The Songs They Sang

By Ron Wanttaja

It's fascinating, really.  The human spirit always prevails.

People from the democracies of the world take free speech for granted.  Which makes it a bit of a shock when the need to defend liberty places them in organizations where professing their opinion aloud can get them jailed:  The military.  Once John Smith puts on that private's uniform, once Jim Johnson dons a pair of bell-bottom trousers and a dixie-cup hat, publicly describing their dislike for the decisions, morals, or ancestry of Captain Doe can lead to some unpleasant consequences.

But the thoughts have to come out somehow.  And, over the years, it has tended to come out in song.

For some reason, the powers-that-be tend to look the other way, when the lower echelons express their opinions in music.  Tell your sergeant that the food in the dining hall stinks, and you'll probably end up cleaning latrines for a while.  But marching along, the sergeant will probably lead you in...

They say that in the Air Force, the food is mighty fine
Last night we had ten puppies, today we've only nine

In any confined society, there will be those who gleefully write songs about the shared problems and woes of military life.  Most of the time, they use traditional melodies ("Battle Hymn of the Republic," anyone?), but you'll find more-modern music or even scratch-written tunes.

Being an airplane nut, I've always been a fan of the songs of the flyers.  I''d always loved hearing snippets of the music in the old movies.  I eventually discovered Oscar Brand's "Wild Blue Yonder" record, with some of the major songs from WWII and Korea, and when I was in the Air Force myself (satellite driver, not a pilot), a friend gave me a tape of Vietnam-era songs by Dick Jonas.  Since then, I've gathered several more collections of the songs the pilots sang.  They're on the thumb drive plugged into my car's audio deck so I usually "pump up" for flying by listening to the songs on the way to the airport.

Here's some thoughts on a few of them:

Additional Resources

The individual sections provide links to short excerpts of the songs discussed.  The songs remain under the copyright of the performers; the excerpts are provided for review only.

Some addiitional resources:

Questions?  Email Ron Wanttaja .

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