The 503rd Song

by 503rd PRCT Association WWII, North and South Carolina Chapter
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The 503rd song was composed by Corporal Kenneth Brown of the Special Services Section, Regimental Headquarters and Headquarters Company, in November 1942 aboard the god ship Poleau Laut ("Dump the garbage”), a Dutch Banana boat converted to a troopship, which was carrying the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment to the Southwest Pacific Theater.

Know initially as “The Parachute Song", it was first sung as part of a special services troop entertainment aboard the Poleau Laut by Lieutenants Wirt Cates and Jack Nolan. For some reason the song did not catch on among the men; however the officers kept the song alive all through the war, singing it with great gusto when tongues were whetted. (You will recall that officers typically spent their off-duty time studying field manuals, writing home and singing folk ballads while the enlisted men were out chasing women, gambling, drinking and raising hell generally.)

Built in 1929, the Poelau Laut was one of four identical ships that were designed to carry cargo and fifty eight first class passengers. Siezed by the US Cost Guard, the Poelau Laut was modified and became a troopship from 1942 - 1945 (Image- collection).

After inactivation of the RCT at the end of the war, those officers remaining on active duty continued to sing the song whenever three or more were present at a social gathering where singing was appropriate – and in some instances where it wasn’t. In airborne circles it became known simply as “The 503rd Song” as we so call it today.

At the first reunion in Washington, D.C. the song was rendered by a group comprising Warden Jones, Little Joe Laerie, Snake Davis, Lawson Caskey, Les Levine, hoot Gibson, Larry Browne, Greenbriar County Blake, john Herzig and Dick Templeman. The response was terrific, particularly from the ladies, and singing “The 503rd Song” is now traditional.

The lyrics do not mention artillery or engineers because at the time there was only a provisional parachute artillery battery an no parachute engineer unit in the U.S. Army, understanding this and cognizant of their primary mission to support the infantry, the members of the 462nd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion and Company C, 161st Parachute Engineer battalion wholeheartedly join in the singing this, our song;

If you see a soldier with a parachute on his cap
Walking proudly down the street, “I’ll bet you money that
If you say “Hey, soldier boy what outfit are you in?”
He’ll turn about and he will shout with all the pride in him:
“I’m proud I’m allowed to be one of the crowd of the parachute infantry:
“Fighting men are we – fighting for our liberty.
“We’ll lick the Japs, the dirty rats, and we’ll get Hitler too;
“We’ll see him and his rotten gang in hell before we’re through.
"From the islands of the Philippines to the heart of Germany,
"You will hear our battle cry as we float down from the sky...
"I’m proud I’m allowed to become one of the crowd of the parachute infantry - "Hey!!" 1

The 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, less HQ & HQ Company 2nd Bn and Companies E and F which were picked up at Panama, departed San Francisco on October 20, 1942 and remained on board uintil debarking December 3, at Carirns, Queensland, Australia. These 43 days and 42 nights spent continuously aboard ship surpassed the previous record long held by Noah of biblical fame. Quite likely the Ark had better accommodations.

Presented to the attendees of the 1972 Reunion, courtesy of the North and South Carolina Chapter.

Published on 05/08/2018

1503rd Song by Cpl. Kenneth Brown, 503rd PIR HHC. November 1942. 503rd PRCT Association, WWII Archives.

Brown, Kenneth. The 503rd Song. 503rd PRCT Association, WWII Archives.

503rd PRCT Association, North and South Carolina Chapter. The 503rd Song, 1972 Reunion. 503rd PRCT Association, WWII Archives.

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