Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

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.’

The 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. He appeared on the game show ‘I’ve Got a Secret’ in 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.

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

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