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Encyclopedia > Military cadence
A drill sergeant drills privates in the U.S. Army.
A drill sergeant drills privates in the U.S. Army.

In the armed services, a military cadence or cadence call is a traditional call-and-response work song sung by military personnel while running or marching. In the United States, these cadences are sometimes called jody calls or jodies, after Jody, a recurring character who figures in some traditional cadences. A drill sergeant with rows of recruits. ... A drill sergeant drills recruits in the U.S. Army. ... Pretorian Guards, Roman Soldiers A military or military force generally refers to a permanent, professional and structured force of soldiers or guerrillas trained exclusively for the purpose of warfare. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... A recurring character is a fictional character, usually in a prime time TV series, who is not a main character, but appears from time to time during the series run. ...

Requiring no instruments to play, they are counterparts in oral military folklore of the military march. As a sort of work song, military cadences take their rhythms from the work being done (compare sea shanty). Many cadences have a call and response structure; one soldier initiates a line, and the remaining soldiers complete it. The Stars and Stripes Forever by John Philip Sousa is considered amongst the greatest marches ever written. ... For the popular Tamil film, see Rhythm (film) Rhythm (Greek = flow, or in Modern Greek, style) is the variation of the length and accentuation of a series of sounds or other events. ... Sea shanties (singular shanty, also spelled chantey; derived from the French word chanter, to sing) were shipboard working songs. ... In music, a call and response is a succession of two distinct phrases usually played by different musicians, where the second phrase is heard as a direct commentary on or response to the first. ...



The mythical Jodie refers to a civilian who remains at home instead of joining the military service. Jodie is often presumed to be medically unfit for service, a 4F in WWII parlance. Jodie also lacks the desirable attributes of military men. He is neither brave nor squared-away. As Jodie calls often point out with ironic humor, Jodie will take advantage of your girl friend in your absence. Jodie Calls are initiated as the left foot strikes the ground, whether marching at normal speed (quick time) or running in formation (double time). This serves the purpose of keeping the formation in step, and maintaining the correct beat or cadence.

The word "cadence" was applied to these chants because of an earlier meaning, in which it meant the number of steps a marcher or runner took per minute. The cadence was set by a drummer or sergeant, and discipline was extremely important as keeping the cadence directly affected the travel speed of infantry. There were other purposes: the close-order drill was a particular cadence count for the complex sequence of loading and firing a musket. In the Revolutionary War, Baron von Steuben notably imported European battlefield techniques which persist, greatly modified, to this day. Cadences also instill teamwork and camaraderie. The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was a war fought primarily between Great Britain and revolutionaries within thirteen of her North American colonies. ... Baron von Steuben Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus Steuben, Baron von Steuben (November 15, 1730-November 28, 1794) was a German army officer who served with George Washington in the American Revolutionary War and is credited with teaching American troops the essentials of military drill and discipline. ...

The Duckworth Chant (or Sound Off!)

A V-Disc   issued in 1944 credits the origin of Sound Off (The Duckworth Chant) to Private Willie Duckworth; according to this story, in May of 1944, while returning to base with his exhausted unit, he began singing or chanting the first cadence, "Sound Off:" Image File history File links V_disc_1944_duckworth_chant. ...

Sound-off; 1 - 2; Sound-off; 3 - 4; Cadence count; 1 - 2 - 3 - 4; 1 - 2 — 3 - 4.

This cadence, known as the "Duckworth Chant," exists with some variations in many different branches of the U.S. military. Duckworth's simple chant soon was elaborated by folk tradition among drill sergeants and the soldiers under their command, and the tradition of creating elaborate marching chants or songs spread to other branches of the military. A drill sergeant drills recruits in the U.S. Army. ...

Some cadences

Some common cadences collected at the Naval Academy[1] include:

As soon as 1952, the U.S. Army adopted The Army Goes Rolling Along as its service theme song, with the lyric "count off the cadence loud and strong" a reference to Duckworth's cadence. Its melody and lyrics derive from the traditional When the Caissons Go Rolling Along. Napalm Sticks to Kids   is a song or a call & response running cadence used in the military. ... Old King Cole, according to William Wallace Denslow For other uses of King Cole, see King Cole (disambiguation). ... Blood on the Risers is an American paratrooper song from World War II. It is sung by both the United States 82nd Airborne Division and the United States 101st Airborne Division. ... 1952 (MCMLII) was a Leap year starting on Tuesday (link will take you to calendar). ... The song was originally written by field artillery First Lieutenant (later Brigadier General) Edmund L. Gruber, while stationed in the Philippines in 1908 as the Caisson Song. ... The theme music of a radio or television program is a melody closely associated with the show, and usually played during the title sequence and/or end credits. ... In military context, caisson is a carrier of artillery ammunition. ...

A common US Marine Corps cadence goes: The United States Marine Corps (USMC) is a branch of the United States military responsible for providing power projection from the sea,[1] utilizing the mobility of the U.S. Navy to rapidly deliver combined-arms task forces. ...

Way back when at the dawn of time.
In the heart of Death Valley where the sun don't shine.
The roughest toughest fighter ever known was made.
From an M16 and a live grenade.
He was a lean mean green fighting machine.
He proudly bore the title of US Marine.

Another well-loved and well-used U.S. Navy SEALs cadence goes: Death Valley is a valley in the U.S. state of California, and is the location of the lowest elevation in North America at -282 feet (-86 meters). ... M16 (more formally United States Rifle, Caliber 5. ... For the alcoholic beverage sold in New Orleans, see hand grenade (drink). ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ...

Up from a sub 60 feet below,
When we hit the surface, we'll be ready to go.
Side-stroke, back-stroke, swim to the shore,
When we hit the beach, we're ready for war.
Grease gun, KA-BAR by my side,
These are the tools that make men die.

Another well-loved and well-used US Marine Corps cadence goes: The M3 Grease Gun (more formally United States Submachine Gun, Cal. ... USMC KA-BAR knife, standard model The KA-BAR is a 7-inch fighting and utility knife first used by the US Marines in World War II, and carried into battle by generations of Marines since that conflict. ...

I wish all the ladies were pies on a shelf
and I was a baker I'd eat em all myself.
I wish all the ladies were bricks in a pile
and I was a mason I'd lay em all with style.
I wish all the ladies were bells in a tower
and I was a bell boy I'd bang em every hour.
I wish all the ladies were holes in a road
and I was a dump truck I'd fill em with my load.

With the Company Repeating after the Lead "I wish all the Ladies", "Were (Item) in/on a (Place)", "And I was a (Occupation)", "I'd (Action)". There is also a chorus:

Barooba, Barooba
Barooba, Barooba

(Rhymes with Oorah) Oorah or Ooh-rah is a spirited cry common to United States Marines since the mid-20th century. ...

A U.S. Navy cadence goes: The United States Navy, also known as the USN or the U.S. Navy, is a branch of the United States armed forces responsible for conducting naval operations. ...

I'm a battleship baby
Just a blastin' down the line
I'm a battleship baby
Just a blastin' down the line
So you better get out of my way now
before I blast all over you
It's just a little uh, a little uh, a little rock and roll
It's the kinda uh, the kinda uh, the kind to soothe your soul
So you better get out of my way now
Before I blast all over you

Each verse a different object is put in and a different action. (ex. Jackhamer/Jack, Steamroller/roll, screwdriver/screw)

A common US Army cadence goes: The United States Army is the largest branch of the armed forces of the United States. ...

C-130 rolling down the strip.
Airborne ranger gonna take a little trip.
Mission top secret, destination unknown.
Don't even know if I'm going home.
Stand up, hook up, shuffle to the door.
Jump right out and count to four.
One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four.
If my chute don't open wide,
I've got a reserve by my side.
If that one should fail me too,
Look out below I'm coming through

Another from the U.S. Army:

C-130 running down the strip
Airborne ranger on a one way trip
Mission top secret, destination unknown
Don't even know if I'm going home
Stand-up, hook-up, shuffle to the door
Jump right out and count to four
If my main don't open wide
I got a reserve on my side
If that one should fail me too
Look out ground there's a ranger comin' through
I said hey all the way
I say hey every day
If I die on the old drop zone
Then box me up and send me home
Pin my wings up on my chest
Tell my girl I've done my best
I said hey all the way
I say hey every day

And: The Lockheed C-130 Hercules, a four-engine turboprop aircraft, is the main tactical air transport aircraft of the United States and UK military forces. ...

I wanna be in the in-fan-try
Fighting in wars is the thing for me
M16 running down the street
Not the people you wanna meet


1, 2, 3, 4
Run a little, run a little, run some more
Sittin' on the hill top beatin' my drum
I beat so hard till the MPs come
I cry MP, MP don't arrest me
Arrest that man behind the tree
He stole whiskey, I stole wine
And all I ever do is double time

One from the U.S. Marine Corps:

Hey, Hey Whiskey Jack
Meet me down by the rail road track track
With a 40 in your hand
I'm gonna be a drinkin' man
Hey, Hey Whiskey Jack
Meet me down by the rail road track track
With my girlfriend in my hand
I'm gonna be a lovin' man.
Not a drinkin man
A lovin man
Hey, Hey Whiskey Jack
Meet me down by the rail road track track
With a rifle in my hand
I'm gunna be a shootin man
Not a drinkin man
Not lovin man
A shootin man

A cadence common in the U.S. Navy:

They say that in the Navy, the coffee's mighty fine
It looks like muddy water and tastes like turpentine
Oh lord, I wanna go
But they won't let me go.
They say that in the Navy, the pay is mighty fine
They give you a hundred dollars, and take back ninety-nine
They say that in the Navy, the chow is mighty fine
A biscuit rolled off the table, and killed a friend of mine

Numerous variations exist for these verses and others.

A more traditional U.S. Navy cadence:

The Navy colors
The colors are red
To show the world
The blood we've shed
The Navy colors
The colors are blue
To show the world
That we are true
The Navy colors
The colors are white
To show the world
That we will fight
The Navy colors
The colors are gold
To show the world
That we are bold

Another from the U.S. Marine Corps, easily adapted to other branches:

If I die in a combat zone
Box me up and ship me home
Put me in a set of dress blues
Comb my hair and shine my shoes
Pin my medals upon my chest
Tell my mama I done my best
Ma, mama don't you cry
In the Marine Corps you either do or die

Air Force Cadence

Irene Irene she's One of the best
so last night I put her to the test
The moon was bright the lights were dim
and so I had to give in
On top, On the bottom, side to side
and from behind I even tried
Irene Irene she's high in demand
she's a CF-18 in the Fighter Command!

Army Ranger's Cadence

I'm down here in a foxhole middle of the night
Bullets everywhere I'm in a firefight
Airborne Airborne Airborne
My buddy's in a foxhole bleeding from his head
medic says he's wounded but now I know he's dead
Airborne Airborne Airborne

"Jody calls"

In the United States, these songs get the name jody call or jody (also jodie) from a recurring character, a civilian named "Jody" whose luxurious lifestyle is contrasted with military deprivations in a number of traditional calls. Jody is the person who stays at home, drives the soldier's car, and gets the soldier's sweetheart while the soldier is in boot camp or in country. (Serendipitously, the name works just as well for female soldiers.) In times of armed conflict a civilian is any person who is not a combatant. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... This page is a candidate to be copied to Wiktionary using the Transwiki process. ...

The name derives from a stock character in African-American oral traditions. The character's name has been transcribed as "Joady," "Jody," "Jodie," "Joe D.", or even "Joe the ____" (in dialect, "Joe de ____") with Joe then identified by occupation. He was a stock anti-hero who maliciously took advantage of another man's absence. Enlisted African-American soldiers incorporated this character into cadence songs during the Second World War. When the military desegregated, these cadence songs spread service-wide. Oral tradition or oral culture is a way of transmitting history, literature or law from one generation to the next in a civilization without a writing system. ... German soldiers at the Battle of Stalingrad World War II was the most extensive and costly armed conflict in the history of the world, involving the great majority of the worlds nations, being fought simultaneously in several major theatres, and costing tens of millions of lives. ...

Common themes in jodies include:

  • Homesickness.
  • Quotidian complaints about military life.
  • Boasts (of one's own unit) and insults (of one's competitor, which may be another unit, another service branch, or the enemy.)
  • Humorous and topical references.

One example used in the U.S. Army: The term quotidian derives from the Latin word for daily and refers to repetitive daily actions, events or routines - yet in typical usage carries a vaguely negative overtone. ...

My honey heard me comin' on my left right on left
I saw Jody runnin' on his left right on left
I chased after Jody and I ran him down
Poor ol' boy doesn't feel good now
M.P.s came a runnin on their left right on left
The medics came a runnin' on their left right on left
He felt a little better with a few I.V.s
Son I told you not to mess with them ELEVEN Bs (the designation for infantry in the Army)

One from the U.S. Marine Corps:

Jody, Jody six feet four
Jody never had his ass kicked before.
I'm gonna take a three-day pass
And really slap a beating on Jody's ass!

Politically incorrect

Obscene, scatological, politically incorrect and violent jody calls exist, and were typical, especially during and before the Vietnam War. The use of such calls is now discouraged by the U.S. military, which instead emphasizes "clean" versions of traditional jodies. The flexibility of jodies is nearly unlimited, and old jodies have always been revived or rewritten as times and wars change. Obscenity in Latin obscenus, meaning foul, repulsive, detestable, (possibly derived from ob caenum, literally from filth). The term is most often used in a legal context to describe expressions (words, images, actions) that offend the prevalent sexual morality of the time. ... In medicine and biology, scatology or coprology is the study of feces. ... This article or section needs additional references or sources to improve its verifiability. ...

An example of one such call is the first stanza of Yellow Bird:

A yellow bird with a yellow bill
Was perched upon my window sill
I lured him in with a piece of bread
And then I smashed his little head

In the last line, the word 'little' is frequently used to replace profanity. This is an example of the minor tweaks that frequently occur in cadences depending on the particular military unit or installation they are used at. A particular cadence, when used by an infantry or other combat arms unit may include explicit profanity, while the same cadence, when used by a training or medical unit, may be censored to a degree, as above.

The second verse to the preceding cadence:

The moral of,
The story is,
To get some head -
You need some bread


And that's an example of a more politically incorrect verse. Differences in politeness vary from unit to unit. In the US Army, the general rule is as follows: The more "hardcore" of a unit, the less PC the verses shall be. Of course, they also change to extoll the virtues of whichever unit is singing.

One from the U.S. Navy:

I wanna be a Navy pilot
I wanna fly an F-14
I wanna fly with the cockpit open
I wanna hear those commies scream

An excerpt from the popular "When I Go to Heaven", also known as "How'd Ya Earn Your Living" or "When I Get to Heaven"

When I go to bars
The girls they will say
How did you earn your living
How did you earn your pay
And my reply was with a cold kind of nod
I earn my living killing commies for my God
When I go home
The hippies they will say
How did you earn your living
How did you earn your pay
And I replied as I pulled out my knife
Get out of my way before I take yo' life

Another, more modern example of a politically incorrect cadence popular through the US Navy:

Running through the desert with my M-16,
I'm a mean Seabee from the green machine!
Osama bin Laden, where you at?
I'm going to stick my bayonet in your ass!
I'm gonna twist it turn it and watch you cry,
I'm gonna twist it turn it until you die!
I don't know, but it's been said
Air force wings are made of lead
I don't know, but I've been told
Navy wings are made of gold
He-ey Ar-rmy
Ba-ack packing Ar-my
Put on your packs and follow me
I'm in the U.S. Navy
He-ey Air Force
Lo-ow flying Air Force
Get in your planes and follow me
I'm in the U.S. Navy
He-ey Coast Guard
Pud-dle pirate Coast Guard
Get in your boats and follow me
I'm in the U.S. Navy
He-ey Marines
They dont even hygiene
Pick up your rifles and follow me
I'm in the U.S. Navy

The Seabee logo The Seabees are the Construction Battalions of the United States Navy. ...

Non-military cadences


Police personnel who train in para-military fashion also have acquired the tradition for its recruits in the police academy. However, the "lyrics" are changed for law enforcement, for example: Police Academy is a long-running series of comedy films, the first six of which were made in the 1980s. ...

A six gun a tin star a horse named Blue.
In 1890 a cop held these true.
In 1930 the tommy gun.
It made police work a lot more fun.
A big block Dodge Polara it's true.
In sixty six it came out of the chute.
We got night vision on our M14's.
We're the ones they call to secure the scene
In 20 years, who knows what it will be.
Phaser guns mounted on my HumVee.
From a horse named Blue to a big HumVee
We'll still PT in the Academy!
(Last line yelled)

Fire academy

Fire academies in the U.S. often train in a para-military style. The following is a common cadence heard in the Fire Academy.

When my great granny was 91
She did PT just for fun
When my great granny was 92
She did PT better than you
When my great granny was 93
She did PT better than me
When my great granny was 94
She did PT more and more
When my great granny was 95
She did PT to stay alive
When my great granny was 96
She did PT just for kicks
When my great granny was 97
She up, she died, she went to heaven
When my great granny was 98
She meet St. Peter at the Pearly Gate
She said St. Peter, St. Peter, sorry I'm late

External links

  • Actual Mp3's of cadences
  • Collection of Military Cadences
  • more background on the Duckworth cadence
  • Link to mp3 and a full text of the Jody Cadence
  • Special Operations.com Cadence Database
  • Military Cadence Calls, Military Songs and Jody Calls Forum


  • Burke, Carol. 1989. "Marching to Vietnam," Journal of American Folklore 102(406): 424-441.
  1. ^ Burke, Carol. 1989. "Marching to Vietnam," Journal of American Folklore 102(406): 424-441.
  2. ^ Burke. pg. 439.
  3. ^ Burk. pg. 425



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