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USAAC March from The Complete Marches of John Philip Sousa: Vol. 5


USAAC MArch (1918)


Volunteers of the U.S. Army Ambulance Corps, 80 percent of whom were decorated for bravery in World War I, quickly won Sousa’s admiration. As president of the American Amateur Trapshooters’ Association, Sousa persuaded members of that organization to donate twenty-four ambulances and other vehicles to the corps. When he paid an informal visit to the USAAC camp at Allentown, Pennsylvania, Colonel C. P. Franklin, the commanding officer, asked him to compose a march for them. Sousa was pleased to be asked and promptly obliged. Some tragedy apparently befell the manuscript, however, precluding its use during the war.

The march was written on or about May 18, 1918. It was a medley-type march, containing melodies from a musical called Good-Bye Bill, which had been composed by two USAACs, William B. Kernell and Richard Fechheimer. Sousa sent a copy of the march to Colonel Franklin, who was then in Italy. In a letter to Colonel Franklin dated September 7, 1918, he stated that he planned to make an orchestration of the march and then have it published. Nothing more is known of the march except that the piano sheet music was published by Chappell of London and that Sousa’s original sketch somehow made its way to the Library of Congress. It is possible that Sousa’s orchestration—if it was made—was lost at sea either en route to Colonel Franklin in Italy or perhaps on the way to the publisher in London. Chappell has no record of receiving the march, because their records were destroyed in a fire.

The story of the USAAC March has a happy ending, however. The USAACs finally heard their march played by a band—five decades after it was written. The USAAC Association held its fiftieth anniversary reunion in 1967 at Allentown, site of Camp Crane, where members had received their training during the war. At a concert by the Allentown Band, directed by former Sousa cornetist Albertus Meyers, the USAAC March was performed in an arrangement for band by R. C. Wetherhold.

Paul E. Bierley, The Works of John Philip Sousa (Westerville, Ohio: Integrity Press, 1984), 92. Used by permission.