What qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal veteran?

An Armed Forces Service Medal veteran is defined as a veteran who, while serving on active duty in the U.S. military, ground, naval or air service, participated in a U.S. military operation for which an Armed Forces Service Medal was awarded pursuant to Executive Order 12985, Establishing the Armed Forces Service Medal, Jan. 11, 1996.

Veterans unsure of their status as a protected veteran might ask what qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal veteran? The best place to start is with a veteran’s DD Form 214. Any awards that have been earned while on active service will be listed on the 214.

The Armed Forces Service Medal is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who participate as members of U.S. military units in a military operation that is deemed significant by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and encounter no foreign armed opposition or imminent threat of hostile actions, so that might answer the question what qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal veteran? But for the sake of granularity, the Armed Forces Service Medal is presented for participation in peacekeeping operations, prolonged humanitarian operations, and U.S. military operations in direct support of the United Nations or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and for operations of assistance to friendly foreign nations.

What qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal veteran? Active duty, reserve and National Guard personnel are eligible for the Armed Forces Service Medal as outlined in DoD Manual 1348.33, DoD Manual of Military Decorations and Awards — Campaign, Expeditionary, and Service Medals. The military department secretaries ordinarily determine eligibility for award to service members in his or her respective military department based on DoD award criteria. The chief of the National Guard Bureau determines eligibility for National Guard members who do not fall under the purview of a secretary of a military department. But what qualifies as an Armed Forces Service Medal veteran or a protected veteran is determined by first earning the award.

Why do Navy Seals Use a Sig P226?

The M1911 .45 caliber handgun is more than 100 years old and U.S. military personnel carried the firearm in several different U.S. conflicts to include World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Grenada and of course the Cold War. It was the standard-issue sidearm from 1911 to around 1986.

A favorite of troops who carried it because of its reliability and stopping power, the M1911 became of victim of government bureaucracy with many uniformed admirers wondering, if it wasn’t broke, why did the U.S. military try to fix it?

The Beretta 92FS, also known as the M9 in the U.S. inventory, entered the picture as the heir apparent of the M1911’s legacy. With the M9, the U.S. military promised an easier to shoot and maintain handgun that had more ammo capacity, but for those who had the privilege of shooting the M1911, there was no comparison.

In the mid-1980s all uniformed services would adopt the M9 as their primary handgun. But within the U.S. Navy SEAL community, because the M9 had some mechanical and performance issues during testing, the SEALs decided to go their own way and find a handgun that would work in their operational world. What they eventually found was the Sig Sauer P226 and for more than three decades SEALs have carried the P226 into battle in Panama, Somalia, Haiti, the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

Why do Navy Seals use a Sig P226? First, a little about its history. The P226 was developed by Sig Sauer as a replacement for the M1911, however by the end of the competition with other arms manufacturers, the P226 came in second place to the Beretta M9. The P226 was a variant of the P220, the sidearm of many militaries worldwide and it was run through extensive testing to ensure that the performance problems discovered with the M9 would not occur with the Sig.

Sig (Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft) Sauer was founded in 1853 in Switzerland. In 1976, Sig’s firearms division partnered with Sauer & Sohn, Germany’s oldest firearms manufacturer at the time, founded in 1751. The rest is history, as they say. The P226 became the Mk. 25 to Navy SEALs and they went into service in 1989. But why do Navy Seals use a Sig P226? We’re getting to that.

The P226 has a shorter barrel than the M9 and for warriors who sometimes fight in close quarters, that matters. The P226 slide is made of stainless steel for increased strength which prevents mishaps and failures like the ones that happened during M9 testing. The slide is also corrosion resistant due to ferritic nitrocarburizing, a treatment that helps protect against corrosion which is critical given SEALs are often immersed in saltwater. The P226’s chamber and barrel are chrome lined which is also a plus for those who operate in wet or dusty environments. The P226 weighs just shy of two pounds with a loaded magazine whereas the M9 weighs in at 2.5 pounds. A lighter weapon makes for a more agile warrior. So those reasons might answer the question, why do Navy Seals use a Sig P226? But there are more reasons to love this handgun.

The P226 is a single- or double-action pistol, depending on the shooter’s preference and it has a decocker much like the M9, that releases the hammer without firing a round. Unlike the Beretta, it has no manual safety. However, there are safeties designed into the weapon that prevent accidental discharge. The P226 has fifteen round capacity, night sights and a Picatinny rail so warriors can customize their weapon. And of course, the handgun has an anchor on the slide denoting that it is the chosen firearm of Navy SEALs. Why do Navy Seals use a Sig P226? For many of the reasons listed above. It was a weapon that they tested and modified specifically for their missions.

But like the M1911, all good things must come to an end. In 2015, the Glock 19, a compact 9 mm, was added to the SEAL handgun inventory. The SEALs plan to eventually replace the P226s with the newer Glocks.

For now, the M9 continues to be the primary sidearm for U.S. uniformed personnel worldwide and the P226 continues to be the primary handgun of the SEALs.

Why do Navy Seals use a Sig P226? The simple answer is the weapon has proven itself in service for more than 30 years.

The History of Women in the U.S. Coast Guard

“How many females are in the Coast Guard?” That question usually leads to the discovery that few know very little about the Coast Guard, much less about the gender composition of its ranks. But the question remains, how many females are in the Coast Guard which encouraged us to explore women in the Coast Guard.

Women have made considerable strides in the U.S. military in the past few decades gaining access to once male-only occupational specialties, but more than 200 years ago, women serving in what would eventually become the U.S. Coast Guard blazed a trail into American history that few know about. I doubt back then anyone was asking how many females are in the Coast Guard?

In the English colonies, many women worked with their husbands and fathers to keep lighthouses operating for mariners. Many of these women worked the lighthouses themselves when their husbands left for the Revolutionary War and if they served as militia.

During the 1830s, according to the U.S. Coast Guard history office, women were first officially assigned as keepers in the Lighthouse Service (a predecessor of the Coast Guard). Civilian women continued as lighthouse keepers until 1948 when Fannie Mae Salter, keeper of the Turkey Point Lighthouse in upper Chesapeake Bay retired from active service. This ended nearly 150 years during which women were employed as keepers of United States’ lighthouses.

In 1918, the U.S. Navy assigned twin sisters Genevieve and Lucille Baker of the Naval Coastal Defense Reserve to the Coast Guard. They became the first uniformed women to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard.

During World War II, the Women’s Reserve of the U. S. Coast Guard Reserve (officially nicknamed the “SPARs”) was first established in 1942. If anyone asked “how many females are in the Coast Guard” they would likely be told that there were more than 900 female officers and 11,868 enlisted women serving in the SPARs during World War II. The program was dissolved in 1947.

The Women’s Armed Services Act of 1948 integrated women into the regular Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. However, the legislation did not mention the Coast Guard likely because the service fell under the Department of the Treasury. Nonetheless, the Coast Guard made its way and by 1956 there were nine enlisted women and 12 female officers in the Coast Guard.

The 1970s saw tremendous broadening of opportunities for women in the Coast Guard. It was almost as if someone asked how many females are in the Coast Guard? And then the Coast Guard started taking steps to open opportunities to women.  The first women’s Reserve Enlisted Basic Indoctrination classes were established in 1972 and four ratings were made available: yeoman, storekeeper, radioman, and hospital corpsman.

In 1973, congressional legislation ended the Women’s Reserve and women were officially integrated into the active-duty Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Reserve. The ratings offered were limited to yeoman, storekeeper, hospital corpsman, photo-journalist, dental technician, and musician. Also, in 1973, the first non-SPARs women since 1945 were admitted to officer candidate school and Chief Warrant Officer Alice T. Jefferson became the first woman commissioned officer to be sworn into the regular U.S. Coast Guard.

In 1973, officer candidate school graduate Vivien Crea as a lieutenant commander became the first Coastie, and the first woman from any uniformed military service, to serve as the presidential military aide, carrying the nuclear “football” for President Ronald Reagan for three years. In 2000, Crea became the first active-duty Coastie female to achieve flag rank and second after Coast Guard reservist flag Mary O’Donnell. In 2006, Crea became the 25th vice-commandant of the Coast Guard and she was the first woman to hold the second highest position in the Coast Guard or in any military service and, while serving as acting commandant, she was the first woman in U.S. history to oversee a uniformed military service.

In early 1974, the first group of women enlisted as “regulars’ reported to recruit company Sierra 89 which was made up of 33 women in an all-female recruit company. Thirty of these women graduated. After Sierra 89, recruit companies were mixed-gender. Also in that year, Karen F. Rovinsky became the first woman assigned to a patrol boat and Eleanor L’Ecuyer became the first woman on active duty promoted to captain (O-6) since World War II.

In 1975, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy announced that women would no longer be barred from applying to the academy. In February 1976, the Coast Guard Academy announced the appointments of female cadets to enter with the Class of 1980. The Coast Guard Academy becomes the first of the largest federal service academies (Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard) to offer academy appointments to women. Thirteen women would eventually graduate from the academy in 1980. Later that year, Debra Chambers Buchanan and Debra Lee Wilson became the first female coxswains in the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard aviation saw a first in 1977 when Janna Lambine became the first woman designated as a Coast Guard aviator. In August 1978, the Coast Guard announced that all personnel restrictions based solely on sex would be lifted. Thereafter all officer career fields and enlisted ratings were open to women.

Beverly Kelley became the first female commanding officer afloat in U.S. history when she took command of the Cutter Cape Newagen in 1977.

Lt. Colleen Cain became the first woman killed in the line of duty in 1982 when the HH-52 she was co-piloting crashed during a search and rescue mission. In 1981, she had become the first female to qualify on that helicopter and the third female Coast Guard aviator ever

How many females are in the Coast Guard in 1983? There were 129 women officers in the Coast Guard, 35 were serving aboard seagoing vessels and five were aircraft pilots. Female enlisted strength in the same year rose to 1,747, including 85 enlisted women at sea.

In 1998, there was only one female Coast Guard flag officer. By 2013, there were four and today there are seven serving up to the three-star rank.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, Lt. Holly Harrison became the first Coast Guard woman to command a cutter in a combat zone. 

In 2011, Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz assumed command of the U. S. Coast Guard Academy and became the first woman superintendent. She was also the first woman to command any U.S. service academy. Stosz also happens to be the first female graduate of the academy to reach the flag rank.

How many females are in the Coast Guard? Today nearly 6,500 women serve out of a total number of 42,000 active duty service members, or approximately 15 percent of the Coast Guard’s active duty personnel.

How To Display Military Medals in a Shadow Box

Serving in the U.S. military is not about the individual. Our men and women in uniform perform their duty for many reasons. Some are patriotic and serve because of love of country. Others feel that their duty is to care for the person standing to the left and right of them in the ranks. And some feel an obligation, a debt, to give back to the country. Whatever the reason for their service, one thing is certain, those who serve do so unselfishly, putting the needs of the nation, the service branch and their units before their own.

Once a military member hangs up his or her boots, many veterans capture and preserve their military service by creating a shadow box or having one ordered. Shadow boxes capture a unique period in a person’s life and unlike the selfless military duty that the contents represent, shadow boxes should be customized and personal, regardless of whether you put them together yourself, or allow a professional to assemble it for you.

There is no incorrect way to display your service pride in a shadow box. What goes into a shadow box is completely up to the individual whose service is reflected in the box. While military medals are for most veterans the primary items that are encased in a shadow box, it isn't uncommon to see ka-bars displayed alongside of military medals in shadow boxes, dog leashes and collars sharing a shadow box with military medals and even an old c-rations can that had a piece of shrapnel in it, proudly displayed alongside of military medals, patches, pins and stripes. Each shadow box is unique to the individual it represents because each person’s military experience is so unique to them.

For many, shadow boxes include a veteran’s rank, earned badges, professional designations and qualifications, and of course military medals, awards and decorations. Some believe that because the military is a place of order and discipline, that a shadow box has to be structured accordingly. Not true. If an individual wants his shadow box to only include his Purple Heart, dog tags and his Zippo lighter, then his or her shadow box should only include those items. If the veteran does not want the rest of their military medals included in the box, they’ve earned the right to determine what is best reflective of their military service.

However, if a veteran decides to display medals and ribbon racks, then it is advisable to place the medals and ribbons in order of precedence according to the veteran’s military branch. This not only shows respect for the services and the awards and decorations, but also to the millions of individuals who might have earned the military medals.

Ranks, if included in the shadow box, should probably go in order of precedence as well just to make it easier to explain to individuals who are unfamiliar with military service.

The bottom line is that there is no limit to what can be included in a shadow box. Flags and photographs can also be included along with other mementos from a veteran’s military service, as well as military medals. What goes into a military shadow box and how it is arranged is completely up to the veteran.

2021 Guide to the U.S. Coast Guard Festival

Since 1924, U.S. Coast Guard personnel have descended on Grand Haven, Michigan, affectionately known as “Coast Guard City, USA,” to participate in the U.S. Coast Guard Festival that honors the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard. It is a badge of honor for the small Western Michigan city which earned the designation officially from the U.S. Congress on November 13, 1998.  

The yearly event began as a picnic when a Michigan Coast Guard station held rowing competitions for those stationed in Grand Haven. The picnic, over the years, transformed into the U.S. Coast Guard Festival (around 1937) that provides family friendly activities with a focus on the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard serving in the West Michigan area, and celebrating the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.

These days, the U.S. Coast Guard Festival has an attendance of more than 350,000 people, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Coast Guard leaders also attend the multi-day event.

Grand Haven was the first city to be designated as “Coast Guard City, USA” by an act of Congress that was signed by President Bill Clinton on November 13, 1998. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 28 cities now share that designation, but only Grand Haven is host to the U.S. Coast Guard Festival.

In 2020, due to COVID-19, the U.S. Coast Guard Festival was cancelled, but ordinarily there’s a long list of stuff to see and do.

First, who doesn’t love a parade? If you’ve got kids, be sure to check the Kids Parade that includes families, children’s organizations, and marching bands, to name a few. If you’re really a parade fan, then be sure to catch the Coast Guard Grand Parade, one of the largest and most popular parades in Michigan. Nearly 100,000 people crowd downtown Grand Haven to show their appreciation for the men and women of the Coast Guard. It is one of the major draws of the U.S. Coast Guard Festival.

Is all that parade watching making you hungry? Well, there are a lot of opportunities to eat at the U.S. Coast Guard Festival. There’s a variety of food and it’s a lot like visiting a carnival midway. Plus, local eateries are all welcoming and entice you with their bill of fare.

Once you’re done pigging out, work off that elephant ear by running in the annual Coast Guard Run. The race route is beautiful offering incredible views of Lake Michigan and the Grand Haven pier and lighthouse. Not a big runner? No worries, the course lengths vary from a mini obstacle course to one mile, 5K and 10K routes. You can also just cheer on the runners as you slurp down a beverage of choice.

After you’ve cooled off from your run (or from your cheering), check out some of the Coast Guard ships which are available for tours free of charge at the Grand Haven pier. When you’re done chatting with the crews, you can stroll down the street to Grand Haven’s Central Park and visit the hundreds of crafters at the Coast Guard Craft Fair which is an outdoor marketplace of handcrafted goods by some of Michigan’s best craftspersons.

If you didn’t run the Coast Guard Run, try the Walk of Coast Guard History, created to recognize the history of the U.S. Coast Guard and the City of Grand Haven. Each year a historical location is chosen by the U.S. Coast Guard Festival committee and a brass Coast Guard seal is installed at the historical site. The sites are located throughout Grand Haven.

Once the sun goes down, Washington Street in downtown Grand Haven is closed so festival attendees can dance in the street. All types of music can be heard. Lastly, look towards the night sky because the U.S. Coast Guard Festival’s fireworks display is bound to please.

Whether you are in the Coast Guard, celebrating someone who was in the Coast Guard or if you’re just interested in attending a great summer-time event that has something to offer the whole family, make the U.S. Coast Guard Festival a must-see event.

The National Guard Birthday

The National Guard turns 384 years old on December 13 celebrating the service and sacrifices made by its men and women in communities, states, territories and around the world. The National Guard birthday marks a significant milestone in the nation’s development of military forces.

“The Guard,” as it is affectionately known to many in uniform, has served in all U.S. wars, responded to state and national emergencies, and they are usually one of the first entities to enter natural disaster areas in the aftermath of flooding, hurricanes, fires, tornadoes, earthquakes and other tragic events. In June 2020, nearly 84,000 guardsmen were engaged in domestic efforts involving natural disasters, COVID-19, counterdrug missions and responding to civil unrest across all states and territories and the District of Columbia, according to the Defense Department. As we prepare to celebrate the National Guard birthday, they are still on duty all around the world.

The missions the Guard performs today are far more complex than the role they served centuries ago, but at their core, they are the same in purpose. The Guard supports its local communities no different than the early American militias supported their villages in Colonial America. Like today, militiamen responded to emergencies whenever their towns called them to muster.

Historians in the National Guard Bureau and the U.S. Army Center of Military History claim that the Army National Guard can trace its lineage back to 1636 when English colonial militias were formed to fight against the Pequot tribe in Massachusetts. However, other historians, including the Florida National Guard historian, have argued that the oldest European militias with lineage to current American military forces are the Spanish militias which are a part of the Florida National Guard’s history dating back to 1565 when Spanish militias first mustered in St. Augustine, Florida. Some historians, including some in the National Guard, believe that Spanish Black Legend may have influenced the National Guard Bureau’s 1950s decision to credit Massachusetts militias as the first European militias to muster in North America.

While the date of the National Guard birthday can be debated, the fact that the National Guard is nearly 140 years older than the U.S. Army is a point of pride for the National Guard. In 1636, the first Anglo-Saxon militia regiments in North America were organized in Massachusetts based on an order of the Massachusetts Bay Colony General Court.

The militia was organized into three regiments to defend the colony. The descendants of those first regiments, the 181st Infantry, 182nd Infantry, 101st Field Artillery, and the 101st Engineer Battalion of the Massachusetts Army National Guard, are considered by the National Guard Bureau to be the oldest units in the U.S. military and some of the oldest military units in the world. December 13, 1636, the date those three militias mustered, marks the National Guard birthday, according to the National Guard Bureau and the U.S. Army Center of Military History.

What colonial militiamen called a “muster,” National Guard personnel now call “drill.” The English militias first mustered in Salem, Massachusetts, three months after the general court had ordered their assembly and that date is now known as the National Guard birthday by the National Guard Bureau.

According to National Guard historians, the militia concept was one used by the Romans. The Spanish used militia, or “milicia” in the 1500s when they explored the world more than 70 years earlier than the English. Citizens were responsible for organizing themselves into military units and providing their own defense against threats. There weren’t uniforms or even uniformity of weapons and supplies.

When conditions for the Revolutionary War began to form, the English militias switched flags, like the colonial citizenry, and they became American militias. It was colonial militia at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts that fired the first rounds in the War of American Independence against British troops in April 1775. Those English militia turned American militias would join the newly formed Continental Army and serve alongside of the newly minted national army which had formed in June 1775. This distinction is often justifiably celebrated during the National Guard birthday.

The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 and it created a new nation. Colonists once former British subjects, became Americans. The new American nation, as a whole, did not claim its lineage and birthdate to those first Anglo Saxons who arrived in the 1600s because those English colonists were still subjects of the British crown. America used July 4, 1776 as its birthday. However, the National Guard Bureau aligns its military lineage with the English colonial militias and not April 1775 when the English colonial militias officially took up arms against the British crown and they became American militias. The National Guard Bureau does not recognize April 19, 1775 as the National Guard birthday.

The National Defense Act of June 1916, signed by President Woodrow Wilson mandated use of the term “National Guard,” a term which had been used by New York’s militia before the Civil War. The law expanded the size and scope of the network of states’ militias and it defined the National Guard’s role as a permanent reserve force to augment active forces. The law also brought the militias under greater federal control and gave the president authority to mobilize National Guard forces for national emergencies.

The National Guard birthday is separate from the birthday of the Air National Guard which is September 18, 1947, the same as the birthday of the U.S. Air Force. On this date, the National Security Act of 1947 authorized legislation for the U.S. Air Force and the Air National Guard. National Guard Army Air Forces transferred to the Air National Guard as a reserve component of the Air Force.

The oldest Air National Guard unit is the 102nd Rescue Squadron of the New York Air National Guard. This unit was originally organized in the New York National Guard as the Aero Company, Signal Corps, on Nov. 22, 1915. The oldest Air National Guard unit in continuous service is the 109th Airlift Squadron of the Minnesota Air National Guard. It was organized as the 109th Observation Squadron Jan. 17, 1921.

The Armed Forces Medley

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.

U.S. Navy
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.

U.S. Army
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.