Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

“There’s a Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere”—song, historical notes, and reflection by my father, a WWII veteran

My father and our long-time neighbor Jim Weeks (one of the three guitar players who, my father jokes "makes me sound good" when he plays fiddle) sang this quite movingly on the TV profile of my father. I always love watching and listening to this on tape.

My father is a combat veteran of World War Two. He earned the Combat Infantry Badge and was awarded the puple heart for injuries sustained near Stohlburg, Germany. He also received the Silver Star for "Gallantry in action above the call of duty" in this same contact with the opposing forces.

My father, Erwin A. Thompson, writes:

There are three stories connected with this song that make it far more valuable to me. The first two were general knowledge at the time, but probably have been covered up by the passage of time. The third one is personal.

1. The authors wrote the song for what was then called "country music;" not exactly what is called that today. Contrary to the ambitions of most composers, they wanted it to stay out of the popular music field. The song was so timely that it caught on far beyond the expectations of the authors. The big name bands started playing it. The authors actually tried to stop them!

2. Colin Kelly was a pilot in the Pacific. The Japanese shot his plane, and it burst into flames. Instead of bailing out with at least some hope of rescue he chose to use his burning plane as a weapon. He crashed the Japanese ship and sunk it.

3. I do not claim to have known the man that the song was written about, but it could have been JIM SHEETS. Jim was classified "1 B", which meant that he was non?combatant. He had terrible burn scars on his legs from some childhood accident. He was a corporal in the supply room, Company "C", 62nd Battalion, 13'th Regiment, Camp Robinson, Arkansas.

He felt much the same as the young man in the song. He spent all of his spare time watching the training and the drill; talking to the other non?commissioned officers. He finally convinced the brass that he could make a good field man, and was re-classified "1 A". Jim was a good man to work with and a firm friend. He made a good platoon sergeant. He gave his life for the country that he loved. I am sure that he found that "Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere!"

THERE'S A STAR SPANGLED BANNER WAVING SOMEWHERE

By Paul Roberts and Shelby Darnell

1

THERE'S A STAR SPANGLED BANNER WAVING SOMEWHERE

IN A DISTANT LAND, SO MANY MILES AWAY.

ONLY UNCLE SAM'S GREAT HEROES GET TO GO THERE,

WHERE I WISH THAT I COULD ALSO LIVE SOMEDAY.

I'D SEE LINCOLN, CUSTER, WASHINGTON, AND TERRY,

NATHAN HALE, AND COLIN KELLY TOO.

THERE'S A STAR SPANGLED BANNER WAVING SOMEWHERE,

WAVING O'ER THE LAND OF HEROES BRAVE AND TRUE!

2

IN THIS WAR WITH ITS MAD SCHEMES OF DESTRUCTION

OF OUR COUNTRY FAIR AND OUR SWEET LIBERTY,

BY THE MAD DICTATORS, LEADERS OF CORRUPTION

CAN'T THE U. S. USE A MOUNTAIN BOY LIKE ME?

GOD GAVE ME THE RIGHT TO BE A FREE AMERICAN,

AND FOR THAT RIGHT I'D GLADLY DIE.

THERE'S A STAR SPANGLED BANNER WAVING SOMEWHERE,

THAT'S WHERE I WANT TO LIVE WHEN I DIE!

3.

'THOUGH I REALIZE I AM CRIPPLED, THAT IS TRUE SIR,

DO NOT JUDGE MY COURAGE BY MY CRIPPLED LEG.

LET ME SHOW MY UNCLE SAM WHAT I CAN DO, SIR!

LET ME HELP TO TAKE THE AXIX DOWN A PEG!

IF I DO SOME GREAT DEED I WILL BE A HERO,

AND A HERO BRAVE IS WHAT I WANT TO BE.

THERE'S A STAR SPANGLED BANNER WAVING SOMEWHERE,

IN THAT HEAVEN THERE SHOULD BE A PLACE FOR ME!

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9 Responses »

  1. My father, Paul Roberts, passed away in December of 2007, at the age of 91. He was the true and only author of the song, "There's A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere." He was in his early 20s when he penned the song, and WW11 was raging. When he went to New York seeking a publisher, Bob Miller of Bob Miller Publishing Co. immediately spotted a hit record and agreed to publish it for 50% of the song. Bob Miller's pseudonym, Shelby Darnell, was then added as co-author. The song was recorded by Elton Britt and was an instant success. It was played on every major radio station and Billboard magazine listed it as #1 for many months. The 78 speed records and sheet music were sold out as soon as they'd hit the music stores. At that time, the materials necessary to produce records were rationed, due to the war. Shellac was one of the main materials. Young men flocked to the Military recruiting offices to sign up, as the song triggered a renewed feeling of patriotism and love of country . My Dad himself enlisted in the Army at that time, but was madically discharged before being shipped overseas. The song was played at every major event at the time and was even performed on Broadway, a first for any Country song. It soon sold over 1,000,000 copies and was the first ever Country song to earn a gold record. It has since been recorded by many other Country and Pop artists and is still played all over the world. Paul Roberts was a talented songwriter and several of his other songs became well known. One in particular was "She Taught Me To Yodel" which became a hit for Rosalie Allen. He left many songs behind, some never published. He is greatly missed by all who knew him.

  2. I do some singing myself. I have heard this song but have never sang it. I would love to have met Paul before he passed. Sounds like he was my kind of guy. Thanks for the blog...........

  3. Dear Shea,
    could you please tell me what year, She Taught Me How To
    Yodel was composed. I read that Bill Haley recorded it in 1947.............
    God Bless you and your
    late father,
    Sincerely,
    James Molloy
    ps Did your father have any Irish connections?

  4. Shea Johnson,

    I was singing in an American Legion Post about 3 months ago and after doing my closing song, (the flag by Johnny Cash) an old veteran approch me and ask if I could do one more song. The song he asked for was, Theres a Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere. I had to tell him that I didn't know the song but that I would research it and if I could find it I would sing it the next time I was there. I have done the research and was able to order the CD by Elton Britt that has the song on it. I will be singing at that American Legion Post near the end of next month and I hope he is there. I have the lyics and tab for the song and will sing it to the best of my abbility. But I find it hard to do without tearing up while singing it by myself, surounded by Veterans will be harder. If the CD arrives in time I will give it to that speical Veteran that asked me to sing the song. I love it and can't get it out of my head. We, as Americans, owe so much to those Veterans. And I want to thank you for your post on this website.
    70 years old and still learning.

  5. Shea Johnson,

    Could you please tell me when the recording of "There's a star
    spangled banner waving somewhere" by Elton Britt was released.

    I know it was recorded in February 1942. but I am trying to ascertain when it
    first began to get attention in the hillbilly markets.

    I know that it was much later before it made the pop charts.

  6. i was glad to find what my mom wasasking for...we`d love to know how many artists sang this song and their names ...much appreciated.....

  7. I live in florida with my wife Velma, in a seniors only community.
    My wife planned a celebration on March 14, 2010 to honor all the veterans in our community and has contacted every one. We expect about 167 veterans to attent with their spouses and mates, 27 of them are WWII vets.
    I suggested our choir sing "There's a star spangled banner waving somewhere", and everyone is excited about hearing it again.
    Ken DeKing

  8. Hi, I was born on Swan's Island Maine. As a child of about 10, I remember your father Paul. He owned a small general store there. Everyone spoke well of him. Great song. Bob Davis

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  1. “There’s a Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere” by Paul Roberts & Shelby Darnell | Riehl Life: Village Wisdom for the 21st Century

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