3 Country Songs from World War II to Commemorate the 80th Anniversary of D-Day

Eighty years ago today, Allied Forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France in the largest seaborne invasion in history. Historians remember D-Day as one of the most important operations of WWII. The successful invasion by more than 150,000 Allied troops helped to turn the tide of the war in the European Theater and put the Allies on the path to victory. Back in the United States, though, several patriotic artists were releasing hit country songs about World War II to keep spirits high amid the long and bloody conflict.  

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To commemorate the eightieth anniversary of D-Day, we’re going to look back at three hit country songs about World War II.

“There’s a Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere” by Elton Britt—The Biggest Country Song from World War II

Written by Paul Roberts and Bob Miller, “There’s a Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere” was the biggest country song of the World War II era. Elton Britt’s version of the song sold more than a million copies with some sources calling it the first country record to go Gold.

The song is about a version of heaven reserved for brave Americans and war heroes. It’s a concept akin to Valhalla, the Norse heaven reserved for those who died bravely in combat. The song’s narrator is a disabled man who wishes he could fight in the war and earn his place in that version of Heaven.

“Smoke on the Water” by Red Foley—A Song Predicting Allied Victory

No, “Smoke on the Water” isn’t an early version of the Deep Purple classic. Written by Zeke Clements and Earl Nunn, the classic country song foresees the victory of the Allied Forces in World War II.

Red Foley released the song as a single in May 1944 with “There’s a Blue Star Shining Bright (In a Window Tonight)” on the B-side. It went on to be Foley’s first No. 1 single.

With lines like And the sun that is risin’ / Will go down on that day. / For there is a great destroyer / Made of fire and flesh and steel / Rollin’ toward the foes of freedom. / They’ll go down beneath its wheels it’s easy to see why the song was such a big hit.

“Soldier’s Last Letter” by Ernest Tubb—A Country Song About the Sad Reality of World War II

Not all of the country songs from the World War II era were about victory. Some, like “Soldier’s Last Letter” took a long look at the men who never made it back from their campaigns overseas.

Redd Stewart was drafted into the U.S. Army and was stationed in the South Pacific. While there, he wrote the bulk of “Soldier’s Last Letter.” Ernest Tubb worked on it before recording and releasing it in 1944. The song spent four weeks at No. 1.

Johnny Wright, Hank Snow, and Merle Haggard all recorded versions of this song in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Featured Image by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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