Gee, But I Wanna Go Home

Adapted from original by Lt. Gitz Rice

When we think of servicemen and women during wartime, combat usually comes to mind, but this song never mentions combat. What does it focus on instead? Why? G.I.'s spend more time waiting or doing drills and chores than fighting.

What was the target of most of the complaints in this song, mentioned in three of the verses? Food. Why was food such a target? Were G.I.'s malnourished? They were the best fed of any nation. What is the symbolic value of food?

The saying "Hurry up and wait" comes from World War II servicemen. What aspects of the daily military life probably inspired that saying? Someone has said that war is months of monotony punctuated by moments of sheer terror. What battles or campaigns during World War II were preceded by long waits? Invasions of North Africa, Italy, and D-Day. What do soldiers and sailors do when they aren't in battle?

"Gee, But I Wanna Go Home" performed by Leadbelly on That's Why We're Marching, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Folkways [SF40021], © 1996. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

The recommended recording is by Huddie Ledbetter (1885–1949), better known as Leadbelly, who is joined in the chorus by a group of friends. When this song was recorded in the mid to late 1940s, Leadbelly was a favorite of the recording industry. He was known for his distinctive style of singing and playing the 12-string guitar, as well as his vast repertoire of folk songs.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult this online source:

Lt. Gitz Rice Songbook
Lt. Gitz Rice Songbook

This song is an adaptation of a British song from World War I and was immensely popular during World War II. The original, composed by Lt. Gitz Rice, includes the following lyrics:

I want to go home,
I want to go home
The bullets they whistle,
The cannons they roar,
I don't want to stay here anymore;
Take me over the sea,
Where the Germans can't get me,
O my, I'm too young to die,
I want to go home.

The second line of the chorus (which is also the song title) is set to a melody that implies a long, slow sigh.


marking time: Marching in place.


Compare this song to:

"Goober Peas" (Unit 4)

Ask veterans to tell you stories recalled by this song. What were the most irritating things about military life? What was the worst "detail"? How did they relieve boredom? How did life change in active combat zones? Ask if they remember any other verses of this song that their outfits made up.

Servicemen commonly made up new verses to this song to fit it to their own situations. The TV show M*A*S*H had an episode when each member took a turn making up a verse about his or her job ("The surgeons in the Army," nurses, chaplains, etc.). Make up more verses using Army or Navy jobs: infantry, artillery, MP, pilots, medics, cooks, mechanics, etc.



Creative Commons License
Voices Across Time is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at