Twilight Tattoo marks 238 years of Army history

US Army
Friday, June 14, 2013 - 11:25pm

At a reception before launching the pageantry of the Army's 238th birthday, Twilight Tattoo, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. John Campbell asked the audience to continue supporting and remembering Soldiers going into harm's way.

"Remember their families, remember our wounded warriors, and remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, we can never, ever forget that sacrifice," Campbell said. "Back in 1775, our nation needed a professional force. The Army stood up, and from 1775 to today, our Soldiers have been the strength of our nation, and they continue to do that along with our great families and our great civilians who represent the Army."

Following the reception, senior leaders, veterans and guests joined more than a 1,000 sightseers on the parade grounds of Summerall Field at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Arlington, Va., for performances by the various ceremonial units of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard).

The twilight tattoo dates back to the 1600s during the Thirty Years' War in central Europe in the low countries of Belgium and The Netherlands. Dutch fortresses were garrisoned with mercenary troops at the time. In the mid-evening, drummers from the garrison were sent into the towns to inform troops to return to their tents or barracks.

The process was known as "doe den tap toe" in Dutch. Translated, the phrase means "turn off the tap." Drumbeat taps served as instructions to innkeepers to stop serving beer and send troops back to the fort.

While the present day Twilight Tattoo no longer calls Soldiers home, the ceremony stresses the development, training and professionalism of the modern Army through the service's precision demonstration teams.

The hour-long show featured a cannon salute by the Presidential Salute Battery. Normally, the salute would have been rendered to Campbell as the senior official, but he requested the 17-gun salute be fired in recognition of all veterans who stood to the applause of the crowd.

The Army Fife and Drum Corps dressed in period costumes also treated the audience to its precision moves, as did the Army Drill Team with its 1903 Springfield rifles. Vocalists from the Army group "Downrange" encouraged audience participation by pulling youngsters onto the field to dance as they belted out non-military songs.

The evening performance was capped by the Army band "Perishing's Own," who through period music took the audience through the history of the American Soldier, with Old Guard Soldiers performing charges and combat scenarios in period uniforms from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam and into the present.

The history of the Twilight Tattoo in Washington can be traced to pre-World War II days when, on the grounds of then Fort Myer, Va., the 3rd Cavalry Regiment staged military shows to showcase its capabilities. 

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