Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Garryowen

I still have a really good question I’m gonna answer for SGT (soon to be 2LT) Lee…but since this is an area that is of particular interest to me, I’m gonna hook HighwindNY up first. You’ll see in a minute why I like this question so much.

“…speaking about history, the only thing that boggles me about the U.S Army is the "Gary Owen" motivation cry. who is he? what is his significance to the 7th Air Calvary?”

The 7th Cavalry has a long proud tradition, but is most famous for two episodes in American history.

First, it was the 7th Cavalry that rode out from Powder River under the command of LTC George Armstrong Custer in 1876 to meet it’s fate at Little Big Horn at the hands of the Oglala Sioux, led by Crazy Horse and Gall, along with contingents from five other tribes. For those of you who have absolutely NO grasp of history at all, the result of General Custer’s overconfidence was the complete slaughter of a large part of the regiment. One hundred and Ninety Seven soldiers died in about twenty minutes. The only known survivor was a horse named Comanche. I won’t get into the politics of it all except to say that both sides did what they had to do and both sides fought like true warriors.

The second well known action by the 7th Cavalry took place in the Ia DrangValley of South Vietnam in 1965. I won’t elaborate too much, since most of you have (hopefully) seen the movie We Were Soldiers, starring Mel Gibson, or read the book it was based on, We Were Soldiers Once… and Young by Joe Galloway and LTC Hal Moore. If you haven’t…the 7th Cavalry had become the 7th Air Cav by this time (pioneers of the Airmobile/Air Assault techniques still used today), and fought the first MAJOR battle of the Vietnam war.

Now on to Gary Owen…

Gary Owen is actually Garryowen…all one word… and it is the Regimental marching song of the famous 7th Cavalry.

Who is he? Well…it’s actually not a he…or even a person. Garryowen (all one word) comes from 2 different gaelic words (Garrai and Oein) that translate roughly to Owen’s garden. Garryowen is a town in County Limerick, Ireland. Thanks to a reputation as a rowdy, wild place it was immortalized in an Irish quickstep in around 1860.

As the story goes, one of the Irish troopers in Custer’s command was singing the song while having a wee bit o’ spirits one night around the fire. The song is a natural for the cavalry as the beat translates well to the rhythm of galloping horses. LTC Custer heard the song and liked it so much it soon became a favorite of the Regiment. It was the last tune played by the Regimental band as they rode out towards Little Big Horn.

The tune became the official “Air” of the Regiment in 1867 and actually became the official tune of the entire 1st Cavalry Division in 1981.

The significance of the tune in the Regiment’s history led to it being incorporated into the Regimental crest, along with the raised saber.


When Soldiers salute an officer, they also traditionally give the “greeting of the day” or the regimental motto. So when any soldier, anywhere, in the 7th Cav salutes, they sound off with “Garry Owen, Sir!” This will also occasionally be used the same way that “Hooah” is used throughout the Army or “OOORAH” is used in the Marine Corps. A good example of the emotion this can contain is a scene in We Were Soldiers where a young trooper is finally reunited with the unit after being cut off for the entire night. I can’t explain the emotion, you have to watch the movie I guess to know what I mean.

Anyway, it’s enough to say that the members of the 7th Cavalry take a lot of pride in this part of their history.

The reason I am so interested in the 7th Cavalry (never having served with them) is this...

My father in law served with 1/7th Cavalry in Vietnam. He arrived around 6 months to a year after the engagement at LZ Xray, and served with them until he was wounded and sent to the hospital in Pleiku. He was a 1LT, a Forward Observer, and a great soldier. (Incidentally he also commanded a Basic Training Company here at Ft Jackson for awhile as a Lieutenant.)

When I met my wife, and went to meet her family eventually, I was a little nervous. We hit it off immediately, and I realized that I was lucky indeed, not only to have found a great woman, but a great set of “in-laws” also. I think both of us being soldiers and talking about his experiences in Vietnam and my experience in the modern Infantry went a long way to set us both at ease lol.

My Father in law, 1LT George W…


If you look closely, you can see a Regimental crest, featuring the words “Garry Owen” pinned on his fatigues.

If I remember correctly this was taken only a few days before he was shot and wounded.

If you’re interested, here are both sets of lyrics to the song Garry Owen. The first is the original lyrics, and the second is the lyrics adopted later by the 7th Cavalry.

Original Version

Let Bacchus' sons be not dismayed
But join with me, each jovial blade
Come, drink and sing and lend your aid
To help me with the chorus:

Chorus
Instead of spa, we'll drink brown ale
And pay the reckoning on the nail;
No man for debt shall go to jail
From Garryowen in glory.

We'll beat the bailiffs out of fun,
We'll make the mayor and sheriffs run
We are the boys no man dares dun
If he regards a whole skin.

Chorus

Our hearts so stout have got no fame
For soon 'tis known from whence we came
Where'er we go they fear the name
Of Garryowen in glory.
Chorus

7TH Cavalry Version

1.
We are the pride of the army,

And a regiment of great renown,

Our name’s on the pages of history,

From sixty six on down.

If you think we stop or falter,

While into the fray we’re goin’

Just watch the step with our heads erect

When our band plays "Garry Owen."

Chorus

In the Fighting Seventh’s the place for me.

It’s the cream of all the cavalry;

No other regiment ever can claim

It’s pride, honor, glory, and undying fame.

2.
We know no fear when stern duty

Calls us far away from home,

Our country’s flag shall sagely o’er us wave,

No matter where we roam.

T’is the gallant Seventh Cavalry,

It matters not where we’re goin’

such you’ll surely say as we march away,

When our band plays "Garry Owen."

3.
Then hurrah for our brave commanders!

Who lead us into the fight.

We’ll do or die in our country’s cause.

And battle for the right.

And when the war is o’er

And to our home we’re goin’

Just watch the step, with our head erect,

When our band plays, "Garry Owen."


Well, I hope this answers your question... I enjoyed writing it.

52 Comments:

Anonymous Lupe Flores said...

Hey thanks for the info. I was wondering what Gary Owen meant. That movie We were soldiers.. is my favorite, i've watched it numerous times. I also like that part when those two soldiers rejoin the line and the small guy says Gary Owen,sir to the colonel. My favorite part is when there first boarding the choppers and they all yell Gary owen and start loading the choppers. If you Know of any good websites with some good pictures of this battle, email me @ aboveallgood@sbcglobal.com
I want to see some pictures of everything. not just poses of soldiers, I want to see what they were seeing. Thanks Lupe. by the way that's a cool picture of your father-in-law, man he was young and far away from home.

7:29 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

I just saw a Military Channel show about the Korean War. The 7th Calvary, according to the show was MacAuthors favorite Regiment, were the first large contingent of US troops to enter Korea after the initial invasion from the North Koreans. They played Gary Owen when they showed them landing. Pretty cool.

11:37 PM  
Anonymous graeme ex uk special forces said...

very informative. we were soldiers is a very powerful film. Good to see it from the side of the wifes to ...I did the falklands and the gulf and neaver thought of it that way...gonna get the books now...always been interested in the nam and amazed at the loss of life at both ends...

3:54 PM  
Blogger Centurion said...

Garryowen was also the regimental march of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR). The Ulster Defence Regiment was an infantry regiment of the British Army formed in 1970 to assist with security duties within Northern Ireland. It was the largest regiment in the British Army, formed with an initial seven battalions and an extra four added later. It amalgamated in 1992 with the Royal Irish Rangers, forming the Royal Irish Regiment. In 2007 the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross was awarded to the regiment by Queen Elizabeth II for its service during Operation BANNER and the regiment is now allowed to use the postnominal letters CGC as part of its name (The Ulster Defence Regiment CGC).

6:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was with B Troop 4/7 Korea 1968-1969 13 mos 29 days. I can't find any info about my unit. I was mostly in the DMZ looking For UI's we were mec not choppers M-48's ,113, 114's gun-jeeps and M-14teens cold in the winter, hot in the summer,wet during the monsoons and the rest of the time we ate dust.

Garryowen
D.A.MItch

4:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neat information. My interest stems from my Grandfather having been 7th CAV Commander when they battled on Luzon and on to Tokyo with MacArthur. His name was Colonel Finnegan. Garry Owen my friend and thanks for the website!

11:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just an old E-5. My squad was the best! "Garry Owen" Sir! I lost Sean Gallagher. He was the best 11-Bravo I ever knew. He was a buddy and a friend...AND...he could shoot the eye out of a gnat at 200 yards! And 41 years later...I still drink a toast to him...his favorite drink..."Black Jack" Straight-Up...with a smoked oyster.

7:45 PM  
Anonymous David Brill said...

FYI The song Garry Owen can be dated back to at least 1788. The story about Custer liking the song and adopting it seems to be pretty universal so it is probably true. My father served in the 7th Regiment, First Division USCC when they still were equestrian and fought through WW II. I will post a quiz for you readers: what is the motto of the First Cavalry. Remember that the division was created in 1922. The slogan "The First Team" was adopted in 1944 (my father was there). The division had a motto in 1922. That is the question.

9:05 AM  
Blogger tomslife7 said...

i would like to have the garyowen ringtone so does anyone have it or could make it for me, Ilove the history of Custer

8:45 PM  
Blogger Garry said...

I am a Chief Petty Officer (E7) of a 20 year career in the US Navy, but my first and continuing love is the US Army's Seventh Cavalry. My father was in the Seventh when I was born in the post hospital of Fort Brown, Texas, and continued so until he retired in 1945. His name being Owens, and his nick name "Garry," as a result of the Seventh's motto and song, it seems almost inevitable that his first born child would be named "Garry Owens." The foregoing postings on this blog is really great information. I know of a few minor differences, but .... I have the music and words of the song Garryowen and could play it for Tom, but it is kinda hard to do via email. There is a store in Montana that qualifies as a town. It is named Garryowen and is for sale. It includes some of the ground of the battle of the Little Big Horn 0f 1875. Also, I have a son, a grand son, and a great grand son, all named Garry Owens.

Garryowen, Sir! Ooorah!
Garry Owens

5:01 PM  
Blogger tomslife7 said...

Tomslife here I would like the help to do a ringtone about Gen. Custer called GARYOWEN for my blackberry cell phone don't know how to do this Love Gen. Custers history.Tom

6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the line in the song "We are the boys no man dares dun
If he regards a whole skin." refers to a game/contest with medieval roots: "dun in the mire". Much like "smear the queer" of my childhood (sorry you PC folks... we really did call it that) you basically tried to tackle whomever had the football... or in their case was the "dun". (dunce? dimwit?)

5:27 PM  
Blogger Tina said...

Thank you so much for the explanation of the song "Garyowen".
I watched Errol Flynn in the movie "They died with their boots on" and heard the song. I googled it and found your site. The movie was very educational what can happen to a glorious man like General George Armstrong Custer and Errol Flynn portrait him excellently, what a great actor he was. Just like General Custer he also was betrayed and sold out too.
Thank you for all the explanations this site gives.
We must never forget our brave soldiers who have given their lives over centuries for us. Shall they always be remembered with "Garyowen" and our devotion. If it wouldn't be for them we would not live the lives we live. Only thanks to them we live in a free country.
Tina Nyary

1:14 AM  
Anonymous Bob H said...

The Garyowen dates back as far as the late 1650's. It was originaly a drinking song in Garyowen in Limerick Ireland and became an Irish marching song. The english got to know it well because there was always an Irish regiment along with it trying to drive them out of Eire! It was the Regimental song of the 69th New York Vols in the Civil war and still is since they became the 165th US Infantry in WW1.

12:42 AM  
Blogger Bariebel said...

To Bob H.
Thank you for the information. It is wonderful to find out the details, which never should be forgotten and which always should stand in tribute to the millions of soldiers who gave their life for our freedom.

8:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Add in the 7th kicking crap out of the Iraqis in the desert, and you got your next chapter of history of the Regiment.

"GARRY OWEN, SIR!"

11:46 PM  
Blogger kimberly sayer said...

Garryowen/The Cambells are coming, also known as Garyowen, Garry Owen and Gary Owens, is an Irish tune for a quickstep dance.costa rica fishingThe origins of Garryowen is a tune more associated with the clan Campbells. The Campbells Are Coming, the words of which are said to have been composed about the Jacobite uprising of 1715.
http://www.fishingcostaricaexperts.com

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I served with the Cav from 1969 to 1970. I was stationed with B Co., 227th Assault Helicopter Bn., another highly decorated unit. We flew numerous combat asault sortees, mostly with 1/9th Cav and 2/7th Cav (the REAL Custer's Cav). They thought we were crazy for what we did, we felt likewise toward them. I will never forget the day a 2/7th trooper pointed out a bunker to me as we came into a hot LZ. Saved out butts! I don't care what history writes, these folks were true professionals and add pride to the term "grunt". I loved them all; those that came home alive and those we brought home inpieces. Garry Owen!

11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gary Owen was also the song of the
University Greys, the Confederate
unit made up of University of Mississippi students. Their band
played it as they advanced with
Pickett at Gettysburg.

6:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the motto of the 1st Cavalry Division in 1922 was "Live the Legend"

2:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Garry Owen Sir! 2/7 Pleiku 1968
First In, Last Out!
Doc

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Garry Owen Whipkey said...

My name is Garry Owen Whipkey, both of my Maternal Grandparents were born in Ireland and my Mother, God rest her soul, was aa Irish Nut. So it's pretty cool to read the history of Garryowen and the 7th Cav.

1:37 PM  
Anonymous pink commie fag said...

You forgot to mention the massacre of 300 unarmed Oglala Sioux (mostly women and children) at Wounded Knee on Dec. 29, 1890 by the 7th Cavalry.

A long, proud tradition indeed.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Anthony said...

Sounds like they were great shots Too!

3:16 PM  
Blogger Jim P said...

"Garryowen" has been around for a long time, as several Irish units of the British army used it.

I am not sure who was first into Korea to defend it from the northern invasion, but I know this much---the US 2nd Infantry division, 9th Inf. Reg. was one of the first. My dad was there!

2:00 PM  
Anonymous centurion said...

Want to find out more about Garryowen and the connection with ex-members of the Ulster Defence Regiment then visit www.garryowen.org.uk

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fuck u pricks custer was a fuckin butcher and a murderer.how u can even glory in his name makes me sick and air cav are pussies.u never won anything except against a bunch of camel jockys. Long live the British army full of victories and history .

11:16 AM  
Anonymous goose said...

at little big horn three regiments were involved,7th was in the middle,flanked by two other units whose staff decided to Delay the battle.they just never told custer.learn your history. and anony... grow up and get with to 21st century.that was life at the time!

2:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Garryowen is a town in Big Horn County, Montana, United States. The "Townhall" currently houses a Conoco gas station and convenience store, a Subway, an arts & crafts store called "The Trading Post," and the Custer Battlefield Museum. Garryowen is located on the same lands that the southern edge of Sitting Bull's encampment once sat upon. Major Reno and his detachment fired the first shots just a few hundred yards away from Garryowen. In 1895, the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad established a tiny station on the Little Bighorn River, where water was taken on and US Army troops, supplies and mail were off-loaded for delivery to nearby forts and homesteads. This station was called Garryowen, after the marching song of George Custer's 7th Cavalry. When the Crow Reservation lands were created in 1868, Garryowen became part of the Crow's holdings, but the land was later sold by the tribe and the Federal government to private citizens. By 1926, the "town" of Garryowen was in private hands, but still consisted of little more than a small market. I HAVE BEEN THERE..

12:50 PM  
Anonymous nhgranite said...

Many tribes down through recorded and verbal history tried to control areas the size of Wyoming and other locations. they vied with one another exactly like gangs do today. They defeated each other militarily and other ways. And did not hesitate to torture prisoners. Who did what to whom first belongs to the ages though the Trail of Tears was a disgrace and a blot on the American government and its relationship with the original tribes who lived here;it is balanced out by "Gary Owen, Sir!" and other sacrifices by our modern soldiers who have fought for freedom and our constitutional government. But the way our military is being treated and used for the sake of pc social experimentation with all the affirmative action hiring, repealing "don't ask, don't tell", putting a thousand chicks on an aircraft carrier with 4000 guys and not expecting any funny business, or how about coed basic training? I can't really see females Army or Marine getting into "What is the spirit of the bayonet? Kill Without Mercy, Drill Sargent!" as they pounded it literally into us in Basic at FT. Benning-'67 (25th DV-Tropic Lightning-Iron Triangle, 68-70)

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Anonymous BadButchLaRue said...

In the movie the Rough Riders, there is a scene where the Rough Riders are boarding a Train for Florida. On the loading platform is a lady dresssed in period attire singing Gary Owen. I never knew there were lyrics to the song, and in Rough Riders, she sings it correctly with a very fast tempo. It is indeed an inspiring song/music for us Soldiers about to leave home and fight,be wounded severely or to die and give his all.
I am surprised film directors have not used it more often. It does make you stand a little taller, and fight a little harder after hearing, Gary Owen.
SGT. LeBrun (retired) 3rd Infantery Division, Field Artillery.

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Anonymous Curt said...

"GarryOwen Pipes & Drums" It's a little know fact that a number of 7th Cav units have had Bagpipe Bands. These bands were on the Sqdrn level and performed locally in the countrys where they were based. The "GarryOwen Pipes & Drums were fisrt formed in Japan in 1954 and were disbanned as part of the 3rd Sqdrn 7th US Calvary in 1972, Schweinfurt, Germany. You can see pictures of these American Bagpipers by visiting the US 7th Cav Association at http://us7thcavalry.com. Just click on Regimental Band. You'll be surprized.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dad was C-2/7 in the Ia Drang. I have the pleasure of knowing many of those who survived and hearing the stories of many who didn't. My son will only know the stories and photos of my father and I am thankful for those that keep tradition and heart alive.

7:53 PM  
Blogger CoachWP said...

There is a lot of pride associated with the 7th. I was a member of Alpha Company 1/7 Cav during the Vietnam War. I was there from the beginning when we were the 11th Air Assault on Maneuvers with the 82nd Airborn at Camp MaCall North Carolina in 1964. In 1965 we became the 1st Cavalry Division. Col Harold Moore was our Battalion Commander, and there was never a greater man..Capt. Tony Nadal was our Company Commander. "Garry Owen"

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

To this day I say Garyowen and salute often,2/7cav 1968 lz evans to anloc,Iwas psywar man for the 7cav most 2/7 wounded in Cambodia.what a club.J Wedden

4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a member of the then "11th Air Assault Division (Test) at Ft. Benning, GA in 1963-1964, we were very proud to learn later that the Division of "Sky Soldiers" proved worthy to be activated officialy and went to the Vietnam War as the 1st Cavalry Air Mobile (1st Air Cav).

11:18 PM  
Blogger trailspike49 said...

When in the O club or NCO club in Vietnam we sang more words than those included here. I can only remember a few words:

In the valley of the IDrang all alone............
There are better days to be for the 7th Calvary, when we march again for good ol GarryOwen.

The words were typed out and available in the Vietnam clubs.

Does anyone have the words I'm talking about?
airfarce9 at hotmail dot com

5:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Served as a Huey crewchief with the Cav. Have very fond and sad memories of that time. Watched the movie we were soldiers it took me three tries before I could watch it all the way thru, damn sure glad that I did. I see these young troopers of today and my heart swells and my eyes tear with pride.
Garry Owen Sir!

7:44 PM  
Blogger Ron Hutchins said...

Hey,
If anyone has any pictures of A trp 1/7 cav cobras in Vietnam it would be greatly appreciated. I am restoring a Cobra helicopter for a museum 68-17063 and would like some images of original markings to put on it.
Thanks in advance if anyone can furnish some of these.

Former Vietnam Vet Crewcheif/doorgunner.

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Iam said...

Read most of the comments. I would like to add the following: "Garryowen was an old Irish quick-step that can be traced back to the 1680's." It probably also stems from something before this. It is one of the most popular folk song of Ireland. The name "Garryowen" is a compound English word composed of two Irish words, Garrai (the Irish word for Garden) and Eoin (the Irish word for the name John, referencing King John's Castle - a local Limerick landmark}. "O-in" or "Oh-en", was phonically transformed to "Owen" in the English language, which translates into the single compound English word, written without a capital "O", as Garryowen.
Irish regiments used it as a drinking song. General Custer adopted it as his regimental song because the melody had a lively beat that accentuated the cadence of marching horses.
So, it appears the "Garryowen" was transformed over the years and served different purposes.
During WWI, the Motto: "Gentle when stroked - Fierce when provoked" refers to the Irish Wolfhounds, which were its Mascots, and which appeared on its crest and dress cap badges of 1861.
I hope this helps and adds to the history of Garryowen/Gary Owen.

7:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I gut a belly full of whisky and case of flash back blues was mit the 7th at Xray work as a 11B LOVE YA GARRY OWENS








10:51 PM  
Anonymous pete said...

excellent write up, but the 7th Cav and Custer borrowed this tune from the Fighting Irish Regiment of New York, the 69th Infantry. The 69th adopted the song before the Civil War and long before Custer.

7:22 PM  

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