Select Bibliography of Military Folklore
This bibliography is limited to folklore of the American, British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand armed services in the twentieth century, excluding the Vietnam War. Notes by Les Cleveland [LC] and Lydia Fish [LF].
Adler, Kurt. Songs of Many Wars. New York: Howell, Soskin, 1942.
65 items from various countries with words and music, from the 16th-20th centuries. [LC]
Beale, Paul. “‘And So Nobby Called to Smudger…’: Nicknames Associated with Individual Surnames,” Lore and Language, 9, no. 1 (January 1990): 13-18.
Boatner, Mark Mayo. Military Customs and Traditions. Westport CN: Greenwood Press, 1976.
Bowman, Kent. “Echoes of Shot and Shell: Songs of the Great War,” Studies in Popular Culture, 10, no. 1 (1987): 28-41.
Based entirely on secondary sources [LF]
Brand, Oscar. Ballad Mongers. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1962.
Contains brief notes about World War II and Korean War Songs in a chapter entitled “Singing Servicemen.” [LC]
Brophy, John and Eric Partridge. The Long Trail. London: Andre Deutsch, 1965.
Texts of what the British soldier allegedly sang and said in 1914-1918. Contains 58 songs with notes and a glossary of military slang. Bowdlerized, with no music and no index. [LC]
Bureau of Naval Personnel. Navy Song Book. Washington, D.C.: Department of the Navy, 1945.
94 items, mainly popular songs, but including a few traditional services compositions. [LC]
Burke, Carol. “‘If You’re Nervous in the Service. . .’: Training Songs of Female Soldiers in the ’40s,” 127-37 in Holsinger, M. Paul (ed.) Schofield, Mary Anne (ed.) Visions of War: World War II in Popular Literature and Culture. Bowling Green OH: Popular Culture Press, 1992.
Carey, George G. “A Collection of Airborne Cadence Chants,” Journal of American Folklore, 178 (1965): 52-61.
Cerf, Bennett. The Pocket Book of War Humor. New York, 1942
Contains some service folktales. [LF]
Cleveland, Les. Dark Laughter: War in Song and Popular Culture. Westport CT: Praeger Publishers, 1994.
——– “Military Folklore and the Underwood Collection,” New York Folklore, 13, nos. 3-4 (1987): 87-103.
Description of seminal collection of World War II folklore, now housed in the archives of the Vietnam Veterans Oral History and Folklore Project; excellent bibliography. [LF]
——– “Military Folklore: Additional References,” New York Folklore, 14, nos. 1-2 (Winter-Spring, 1988): 143-146.
——– “Soldiers’ Songs: The Folklore of the Powerless,” New York Folklore, 11 (1985): 79-97.
Discusses the functions of military folksong and especially its significance as protest. [LC]
——– “When They Send the Last Yank Home: Wartime Images of Popular Culture,” Journal of Popular Culture, 18 (1984): 31-36.
Reproduces several anti-American parodies circulating among NZ troops in World War II. [LC]
Colby, Elbridge. Army Talk: A Familiar Dictionary of Soldier Speech. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1942.
Commission on Training Camp Activities of the Army and Navy Departments. Songs of the Soldiers and Sailors. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1917.
62 popular songs of World War I and six hymns. [LC]
Cox, Gordon. “Songs and Ballads of the Wet Canteen: Recollections of a British Soldier in India,” Lore and Language, 3, no. 7 (1982): 53-67.
Cragg, Dan. “A Brief Survey of Some Unofficial Prosigns Used by the United States Armed Forces,” Maledicta: The International Journal of Verbal Aggression, 4, no. 2 (Winter 1990): 167-173.
Dallas, Karl. The Cruel Wars. London: Wolfe Publishing, 1972.
100 songs “from Agincourt to Ulster” with melodies and guitar chords.” [LC]
Denisoff, R Serge. Songs of Protest, War and Peace. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, .
Bibliography containing some useful references to World War I, World War II and Korean War song material. Most of the Vietnam War references are to protest songs, country music, and patriotic songs. [LF]
De Witt, Hugh. Bawdy Barrack-Room Ballads. London: Tandem, 1970
Texts of 69 songs, many of them well-known in the British Army. [LC]
Diamond, George Arthur. “Prisoner of War,” New York Folklore Quarterly, 6 (1950).
Dolph, Edward Arthur. Sound Off! New York: Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, 1929.
325 songs and bugle calls from the American Revolutionary War to World War I with music and notes. The most substantial of the U.S. military song collections. [LC]
Dorson, Richard M. American Folklore. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959.
Section on “G.I. Folklore” in chapter on “Modern Folklore.” [LF]
Dundes, Alan. “The American Game of ‘Smear the Queer’ and the Homosexual Component of Male Competitive Sport and Warfare.” Journal of Psychoanalytical Anthropology, 8 (1985): 115-129.
Claims that there are homosexual underpinnings to warfare and cites some military songs. [LC]
Edwards, Ron. Australian Folk Songs. Holloway’s, Queensland: The Ram’s Skull Press, 1972.
A section of this work is devoted to the services and contains words and melodies of twenty songs. [LC]
Edwards, Thomas Joseph. Military Customs. Aldershot, England: Gale and Poldon, 1961. [Earlier editions in 1947, 1952 and 1954.]
Eisner, Harry. “‘Poor Child’: A Sculptale,” New York Folklore, 16, nos. 1-2 (Winter-Spring, 1990): 43-51.
Sculpture by a World War II veteran based on his war experience. [LF]
Elkin, Frederick. “The Soldier’s Language.” American Journal of Sociology, 51 (1946):414-422.
Soldiers’ language reflects self-images of solidarity, freedom from social restraint and strength as well as attitudes towards authority. [LC]
Elting, John; Dan Cragg; Ernest Deal, eds. A Dictionary of Soldier Talk. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1984.
Fraser, Edward and Gibbons, John. Soldier and Sailor Words and Phrases. Soldier and sailor words and phrases; including slang of the trenches and the air force; British and American war-words and service terms and expressions in everyday use; nicknames, sobriquets, and titles of regiments, with their origins; the battle-honours of the Great War awarded to the British Army. London: Routledge and Sons, 1925. Reprinted, Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1968.
Fussell, Paul. “Myth, Ritual, and Romance,” in The Great War and Modern Memory. New York: Oxford University Press, 1975.
——– “Rumors of War,” in Wartime. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Getz, C.W. The Wild Blue Yonder: Songs of the Air Force. Vol I. Burlingame, CA: Redwood Press:1981.
Good detail on variants and sources. Lists 33 unit songbooks. Contains texts of 661 songs and many variants. [LC]
——– The Wild Blue Yonder: Songs of the Air Force. Vol. II. Stag Bar Edition. Burlingame, CA: Redwood Press, 1986.
Lists 23 songbooks of military organizations and reproduces 336 texts, about half of which are bawdy, with glossary. [LC]
Glazer, Tom. Songs of Peace, Freedom and Protest. New York: David McKay, 1970.
Contains a few traditional military items critical of services life. [LC]
Graham, Joe S. “Old Army Went to Hell in 1958: Aggie War Stories from the Corps of Cadets,” 105-121 in Abernathy, Francis Edward (ed.), Sonovagun Stew: A Folklore Miscellany. Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1985.
Halpert Herbert. “Mosquitoes on the Runway,” Western Folklore, 49 (April, 1990): 145-161.
Hamilton, Hamish. Ballads of World War II. Glasgow: The Lili Marlene Club, ca. 1945.
Collection of British, German and Italian songs current among, or known to, 51st Highland Division soldiers in the British Eighth Army. [LC]
“The Hard-Boiled Songs of Aviators,” The Literary Digest, December 8, 1923:48-51.
Texts of nine World War I songs current among airmen. [LC]
J. K. Havener. Army Air Force Lyrics. Fallbrook CA: Aero Publishers, 1985.
Excellent collection of World War II material by retired Air Force Lt. Colonel. [LF]
Hench, Atcheson. “Communal Composition in the A.E.F.,” Journal of American Folklore, 34 (1921): 386-387.
Hitchens, Christopher. “Minority Report,” The Nation, February 13, 1989: 187.
Texts of one complete song and three song fragments from songbook of the 77th Tactical Fighter Squadron, based at Upper Heyford, England.
Hopkins, Anthony. Songs From the Front and Rear. Edmonton: Hurtig, 1979.
120 songs, with music, current among Canadian servicemen in World War II. Not bowdlerized. [LC]
Jackson, Bruce. “What Happened to Jody?” Journal of American Folklore, 80 (1967): 387-396.
Jansen, William Hugh. “The Klesh-Maker,” Hoosier Folklore, 7 (1948): 47-50.
Johnson, Sandee Shaffer. Cadences: The Jody Call Book, No. 1. Canton, Ohio: Daring Press, 1983.
Compilation of approximately 260 bowdlerized cadence chants with a brief historical introduction about their origins in U.S. military tradition.
——– Cadences: The Jody Call Book. No. 2. Canton: Daring Press, 1988.
Keith, Sam. “The Flying Nightmares,” New York Folklore Quarterly, 6 (1950): 154-160.
Folklore of the 413th combat squadron, the first medium-bomber squadron in the history of Marine Corps aviation. Texts of two songs.
Kenagy, S.G. “Sexual Symbolism in the Language of the Air Force Pilot: A Psychoanalytical Approach to Folk Speech,” Western Folklore, 37 (1978): 89-101.
An analysis of sexually oriented metaphor as displacement of fear and anxiety and as phallic fantasy and aggression. [LC]
Knight, Jeff Parker. “Literature as Equipment for Killing: Performance as Rhetoric in Military Training Groups, “Text and Performance Quarterly, 10, no. 2 (1990): 158-168.
Some Vietnam-era cadences
Koch, Edwin E. “G.I. Lore: Lore of the Fifteenth Air Force,” New York Folklore Quarterly, 9 (1953): 59-70.
Texts of five songs
Lally, Kelly A. “Living on the Edge: The Folklore of Air Force Pilots in Training,” Midwestern Folklore, 13, no. 2 (Fall, 1987): 107-120.
Limouze, A. B. “The Hump Song.” Journal of American Folklore, 63, no. 250 (1950): 463-465.
Lovette, Leland P. Naval Traditions and Usage. 3rd edition. Annapolis: United States Naval Institute, 1939.
Meyers, Hazel. [W.A.C. Songs]. Brooklyn, 1943.
A typescript collection of 89 songs compiled by W.A.C. Pfc. Hazel Meyers, Port Headquarters, W.A.C. Det., Fort Hamilton NY. [Library of Congress, Music Division]
Miller, William Marion. “A Modern Atrocity Story.” Journal of American Folklore, 58, no. 228 (1945): 156-157.
Myers, James E., ed. A Treasury of Military Humor. Springfield IL: Lincoln-Herndon Press, 1990.
Navy Department Commission on Training Camp Activities. Marine Corps Songbook. Washington, DC: National Committee on Army and Navy Camp Music, 1919.
78 popular wartime songs and seven hymns. [LC]
Nettleinghame, Frederick Thomas. More Tommy’s Tunes. An Additional Collection of Soldiers’ Songs, Marching Melodies, Rude Rhymes and Popular Parodies, Composed, Collected, and Arranged on Active Service with the B.E.F. by F. T. Nettleinghame [sic], Middlesex Regiment. London: Erskine MacDonald, Ltd., 1919.
Words of 97 songs from World War I. [LC]
——– Tommy’s Tunes. A Comprehensive Collection of Soldiers’ Songs, Marching Melodies, Rude Rhymes, and Popular Parodies, Composed, Collected and Arranged on Active Service with the B.E.F., by F. T. Nettleingham [sic], 2nd LT. R.F.C. London: Erskine MacDonald, Ltd.,1917.
Words of 93 songs from World War I. [LC]
Niles, John Jacob, J., D.S. Moore and A.A. Wallgren, Songs My Mother Never Taught Me. New York: Macaulay, 1929.
Collection of World War I soldiers’ songs with musical arrangements. [LC]
——– Singing Soldiers. Detroit: Singing Tree Press, 1966.
Superb collection, with narration giving contextual information, of Black soldiers’ songs from World War I. [LF]
Page, Martin. Kiss Me Goodnight Sergeant Major. London: Hart Davis MacGibbon, 1973.
157 songs and rhymes current in World War II, mostly in the British Army. [LC]
——– For Gawdsake Don’t Take Me. London: Hart Davis MacGibbon, 1976.
186 songs and rhymes. [LC]
Palmer, Roy. “What a Lovely War”: British Soldiers’ Songs from the Boer War to the Present Day. London: Michael Joseph, 1990.
Pearson, Barry. “The Soldier’s Point of View: The Experience of World War II and Vietnam as Portrayed in Folklore and Oral History,” unpublished ms, n.d.
Material drawn from author’s collection and the Maryland Folklore Archive, University of Maryland, College Park, MD. [LF]
[Posselt, Eric.] G.I. Songs, Written, Composed and/or Collected by the Men in the Service. Bruce E. Palmer [pseud.], ed. New York:Sheriden House, .
——– Give Out! Songs of, by and for the Men in Service. Florida: Granger Books, 1943. [Also New York: Arrowhead Press, 1943]
120 songs current in the Allied World War II services. [LC]
Riordan, John Lancaster. “American Naval ‘Slanguage’ in the Pacific in 1945.” California Folklore Quarterly, 5, no. 4 (October, 1946): 375-390.
Rixey, Lilian. “Soldiers Still Sing,” Life, September 27, 1943, 48-54.
Lists several songs popular among U.S. troops in World War II. [LC]
Roulier, James B. “Service Lore: Army Slang,” New York Folklore Quarterly, 4 (1948): 15-28.
Sandburg, Carl. The American Songbag. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1927.
Has twelve songs from five wars, with music. [LC]
Sandels, Robert. “The Doughboy: The Formation of a Military Folk,” American Studies, 24 no. 1 (Spring, 1983): 69-88.
Seton, Bruce Gordon and Grant, John. The Pipes of War. A Record of the Achievements of Pipers of Scottish Overseas Regiments During the War, 1914-1918.
Shorrocks, Graham. “Body Bag Backlog: A Contemporary Legend?” Foaftale News, 20 (December, 1990): 5
Stevens, Bob. “If You Read Me, Rock the Tower.” 1980.
——– More There I Was. . .” 1974.
——– “There I Was. . .” 1968.
——– “There I Was. . . Flat on My Back” Fallbrook CA: Aero Publishers, 1975.
Excellent collection of Air Force songs and cartoons from World War II through Vietnam. All Stevens’ books have an extremely high folklore content. [LF]
——– There I Was. . .” 25 Years. Summit PA: TAB Aero, 1992.
Thorpe, Peter, “Buying the Farm: Notes on the Folklore of the Modern Military Aviator,” Northwest Folklore, 2, no. 1 (1967): 11-17.
Observations by a naval flyer on some of the myths, taboos and language of the service. Includes a discussion of pilot psychology, the cult of masculinity and the social control of fear [LC]
“Tommy’s Songs,” The Literary Digest, December 1, 1917: 36
Review of Tommy’s Songs.
Trident Society, U.S. Naval Academy. The Book of Navy Songs. Annapolis: Doubleday, 1942.
Collection of songs current in the U.S. Navy. [LC]
Trnka, Susanna. “Living a Life of Sex and Danger: Women, Warfare and Sex in Military Folk Rhymes,” Western Folklore, 54 (July, 1995): 232-241.
Underwood, Agnes Nolan. “Folklore from G.I. Joe,” New York Folklore Quarterly, 2 (1947): 285-297.
Discusses Kilroy, Smoe, Clem, services slang, slogans, superstitions, names, aircraft and songs. [LC]
Waelde, Barbara. “The Function of Folklore in the Louisiana National Guard,” Louisiana Folklore Miscellany, 5, no 4 (1984), 28-39
Wallrich, William. Air Force Airs. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1957.
Collection of songs current in the U.S. Air Force from World War I to the Korean War. [LC]
——– “Superstition and the Air Force,” Western Folklore, 19, no. 1 (January, 1960): 11-16.
——– United States Air Force Parodies Based Upon ‘The Dying Hobo.'” Western Folklore, 13 (1954).
Discusses connections between “The Dying Hobo” and a sequence of military variants. [LC]
Ward-Jackson, C.H. Airman’s Song Book. London: Blackwood, 1945.
Anthology of songs “mainly of the Royal Air Force, its auxiliaries and its predecessors, the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service.” Contains 144 songs with 55 melodies and a glossary of technical terms. [LC]
Wilkinson, Stephen. “Aviation’s Urban Legends.” The Director’s Cut, Air and Space Magazine, December/January 1998, supplemental information. http://www.airspacemag.com/ASM/mag/supp/dj98/legends.html
Six classic aviation legends.
Ye A.E.F. Hymnal. Nancy: Berger-Levrault, ca. 1918.
Collection of 17 “Doughboy lyrics that smoothed the road from Hoboken to the Rhine.” [LC]
Yates, Norris. “Some ‘Whoppers’ from the Armed Services.” Journal of American Folklore, 62, no. 244 (1949): 173-180.
York, Dorothea. Mud and Stars. New York: Henry Holt, 1931.
Texts of 309 songs and poems from World War I. [LC]
Page updated 30 July, 1999