A Peace Song Beating The War Drums

The Dish

Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” underwent major changes in meaning; it was “originally written as a peace song for Armistice Day in 1938, but by 1940 [it] had become an anthem for intervention”:

[J]ust four months after its debut in the fall of 1938, “God Bless America” was no longer a peace song. In fact, later articles and interviews about the song made no mention of the peace message that was present at the song’s origins. There are a few reasons behind this shift. One important factor is that the premiere of “God Bless America” happened to occur the day after Kristallnacht, the Nazi Party’s calculated attacks on Jewish communities in Germany and its annexed territories. According to many scholars of World War II, the brutality of these attacks signaled a turning point for a growing American condemnation of Nazi Germany, and a consequent move away from staunch isolationism.

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