The U.S. Air Force
is the official song of the United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...
. Written in 1939, it is known informally as "The Air Force Song," and is often referred to informally as "Into the Wild Blue Yonder", "Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder," or simply "Wild Blue Yonder."
Originally, the song was titled as The Army Air Corps
The United States Army Air Corps was a forerunner of the United States Air Force. Renamed from the Air Service on 2 July 1926, it was part of the United States Army and the predecessor of the United States Army Air Forces , established in 1941...
. Robert MacArthur Crawford
wrote the lyrics and music during 1939. In 1947, the words "U.S. Air Force" in the title and lyrics replaced the original "Army Air Corps". On September 27, 1979, General Lew Allen, Jr., Chief of Staff of the Air Force, adopted it as the official song for the service.
In 1937, Assistant Chief of the Air Corps Brig. Gen. Henry H. Arnold
Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold was an American general officer holding the grades of General of the Army and later General of the Air Force. Arnold was an aviation pioneer, Chief of the Air Corps , Commanding General of the U.S...
persuaded the Chief of the Air Corps, Maj. Gen. Oscar Westover
Oscar M. Westover was a major general and fourth chief of the United States Army Air Corps.-Biography:He was born in Bay City, Michigan and enlisted in the Army when he was 18. He began his service as a private in 1901 before being appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point...
, that the Air Corps needed an official song reflecting their unique identity in the same manner as the other military services, and proposed a song competition with a prize to the winner. However, the Air Corps did not control its budget, and could not give a prize. In April 1938, Bernarr A. Macfadden
Bernarr Macfadden was an influential American proponent of physical culture, a combination of bodybuilding with nutritional and health theories...
, publisher of Liberty magazine
Magazines, periodicals, glossies or serials are publications, generally published on a regular schedule, containing a variety of articles. They are generally financed by advertising, by a purchase price, by pre-paid magazine subscriptions, or all three...
stepped in, offering a prize of $1,000 to the winning composer, stipulating that the song must be of simple "harmonic structure", "within the limits of [an] untrained voice", and its beat in "march tempo of military pattern".
Over 700 compositions were received and evaluated by a volunteer committee of senior Air Corps wives with musical backgrounds chaired by Mildred Yount, the wife of Brig. Gen. Barton K. Yount. The committee had until July 1939 to make a final choice. However, word eventually spread that the committee did not find any songs that satisfied them, despite the great number of entries. Arnold, who became Chief of the Air Corps in 1938 after Westover was killed in a plane crash, solicited direct inquiries from professional composers and commercial publishers, including Meredith Willson
Robert Meredith Willson was an American composer, songwriter, conductor and playwright, best known for writing the book, music and lyrics for the hit Broadway musical The Music Man...
and Irving Berlin
Irving Berlin was an American composer and lyricist of Jewish heritage, widely considered one of the greatest songwriters in American history.His first hit song, "Alexander's Ragtime Band", became world famous...
, but not even Berlin's creation proved satisfactory, although it was used as the title music to Winged Victory
Winged Victory is a play and, later, a film by Moss Hart, originally created and produced by the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II as a morale booster and as a fundraiser for the Army Emergency Relief Fund. Upon recommendation of Lt. Col. Dudley S. Dean, who had been approached with the...
by Moss Hart
Moss Hart was an American playwright and theatre director, best known for his interpretations of musical theater on Broadway.-Early years:...
. Two days before the deadline, Crawford, a music instructor, aviation enthusiast, and professional musician billed as "the Flying Baritone," personally delivered a sound recording of his entry, which proved to be a unanimous winner. Mrs. Yount recalled that Rudolph Ganz
Rudolph Ganz was a Swiss pianist, conductor and composer. He claimed direct descent from Charlemagne.-Biography:...
, guest conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra
The National Symphony Orchestra , founded in 1931, is an American symphony orchestra that performs at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.-History:...
and a consultant to the committee, was immediately and enthusiastically in favor of the winner.
The contest rules required the winner to submit his entry in written form, and Crawford immediately complied. However his original title, What Do You think of the Air Corps Now?
, was soon officially changed to The Army Air Corps
. Crawford himself publicly sang the song for the first time, over national radio from the 1939 National Air Races
The National Air Races were a series of pylon and cross-country races that took place in the United States from 1920 to 1949. The science of aviation, and the speed and reliability of aircraft and engines grew rapidly during this period; the National Air Races were both a proving ground and...
Not everyone was fond of the song. During a dinner of September 1939, Mrs. Yount played a recording of the song for Charles Lindbergh
Charles Augustus Lindbergh was an American aviator, author, inventor, explorer, and social activist.Lindbergh, a 25-year-old U.S...
and asked his opinion. He responded politely to Yount, but years later remarked in a diary, "I think it is mediocre at best. Neither the music nor the words appealed to me." Arnold did not share Lindbergh's opinion: he sought to fund publication of band and ensemble arrangements of the song for nationwide distribution. However, the Air Corps did not have enough money to publicize the song, so Crawford arranged a transfer of the song's copyright
Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time...
to New York
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...
music publisher Carl Fischer Inc., including a perpetual performance release in favor of the U.S. Air Force.
After World War II Crawford opened a restaurant near Opa Locka, Florida, named the "Blue Yonder". It featured "all you can eat" main courses.
In addition to the U.S. Air Force song there have been several other songs that have been at times used by the Air Force regionally and nationally during public events. One song in particular "Men in the Air Force Blue", written and copyrighted in 1966, was for a time in the mid '60s and early '70s a favorite among Air Force personnel both in country and abroad. The song was written by Eve Lawson, the wife of Technical Sergeant Lawrence E. Lawson, while they were stationed at Niagara Falls
The Niagara Falls, located on the Niagara River draining Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, is the collective name for the Horseshoe Falls and the adjacent American Falls along with the comparatively small Bridal Veil Falls, which combined form the highest flow rate of any waterfalls in the world and has...
. She initially performed the song locally but soon went on to perform at several public events for the Air Force in Washington D.C. It was during one of these performances that the song caught the attention of President Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson , often referred to as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States after his service as the 37th Vice President of the United States...
who had one of his senior military aides write a letter to her thanking her for the contribution of the song and of her performance. Following the song began to catch a more broad following with performances by Eve Lawson on local and nationwide radio and even an appearance on Liz Dribben's Dialing for Dollars
Dialing for Dollars was a franchised format local television program in the United States and Canada, popular in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.-Format:...
The full lyrics of the song are as follows:
Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun;
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder,
At 'em boys, Give 'er the gun! (Give 'er 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!
Minds of men fashioned a crate of thunder,
Sent it high into the blue;
Hands of men blasted the world asunder;
How they lived God only knew! (God only knew then!)
Souls of men dreaming of skies to conquer
Gave us wings, ever to soar!
With scouts before and bombers galore. Hey!
Nothing'll stop the U.S. Air Force!
Bridge: "A Toast to the Host"
Here's a toast to the host
Of those who love the vastness of the sky,
To a friend we send a message of his brother men who fly.
We drink to those who gave their all of old,
Then down we roar to score the rainbow's pot of gold.
A toast to the host of men we boast, the U.S. Air Force!
Off we go into the wild sky yonder,
Keep the wings level and true;
If you'd live to be a grey-haired wonder
Keep the nose out of the blue! (Out of the blue, boy!)
Flying men, guarding the nation's border,
We'll be there, followed by more!
In echelon we carry on. Hey!
Nothing will stop the U.S. Air Force!
- * - Words in parentheses are spoken, not sung.
- ** - Some contemporary sheet music often contained a footnote advising the substitution of "terrible roar" for "hell of a roar", for radio performances, in accordance with public airwaves rules of the day. "Hell of a roar" is used much more often nowadays.
- *** - Crawford didn't write "Hey!"; he actually wrote "SHOUT!" without specifying the word to be shouted.
Performance of the song
Most commonly, only the first verse is performed, though in professional performances all four verses may be presented. The song is often sung at Air Force-related functions, and is sung at various times (at the beginning of the duty day or before going into the chow hall for breakfast on weekdays) by basic trainees
Basic Training may refer to:* Basic Training, a 1971 American documentary directed by Frederick Wiseman* Basic Training , an American sex comedy* Recruit training...
at Lackland Air Force Base
Lackland Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located west-southwest of San Antonio, Texas. The base is under the jurisdiction of the 802d Mission Support Group, Air Education and Training Command ....
. Although not the Academy's official fight song, the first verse of the song is also frequently played at United States Air Force Academy
The United States Air Force Academy is an accredited college for the undergraduate education of officer candidates for the United States Air Force. Its campus is located immediately north of Colorado Springs in El Paso County, Colorado, United States...
sporting events and at other Academy functions, such as parades.
The third verse ("Here's a toast...") has a different melody, and a more reverent mood than the rest of the song to commemorate those who have fallen in the service of the Air Force and the United States. This verse is sometimes performed independently of the other verses. The third verse is sung by itself as the Air Force Academy's alma mater
Alma mater , pronounced ), was used in ancient Rome as a title for various mother goddesses, especially Ceres or Cybele, and in Christianity for the Virgin Mary.-General term:...
after most Academy sporting events. Most notably, it is sung after games against rivals Army
The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...
The United States Naval Academy is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located in Annapolis, Maryland, United States...
, when the teams combine to participate in the singing of both Academies' alma maters. The third verse is also traditionally sung by Academy cadets and graduates to honor the passing of a fellow cadet or graduate.
Changes in lyrics to rhyme with "Force"
Following the initial change on June 20, 1941 of the American air army's name from "Army Air Corps" to "Army Air Force(s)", to the post-World War II 1947 establishment of the separate "U.S. Air Force", an attempt was made to change the sixth line of each verse so that the last word rhymed with "force" instead of "corps". Thus, "Off with one helluva roar!" became "Off on one helluva course!"; "Gave us wings, ever to soar!" became "Gave our wings every resource!"; and "We'll be there, followed by more!" became "We'll be there, ever on course!"
These changes actually made it into the 1972 edition of the USAF publication Air Force Customs and Courtesies
but were never popular, and the lyrics were later reverted without fanfare in later editions.
Alternate song: U.S. Air Force Blue
An unofficial Air Force song, "Air Force Blue," was composed during 1956 by Marilyn Scott and Keith Textor, who specialized in providing music for radio and television commercials. It was sung by the Basic Airmens Choir of Parks Air Force Base, California, at SAC's 25th anniversary on the Dave Garroway Show in 1956, and released as a feature in the Air Force News
newsreel as sung by Mitch Miller's chorus and orchestra.
They took the blue from the skies and a pretty girl's eyes
and a touch of Old Glory's hue,
And gave it to the men who proudly wear the U.S. Air Force blue.
The U.S. Air Force Blue!
Oh, they are men with a dream on America's team,
They're a rugged and ready crew.
And you can bet your boots the world looks up to U.S. Air Force Blue.
To U.S. Air Force Blue!
They know where they're goin', they've set their course,
the sky's no limit in the Air Force.
They took the blue from the skies and a pretty girl's eyes
and a touch of Old Glory's hue,
And gave it to the men who proudly wear the U.S. Air Force Blue.
And you can wear it too!
The U.S... Air Force... Blue!
The video can be found on Youtube.
The Air Force bought the rights to the song and released it into the public domain.
The current arrangement, by MSgt Tom Dosett, has the following lyrics:
We take the blue from the skies and some pretty blue eyes
And a touch of Old Glory's
Old Glory is a common nickname for the flag of the United States, bestowed by William Driver, an early nineteenth century American sea captain....
And fervently declare we're proud to wear
The U.S. Air Force Blue.
We have the drive and the dream in America's team
We're a rugged and ready crew
And you can bet your boots the world looks up
To U.S. Air Force Blue.
We know where we're going, we've set our course
The sky's no limit in the Air Force!
And when the blue from the skies meets the gleam in our eyes
And a touch of Old Glory's hue,
We fervently declare we're proud to wear
The U.S. Air Force Blue.
By the 1990s, "U.S. Air Force Blue" had fallen into disfavor with some Air Force personnel because the lyrics could be seen as chauvinistic toward women who were now serving in the USAF. To defuse the issue, the lyrics were changed or the song was played without the accompanying vocal line.
- Anchors Aweigh
"Anchors Aweigh" is the fight song of the United States Naval Academy, and strongly associated with the United States Navy, composed in 1906 by Charles A. Zimmerman with lyrics by Alfred Hart Miles. Zimmerman was at the time a Lieutenant, and had been bandmaster of the United States Naval Academy...
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"The Army Goes Rolling Along" is the official song of the United States Army and is typically called "The Army Song."-The Caisson Song:The song is based on the "Caisson Song" written by field artillery First Lieutenant Edmund L...
- Eternal Father, Strong to Save
"Eternal Father, Strong to Save" is a hymn often associated with the Royal Navy or the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. Accordingly, it is often known as the Royal Navy Hymn or the United States Navy Hymn , and sometimes by the last line of its first verse, "For Those in Peril on...
- Marines' hymn
The "Marines' Hymn" is the official hymn of the United States Marine Corps. It is the oldest official song in the United States military. The "Marines' Hymn" is typically sung at the position of attention as a gesture of respect...
- Semper Paratus (march)
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