War Songs…Gory, Gory, What a Hell of a Way to Die

On the 4th I started a Band of Brothers marathon, which wound up being more of a relay race.  I finally finished it, and one part which always struck me in Episode 9 was the airborne rip on “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (such a great song, I’ve always thought)–“Blood Upon the Risers”, aka “Gory, Gory What a Hell of a Way to Die.”  I found a great rendition of the whole song here.  Not exactly what I would sing on the way to work, but then again, I’m not in the airborne…

Inspired in a manner of speaking, I started to find some other war songs, military songs, and such.  Enjoy…

First and foremost, the Marine Corps Hymn (I’ve had a soft spot for the USMC since my time in OCS at Rice).  The Marine Corps Band, senza words, still gives one of the best renditions…And this is a very noteworthy rendition, by Sgt. Jack Kirkbride in 1941, senza instruments.  A different time…

To return the Battle Hymn of the Republic, here’s footage of the Army Chorus performing it during Pope Benedict XVI’s first visit to the US in 2008.  And of course the Robert Shaw Corale always gives a good performance.

Now, here’s a classic rendition–the old Army caissons song, with the Air Corps ditty following, by the Sandpipers, Mitch Miller, and Orchestra.  THAT’S the way to do it!  Ok, ok, for my Air Force friends out there (you know who you are!!), here’s a more up-to-date version of Wild Blue Yonder, since the AF is, after all, an independent branch of service now, heh heh.  And let’s not forget Navy, or the Coast Guard

On a different track, here’s a recording of John McCormack’s 1914 recording of “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.”

Just for kicks, The World Turned Upside Down, played by the English Army at the surrender of Yorktown, 1781–because, as my friend Will tells me, Washington refused to let them play Yankee Doodle.  While we’re at it, here’s footage from the 2006 reenactment of the siege and surrender, for the 225th anniversary.

Wow, that’s a lot of links.  There’s a lot one could say about each song or video, but I’ll leave that for another time.  I will say, though, returning to Band of Brothers for a moment, that I believe that is one of the greatest cinematic achievements ever.  I’ve had the odd conversation with a couple American history friends of mine who take exception to the social/cultural portrayals in the later episodes (particularly #9), but from my knowledge (and though a medievalist, I also have some expertise in the Second World War) even in its shakiest moments BoB is broadly accurate in its depiction of American soldiers’ reactions to the war and the occupation of Germany.

Happy listening…

2 Replies to “War Songs…Gory, Gory, What a Hell of a Way to Die”

  1. Crap. Now you’ve reminded me that I STILL haven’t opened my blu-ray discs of BoB. Must prioritize it!….after CHAPTER 6.

    Sometime, check out The Pacific. It’s crappy, but you should check it out anyway. I think it hit DVD last month while we were at West Point.

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