The Dogface Soldier Song
In 1942, Lieutenant Ken Hart and Corporal Bert Gold, both natives of Long Beach, New York, who were then serving in the United States Army, co-wrote the song, “Dogface Soldier”. Both men were later assigned to other branches of the service, one in South America, the other to the Pacific Theater and the song nearly faded into obscurity. Meanwhile the song had been carried to North Africa by a G.I. with a guitar who played it for his buddies while they were in camp. The song struck home and soon caught on … spreading from mouth to mouth and unit to unit without help from the radio, sheet music, or records. It became the most popular song sung by American servicemen during the Second World War.
During the amphibious invasions of Sicily and Italy, the fame of “Dogface Soldier” surpassed all other songs of the era as a great morale booster, and was actually sung during battle – not just near it, or before it, but actually while engaged in it! General Lucian K. Truscott, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division called it “the best battle song of the war”.
One of the “Dogface Soldiers” who sang the tune was Audie L. Murphy who would eventually become America’s most decorated soldier of World War II. In preparing the film of his career, “To Hell and Back”, it was only natural that Universal-International pictures should have included the famous song, with its original lyrics, as a tribute to the foot soldier whose life is depicted as a major part of the film.
The original lyrics are seen on the sheet music above and appear just as written by Hart and Gold. Subsequent versions of this famous battle song have come into being which suffer from the contaminated the political correctness virus that is prevalent in this country today. Thankfully, that virus had no place on the battlefield back then … or for that matter … even today.
The origin of the term “Dogface Soldier” as it pertains to the soldier is difficult to ascertain. According to the recollections of one veteran … Phillip Leveque:
“Perhaps I should explain the derivation of the term “dogface”. He lived in “pup tents” and foxholes. We were treated like dogs in training. We had dog tags for identification. The basic story is that wounded soldiers in the Civil War had tags tied to them with string indicating the nature of their wounds. The tags were like those put on a pet dog or horse, but I can’t imagine anybody living in a horse tent or being called a horseface. Correctly speaking, only Infantrymen are called dogfaces. Much of the time we were filthy, cold and wet as a duck-hunting dog and we were ordered around sternly and loudly like a half-trained dog.”
The term was used in the book, “Up Front” by noted combat cartoonist Bill Mauldin, who may have heard the term while serving with the 45th Infantry Division in Italy.
“Dogface” gained a high profile in the USA when it was used in the 1955 Hollywood film “To Hell and Back”, which is based on the best-selling autobiography of Audie Murphy, the most decorated U.S. soldier of World War II, and starring Audie as himself in the lead role. The film included the song, “The Dogface Soldier”, as originally written in 1942 by Lieutenant Hart and Corporal Gold. It was adopted as the song of the 3rd Infantry Division, and was widely played and sung by those serving in the Division during the war.