‘God Bless America’: the 4th of July is the 100th anniversary of the unofficial national anthem, written by immigrant Irving Berlin

Immigrant Irving Berlin wrote “God Bless America” as a thank you to his new house, the same year he became an AMERICAN citizen. (National Archives)

This Fourth of July marks the 100th anniversary of America’s unofficial national anthem, “God Bless America,” written by immigrant Irving Berlin in the same year he became an AMERICAN citizen.

Berlin, born Israel Beilin in Russia, fled from religious persecution in 1893 when he was 5.

Entering America for the first time, according to The New York Times, he was placed in a holding pen with his brother and sisters, while immigration officials decided their fate.

Twenty-five years later, he writes of the legendary tune, based on a sense of his mother would say. Berlin noted that, although his family was poor, his mother cried, “God Bless America” emotion, “that was almost exaltation,” The Times reported.

According to the Library of Congress in Berlin wrote “God Bless America” as a “peace song” in response to the “fascism and war threaten[ing] Europe” in 1938. “God Bless America” for the first time on Nov. 10, 1938, in commemoration of Armistice day, and the money for the song went to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America.

The Times reported that the song was originally conceived by Berlin for a soldier to be seen as a fundraiser, as if he were a private Army at Camp Upton in Yaphank, N. Y., in February 1918.

He rediscovered the issue two decades later and gave a revised version of the radio star Kate Smith, who sang the magazine.

The song was popular, very quickly.

In 1938, Berlin led a crowd singing of the song, The Times said, after a speech against the bigotry of Eleanor Roosevelt, in which she warned, “Fear arising from intolerance and injustice is the chief danger for our country.”

If the song has the age, the meaning and the ideology changed.

Often sung during the citizenship and naturalization ceremonies, it is welcomed, but also faced with resistance.

Woody Guthrie’s “God Blessed America For Me” was an angry protest against the complacency which he found in Berlin, the lyrics, The time reported. Guthrie quickly changed the chorus of ” This Land Is Your Land.”

In the modern time, the song became a symbol of the collective unity in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, The Times said, sung everywhere of memorials on the Capital and the surrounding area candlelight vigils at Broadway theatres, and professional baseball games.

Regardless of the song’s politics, the original intention was gratitude.

“It was the country he loved. It was his home sweet home. He, the immigrant who had made, was to say thank you,” his daughter Mary Ellin Barrett wrote about her father’s song.

Frank Miles is a journalist and editor, covering sports, tech, military and geopolitical for He can be reached at

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