"Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!"

"Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!"

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This sheet music is for the sonfg “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!” with words and music by Frank Loesser. It was published by Famous Music Corp. in New York, New York in 1942.

On a Sunday morning in December 1941, a chaplain had his most difficult assignment — to say a prayer to sailors aboard a U.S. navy ship actively under low–flying attack by the enemy firing from all directions. He quickly realized the best he could do was walk the ammunition line saying, “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!” Stories of the overheard phrase quickly turned into legend and passed between soldiers, eventually reaching the press and one Broadway composer and lyricist, Frank Loesser. He served in the Radio Productions Unit charged with mounting shows of popular guest stars for boosting morale of the troops.

With the phrase as the song title, he combined the stories into one set of lyrics — fact mattered not as much as the need to inspire spirit. By 1943, the song, performed by Kay Kaiser and His Orchestra, had reached no. 1 on the Billboard chart, surpassing its peak of no. 8 the previous year when performed by the Merry Macs. Loesser donated his royalties for sale of the song to the Navy Relief Society. The chaplain originally quoted wished to remain anonymous, and the episode to remain legend. Many variations on the tale, the name of the chaplain, whether or not he himself manned a gun turret to participate in the battle, and the battle's whereabouts have existed over the years.

Currently not on view
Object Name
sheet music
date made
Loesser, Frank
Kyser, Kay
Loesser, Frank
Famous Music Corp.
place made
United States: New York, New York
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
ink (overall material)
overall: 12 in x 9 in; 30.48 cm x 22.86 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
World War I
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Entertainment
Popular Entertainment
Music & Musical Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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I was researching this phrase because I recently found a hand embroidered item with this on it. It must have been in my mother's possessions. You can tell it must have been done freehand by someone because Praise is mispelled as Prase.
The satirical song writer Tom Lehrer commented on this song in June 17, 1997. Asked about his controversial songs, he mentioned that his idea of a sacrilegious song, if there is such a thing, is Frank Loesser's "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition", because it implies that God approves of A killing B but not of B killing A. Most religious people do agree.
My dear father is 91 years old and he keeps talking about this song. I didn't have much information regarding this song before reading this article you have here. Thank-you very much!
"The originator of the phrase was Chaplain Howell Forgy of the USS New Orleans. When power was cut to the ship, which was tied up to a pier at pearl Harbor, the ammunition had to be hand passed up from the magazines to the AA mounts. The ship was closed up in a watertight condition so there was no air ciculation and the ammo passers were hot and passing out from the heat. the only thing Chaplain Forgy could offer them was verbal encouragement and a slap on the back. His verbal encouragement was "praise the Lord and pass the ammunition ". See book United States Navy in World War II"

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