A 99-year-old World War II veteran’s rendition of “God Bless America” at a Pennsylvania minor league baseball game on Tuesday night has gone viral.
“Raymond T. Mohr, who served as a radio operator with the Army’s 29th Infantry Division and landed on Omaha Beach the day after D-Day, received a standing ovation from the Lehigh Valley IronPigs’ crowd after the touching performance,” Fox News reported.
The IronPigs are a Triple-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies located in Allentown.
This video of 99-year-old WWII Veteran Raymond T. Mohr singing "God Bless America" is easily the best thing you'll see today. pic.twitter.com/aBwRrbXwBt
— Lehigh Valley IronPigs (@IronPigs) May 30, 2018
The team shared a video of Mohr singing the song on its Facebook page on Tuesday night, describing it as an “incredible moment.” The video has already garnered over 100,000 views and has been picked up by various media outlets.
Team catcher Nick Rickles also posted a picture of himself shaking Mohr’s hand at the military appreciation night game.
— Nick Rickles (@NickRickles) May 30, 2018
“God Bless America” was written by playwright and World War I veteran Irving Berlin during the final year of the conflict in 1918.
He had intended to use it in an all-soldier revue called “Yip, Yip, Yaphank,” but decided it did not fit and shelved the tune for 20 years, according to Sheryl Kaskowitz, the author of “God Bless America: The Surprising History of an Iconic Song.”
In 1938, with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany on the rise in Europe, Berlin decided it was time to dust it off.
The song was first performed by Kate Smith during an Armistice Day (now Veterans Day) commemoration, marking the anniversary of the end of World War I.
The opening lyrics, which are not often sung, were particularly poignant at the time with the storm clouds of war rising in Europe as Germany seized Austria in the spring of 1938. Additionally, Japan was on the march in Asia, entering into a full-scale war with China in 1937.
“While the storm clouds gather far across the sea, let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free,” Berlin’s song begins. “Let us all be grateful for a land so fair, as we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.”
“God bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her through the night with a light from above. From the mountains to the prairies to the oceans white with foam. God bless America, my home sweet home. God bless America, my home sweet home.”
The patriotic ballad first appeared on the big screen in 1943’s World War II film “This is the Army” starring future President Ronald Reagan. The movie was based on Berlin’s 1942 Broadway musical of the same name.
The song became a staple at Reagan presidential campaign rallies in the 1980s.
“God Bless America” rose to the fore again following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, as it was sung at many public events including during the 7th inning stretch at major league baseball games.
The full version of the song was sung by actress and singer Megan Hilty at this year’s National Memorial Day Concert on Sunday night in Washington, D.C.
Watch the entire concert, which aired on PBS, here.
Berlin donated all the proceeds from the song to the Boy Scouts of America.
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