Humanities › History & Culture Meaning Behind the World War I Song 'Over There' Share Flipboard Email Print Bettmann Archive / Getty Images History & Culture The 20th Century Early 20th Century People & Events Fads & Fashions The 20s The 30s The 40s The 50s The 60s The 80s The 90s American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History Women's History View More By Jennifer Rosenberg History Expert B.A., History, University of California at Davis Jennifer Rosenberg is a historian and writer who specializes in 20th-century history. our editorial process Jennifer Rosenberg Updated July 31, 2019 The song "Over There" was one of the most famous songs of World War I. "Over There" proved to be an inspiration both to the young men who were being sent to fight the war as well as to those on the home front who worried about their loved ones. The Meaning Behind the Lyrics On the morning of April 6, 1917, newspaper headlines across America announced the news that the United States had declared war on Germany. While most people who read the newspaper headlines that morning tried to comprehend how their lives were going to change, one man started humming. That may seem like an odd reaction to most people, but not for George M. Cohan. George Cohan was an actor, singer, dancer, songwriter, playwright, and Broadway producer who had composed hundreds of songs, including such famous songs as “You're a Grand Old Flag,” “Mary's a Grand Old Name,” "Life's a Funny Proposition After All," “Give My Regards to Broadway,” and “I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy.” So it is perhaps not completely surprising that Cohan's reaction to reading the headlines that morning was to hum, but few might have expected Cohan's humming to be the start of a very popular song. Cohan continued to hum all morning and soon began to compose a few lyrics. By the time Cohan arrived at work that morning, he already had the verses, chorus, tune, and title of what became the very popular "Over There." "Over There" was an instant success, selling over 2 million copies by the end of the war. Perhaps the most popular version of "Over There" was sung by Nora Bayes, but Enrico Caruso and Billy Murray sang beautiful renditions as well. The song "Over There" is about the "Yanks" (the Americans) going "over there" (across the Atlantic) to help fight the "Huns" (what the Americans called the Germans at the time) during World War I. In 1936, Cohan was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for writing the song, and it experienced a revival in World War II when the United States again faced Germany in war. Lyrics to 'Over There' Johnnie get your gun, get your gun, get your gunTake it on the run, on the run, on the runHear them calling you and meEvery son of liberty Hurry right away, no delay, go todayMake your daddy glad to have had such a ladTell your sweetheart not to pineTo be proud her boy's in line. CHORUS (repeated twice):Over there, over thereSend the word, send the word over thereThat the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are comingThe drums are rum-tumming everywhere So prepare, say a prayerSend the word, send the word to bewareWe'll be over there, we're coming overAnd we won't come back till it's over over there.Over there. Johnnie get your gun, get your gun, get your gunJohnnie show the Hun you're a son of a gunHoist the flag and let her flyYankee Doodle do or die Pack your little kit, show your grit, do your bitYankees to the ranks from the towns and the tanksMake your mother proud of youAnd the old Red White and Blue. CHORUS (repeated twice):Over there, over thereSend the word, send the word over thereThat the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are comingThe drums are rum-tumming everywhere So prepare, say a prayerSend the word, send the word to bewareWe'll be over there, we're coming overAnd we won't come back till it's over over there.Over there.