Adjutant General's Corps Regimental Association

LT James Reese Europe and the 369th “Harlem Hellfighters” Infantry Regiment Band

James Reese Europe was a leading composer and bandleader in New York City at the beginning of the 20th century. During this time, he was able to synthesize classical, ragtime, and march music to create a sound identity of the African-American community. He responded to criticism by saying, “We have developed a kind of symphony music that, no matter what else you think, is different and distinctive, and that lends itself to the playing of the peculiar compositions of our race … My success had come … from a realization of the advantages of sticking to the music of my own people.”

Europe originally enlisted in the New York National Guard, but was soon given a commission once his musical skill was discovered. He was charged with creating a band for the 369th Infantry Regiment which composed of African-American and Latino men. They were sent to France in December of 1917, eventually being assigned to the French Army, as American Soldiers refused to serve with the 369th troops. The French troops treated them fairly and were happy to have the help since they had already been fighting the Germans for many years. Unique to the 369th was their officers were also African-American, a first in the U.S. Army, of which Lieutenant Europe was one. The entire regiment was awarded the Croix de Guerre for their gallant service in the American Expeditionary Force.

The music of the 369th Band was an instant morale booster for their fellow troops and also connected French, British, and other European Allies to a uniquely American cultural creation. This identity of American culture persists to the present day, as European audiences are generally more accepting of ‘jazz’ music than the country where it was born. Upon the unit’s return in February of 1919, they led the parade through New York City, with many of the local black population in attendance. A proud moment to see their fellow countrymen marching in victory to music created and played by African-Americans.

The 369th Experience was organized for the centennial celebration of the end of World War I. The group carries on the tradition of James Reese Europe and educates its audiences about this important time in American History. Later in the 20th Century, the U.S. Government used the music of African-Americans to project a National Identity to the world. The world then responded back through the infusion of blues and jazz into their popular styles. Practically all popular music made today across the globe has traces of the rhythms and melodies created by the African-American community.

Check out the West Point Band performing some of James Reese Europe’s compositions.

LT Donald Waful returns to Fort Drum

In June of 2019, World War II Second Lieutenant (2LT) Donald Waful visited Fort Drum, NY. His one request of Major General Brian Mennes, Commanding General of Fort Drum, was to see his band play.

2LT Donald Waful graduated in Class Four of Officer Candidate School at Fort Knox, KY and was stationed for training at Fort Drum when it was then known as Pine Camp. While serving as a tank platoon commander in the 1st Armored Division, he was captured during operations in Tunisia in 1942. He spent the next three years as a Prisoner of War in Italy, Poland, and Germany. During his imprisonment he rose to the task of maintaining the morale of his fellow prisoners. Noted by friends as a “wicked trombone player”, LT Waful recruited musicians, singers, and dancers to create musical performance groups within the camps. Supplemented with music and instruments by the international YMCA based in Switzerland, LT Waful’s efforts are what notably kept the men in good spirits throughout those years.

While serving, he carried on a long-distance romance with Cassie, an Army nurse who served at Utah beach during the Normandy invasion and then the Battle of the Bulge. The two were engaged after their third date, and she waited three years for his release. At the end of the war, the two were married three weeks later in France by a French minister who spoke exactly zero English.

Music binds us together even in the worst of times. It connects across generations, bringing current Soldiers closer to those who served before them. The 10th Mountain Division Band continues to perpetuate service identity, traditions, and morale of their fellow Mountain Soldiers. They truly embody the spirit of their motto- Climb to Glory!

For more information about the 10th Mountain Division Band Click Here 

257th Army Band, Washington D.C. National Guard, Strengthens Partnerships with Burkina Faso

The Washington District of Columbia National Guard’s 257th Army Band traveled to Burkina Faso in support of the National Guard Bureau’s state partnership program in July 2019.

The 257th Band Team Leader, SFC Fred Marcellus, shares his experience with using music to build partnerships with the National Armed Forces of Burkina Faso’s military band.

See the Video Here