Air Force changes theme song lyrics to be more gender inclusive, sort of

Air Force changes theme song lyrics to be more gender inclusive, sort of

Air Force women

Before we get to the Air Force theme song we need to make a quick point.

Can you sing these lyrics: O beautiful for spacious skies…etc. etc?

Of course, you can. But that’s only the first verse. How about the second verse? We’ll start you out: O beautiful for pilgrim feet…

Yeah, we don’t know those lyrics either.

We make the point, because the U.S. Air Force decided it needed to update the lyrics to its theme song “Off We Go” to be more gender inclusive — well, to one more gender, that being females, or at least those who identify as female.

So, they made revisions to the THIRD verse of the song. Only. Just the third verse.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in a statement, “These new lyrics speak more accurately to all we do, all that we are and all that we strive to be as a profession of arms. They add proper respect and recognition to everyone who serves and who has served. This respect and recognition is not only appropriate, it is fully earned.”

Can’t argue with that. So here are the changes. The third verse used to go like this:

Here's a toast to the host
Of those who love the vastness of the sky,
To a friend we send a message of his brother men who fly.
We drink to those who gave their all of old,
Then down we roar to score the rainbow's pot of gold.
A toast to the host of men we boast, the U.S. Air Force!

 

The revisions go like this (in bold):

Here's a toast to the host
Of those who love the vastness of the sky,
To a friend we send a message of the brave who serve on high.
We drink to those who gave their all of old,
Then down we roar to score the rainbow's pot of gold.
A toast to the host of those we boast, the U.S. Air Force!

 

Here’s the thing though. The very first verse still goes like this:

Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder
At 'em boys, Give 'er the gun!
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under
Off with one helluva roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame. Hey!
Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force!

 

Now maybe “give ‘er the gun” in that context refers to giving HER (i.e. a female member) the control of a 40 mm (1.58 in) L/60 Bofors autocannon, for instance. But at the time the song was written (1938), it may be more likely “her” was referring to the aircraft itself, just as ships are referred to as “she.”

And how about verse number two? It’s certainly not very ambiguous.

Minds of MEN fashioned a crate of thunder
Sent it high into the blue
Hands of MEN blasted the world a-sunder
How they lived God only knew!
Souls of MEN dreaming of skies to conquer
Gave us wings, ever to soar!
With scouts before And bombers galore.
Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force!

The Air Force decided not to change those lyrics at this time.

Goldfein didn’t expressly say whether more changes will be made, but said [W]e’ll also take a hard look at whether further updates may be warranted for the other verses of the song.”

 

During a fireside chat at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium last week, Goldfein said The initial change was meant “to open a conversation here, which I want to have over the next few months, to update the first verse,” he said.

“I can tell you a number of stories of women who have been given the gun, throughout the ages really, but especially most recently as all combat positions are open,” Goldfein added. “I think it’s an important discussion for us to have.”

Okay, fine. If it encourages more women to join the Air Force, and helps boosts morale for all those currently serving, great. And perhaps it’s those little incremental changes that slowly change the culture of so many traditionally male-dominated sectors.

 

But changing only verse three of the song seems a bit tentative, don’t you think?

 

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