Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

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"Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition"
Written by Frank Loesser
Published 1942
Language English
Form American patriotic song

"Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" is an American patriotic song written by Frank Loesser and published as sheet music in 1942 by Famous Music Corp. The song was a response to the attack on Pearl Harbor that marked United States involvement in World War II.

The song describes a chaplain ("sky pilot") being with some fighting men who are under attack from an enemy. He is asked to say a prayer for the men who were engaged in firing at the oncoming planes. The chaplain puts down his Bible, mans one of the ship's gun turrets and begins firing back, saying, "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition".

Origin[edit]

According to writer Jack S. McDowall, the famous phrase is generally credited to "a chaplain," said to be manning the guns of a ship under attack. "This [sic] was not true," says McDowall. For some time, long after Pearl Harbor, stories and reports surfaced about an incident involving this apocryphal "sky pilot", who was said to have uttered the words "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition".

The stories eventually made their way through the servicemen and back to the press. This, as McDowell noted, led some writers to erroneously identify other chaplains as author of the phrase. Nonetheless, the real chaplain, Howell Forgy, was aboard the USS New Orleans during the Japanese attack. He was a Lieutenant (j.g.) that Sunday morning in December, 1941.

An officer in charge of an ammunition line on the USS New Orleans during the attack said that, "I heard a voice behind me saying, 'Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.' I turned and saw Chaplain Forgy walking toward me, along the line of men. He was patting them on the back and making that remark to cheer and keep them going. I know it helped me a lot, too."

Another lieutenant said that thereafter, when the men heard the song, they would kid Chaplain Forgy about the role he played, encouraging him to set the record straight about who actually said what. According to the same officer the chaplain would decline, modestly claiming he felt, "... the episode should remain a legend, rather than be associated with any particular person." Author McDowell noted that reporters eventually were permitted to interview the men of the USS New Orleans involved in the "ammunition" story. Chaplain Forgy's superior officers set up a meeting with members of the press and at last, the real story of the song and the man who had inspired it was confirmed.

Forgy appeared on the game show I've Got a Secret in an episode that originally aired May 18, 1955, and recalled the story as follows:

Well, I was stationed aboard the USS New Orleans, and we were tied up at 1010 dock in Pearl Harbor when we attacked again. We were having a turbine lifted, and all of our electrical power wasn't on, and so when we went to lift the ammunition by the hoist, we had to form lines of men — form a bucket brigade — and we began to carry the ammunition up through the quarterdeck into the gurneys, and I stood there and directed some of the boys down the port side and some down the starboard side, and as they were getting a little tired, I just happened to say, "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition." That's all there was to it.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article of January 1, 1943, the origin of the quote may well have been John Ford's 1939 film 'Drums along the Mohawk'.

Popularization[edit]

According to his obituary in The New York Times of August 8, 1974, the singer who introduced the song to a popular audience was Robert Rounseville.

Based on the title of the song and the events that inspired it, American Brandywine artist Walter De Maris (1877-1947) produced a painting of a Pilgrim who has just been shot at with an arrow reaching for his musket.[1]

In 1942, a recording by The Merry Macs reached number 8 on the Billboard chart, and a version by The Jubalaires reached #10 on the R&B chart on November 14 of the same year.[2] The 1943 version by Kay Kyser and His Orchestra reached number 1. A portion of the tune is sung while in the Superman cartoon "Jungle Drums" Hitler bows his head from news that Allied forces cut off a major assault of German U-boats. Loesser donated his royalties for sale of the song to the Navy Relief Society.

The song was commonly cited by Ron Smith in Journal Sentinel newsroom.

Later recurrences[edit]

In later years the expression has often been used in a satirical manner.

  • In the Larry Peerce movie The Incident the character played by Brock Peters reminiscing about his army days quotes the phrase to his fiancée Ruby Dee (a black woman involved in the non-violent civil rights movement) to advocate the more militant attitude he claims would be a better way to assert the rights of African-Americans.
  • An episode from the TV series "Hogan's Heroes" is named "Praise the Fuhrer and Pass the Ammunition."
  • The 1969 comedy recording "Forward into the Past" by The Firesign Theatre begins with the group singing "Pass the Lord and praise the ammunition."
  • Used in the 1976 movie Tracks starring Dennis Hopper
  • In Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle a Christian character named "Freakshow" who fixes their car and gives them a ride uses the expression.
  • In the Spike Lee film Malcolm X, Malcolm X answers the question "should all blacks be armed?" from one of the white news reporters, by saying "One of your most famous men said - praise the lord and pass the ammunition - and that is the way you think."
  • The alternative metal band System of a Down has used the phrase as a criticism of war. At the beginning of their music video for the demo version of "War?" in 1997, lead vocalist Serj Tankian says "Praise the lord and pass the ammunition. God wants you to go to war." On Tankian's album Elect the Dead, the tenth track is titled "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition".
  • (Young) Pioneers covered Impatient Youth's "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" on their 1998 final album Free the (Young) Pioneers Now!
  • In the 2003 film The Singing Detective, Robert Downey Jr.'s character uses the expression just before the final scene.
  • In the 2005 film Man of the House, Tommy Lee Jones's character uses the expression.
  • In Clive Barker's 2007 video game Jericho, a character named Father Paul Rawlings utters the expression when he is running low on ammunition.
  • Irish Musician Jacknife Lee recorded a remix of the gospel under the name "Pass the ammunition" for his 2007 album "To Hell With You I'll Make My Own People", released under the name of 'Jack Planck'
  • Lines "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition" is repeated twice within the book "Code Talkers" by Joseph Bruchac
  • In 2008 sound collage artist Conceptual Drudgery produced a mashup of the song entitled "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition (George W. Mashup)"' included samples from speeches given by George W. Bush concerning the Iraq war.
  • Dixie Chicks used the expression in their song "Sin Wagon".
  • The thrash metal band Exodus used the term in their song "War Is My Shepherd" from the album Tempo of the Damned.
  • In the miniature wargame Warhammer 40K it is used in the form of "Praise the Emperor and pass the ammunition" in reference to the game's fictional god-emperor. The adjective "what one does not solve, the other will" is often then added.
  • Rapper Tech N9ne uses it in his song "Hope for a Higher Power" which is the 12th track on his album "Killer".
  • The band Rush uses it as "pray, and pass the ammunition" in the song "The Way the Wind Blows" from their album Snakes & Arrows.
  • Forms the last line but one of the chorus in the song "Ready or Not (So Ripe)" by Loudon Wainwright III on his Album "One Man Guy: The Best of Loudon Wainwright III 1982-1986".
  • The song is played on phonographs in the 2010 video game BioShock 2
  • The song is played on the car radio in the 2010 video game Mafia II
  • The phrase is referenced in the The The song "Heartland": "The ammunition's been passed and the Lord's been praised, but the wars on the televisions will never be explained."ce
  • In season five, episode twelve ("Progeny") of the television show Law & Order, Detective Logan uses the phrase after discovering a gun in the apartment of a fanatical Christian who is a suspected murderer of an abortionist.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Walter De Maris Gallery" - American Art Archives. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
  2. ^ Warner, Jay (2006). On this day in black music history. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard. p. 320. ISBN 0-634-09926-4. OCLC 62330882. 

External links[edit]