On This Day in 1931, “The Star-Spangled Banner” Officially Became the National Anthem; Today is National Anthem Day

On this day in 1931, President Herbert Hoover signed a congressional act making “The Star-Spangled Banner” the official national anthem of the United States.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” could be considered a mashup of sorts. The lyrics to the anthem were written in 1814 and the music comes from the British as far back as 1773.

The music is a popular British song known as “To Anacreon in Heaven,” written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society. The song is also known as “The Anacreontic Song” that served as the official song of the Society, an 18th-century gentlemen’s club of amateur musicians in London. The earliest mention of the song dates back to journals from 1773 by composer John Marsh. “The Star-Spangled Banner” took on the tune of the song which was popular in the United States at the time the lyrics were written.

The Anacreontic Song – The song became extremely popular in America, where it was used to accompany a number of verses, including the patriotic song called “Adams and Liberty,” before 1814. Key himself used the tune for his 1805 song, “When the Warrior Returns from the Battle Afar.” Credit: Smithsonian

The National Anthem’s lyrics come from a poem written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 titled, “Defence of Fort M’Henry.” Key wrote the poem after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. The battle was carried out by British Ships of the Royal Navy in Baltimore Harbor on September 13, 1814. The next day, an oversized American flag was raised for reveille and that moment inspired Key to pen his famous poem on September 14, 1813.

Key reportedly gave the poem to his brother-in-law Joseph H. Nicholson who saw that Key’s words fit the melody of “The Anacreontic Song.” On September 20, 1814, the song was printed in two publications after which the song gained popularity; it went viral after 17 newspapers from Georgia to New Hampshire printed it. Initially, the song was printed with the note “Tune: Anacreon in Heaven” and was published as “The Star-Spangled Banner” shortly after going viral.

Fast forward to 1889, the U.S. Navy recognized “The Star-Spangled Banner” for official use and, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered the song be played at military and other appropriate functions. In 1918, a bill was introduced in Congress to officially recognize “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem; however, that bill failed. The bill was introduced a total of six times until 1929 after which, in 1930, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) started a petition to recognize the song as the national anthem.

It’s reported that approximately five million people signed the petition which was subsequently presented to the House of Representatives in January 1930. A floor vote approved the bill in the House later that year and the Senate passed the bill in March 1931. On March 3, 1931, President Hoover signed the bill into law making “The Star-Spangled Banner” the official national anthem in the United States of America.

The Star-Spangled Banner performed by the U.S. Army Band

Today is National Anthem Day

So, how can you commemorate National Anthem Day? There are a few ways to do so:

The Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail invites visitors to explore the trail from wherever they are!
  1. Learn the lyrics to the National Anthem. If you haven’t taken the time to check out the words of the anthem, take the day to look them over so you can show your solidarity when the occasion comes up for you to sing. But, really, it’s only appropriate that Americans know the words to the National Anthem.
  2. Check out the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail. Due to the pandemic, travel is an issue for most. Fortunately, you can visit the 560-mile trail virtually here. You can read more about the history of the trail and visit the trail spots noting key events that led to the Battle of Baltimore, Key’s inspiration for the National Anthem.
  3. Display your Star-Spangled Banner. If you’re already displaying the flag, you’re good to go but, if not, take the day to show the Colors to mark National Anthem Day. There are rules and guidelines for displaying the Flag, you can find them here.

It is Women’s History Month!

In 1981, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 97-28 which authorized and requested the President proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week.” For the next five years, Congress continued to pass joint resolutions designation a week in March. After being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project in 1987, Congress passed Public Law 100-9 which designated the whole month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month.” Over the next seven years, Congress passed resolutions for the President to make an annual proclamation for the month of March. In 1995, the President started to issue a series of annual proclamations designating March as Women’s History Month to celebrate the contributions women have made to the United States and recognize the specific achievements women have made over the course of American history in a variety of fields.

Women continue to make history to this very day. For example, the United States voted for its first-ever female Vice President in the 2020 General Election in Kamala Harris and, recently, female recruits arrived at MCRD San Diego to make up the Marine Corps’ first coed company in the base’s 100-year history for boot camp. For the purpose of this post, we’ll focus on the contributions of our nation’s Women Servicemembers and Veterans.

According to the VA’s Women Veterans Make History page, women who served did not formally fall under a military command until the early 20th century. Before then, women served in various capacities starting as early as the Revolutionary War. It’s estimated that more than 400 women fought in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War.

Over 1,000 women flew aircraft for the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs)

As the nation entered the 20th century, the number of Servicewomen increased. During World War I, approximately 35,000 women served as nurses and support staff. In World War II, that number increased to about 140,000 women who took on critical billets in military intelligence, cryptography, and parachute rigging. During WWII, 1943 specifically, the U.S. Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was formed.

It wasn’t until 1948 when Congress passed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act that Servicewomen were granted permanent status in the military thereby entitling them to benefits when they left the ranks to become Veterans.

On May 28, 1980, 62 women graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in the Class of 1980 becoming the first women to graduate from the academy. (Photos from Signal Corps Collection, U.S. Military Academy Archives) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

During the Vietnam War, approximately 7,000 women served in Southeast Asia. In 1976, women were admitted to America’s service academies at West Point (U.S. Military Academy), Annapolis (U.S. Naval Academy), and Colorado Springs (Air Force Academy). In the early 1990s, more than 40,000 women deployed in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM.

More recently, since the start of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM following 9/11, over 700,000 women have served in OEF and 2003’s Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF).

The U.S. Armed Forces make efforts to recognize the contributions of women to our nation’s defense. Below are their respective pages commemorating the service of women in the military.

When Servicemembers finish their service, they become Women Veterans. The VA has made the health of Women Vets a priority and the following is listing of resources.

Over the course of the month, the SITREP will highlight a resource for Women Veterans. You can also follow the SITREP socials for more content as well as our Women Veterans resource page.

Last but not least, thank you to all Women serving in the U.S. military and to all Women Veterans for your service to the nation!

For more Women’s History, check out www.WomensHistoryMonth.gov and the National Women’s History Museum.

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