Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition – The Legendary Army Chaplain Of Pearl Harbor

The aerial view of Pearl Harbor. Photo credit: Naval History and Heritage Museum
The aerial view of Pearl Harbor during the attack. 

Jack McDowell noted that the press became more interested in the story and eventually got the permission to interview the crew members of the USS New Orleans to figure out the identity of the Sky Pilot. 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.

Later, after the war, Forgy made an appearance on the popular game show “I’ve got a secret”, where he recalled and told the entire event:

“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.”

The Pittsburg Post-Gazette noted that the phrase was also a quote from the 1939 John Ford picture titled “Drums Along the Mohawk“, but it was not of relevance to the true story that happened on the morning of December 7th, 1941.

In 1974, New York Times noted that the song was performed for the first time by the opera tenor, Robert Rounseville. Other versions of the song include a recording by The Merry Macs, The Jubalaires and Kay Kyser and his Orchestra which reached the number 1 position on the Billboard Chart in 1942.

A portion of the song was featured in the Superman cartoon “Jungle Drums” in a scene where Hitler bows his head at the news that Allied forces cut off a major assault of German U-boats. Frank Loesser, the original author of the song, donated all his royalties from the sale of the song to the Navy Relief Society.

An interesting fact is that the phrase was later attributed a satirical meaning. During the African-American Civil Rights Movement, in the 1960s, the phrase indicated the increasing militarization of both the government and the movement.

You can listen to the two versions of the song on links bellow, the first one being the original song by Frank Loesser and its most successful cover by Kay Kyser.

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