Lord, Guard and guide the men who fly

Lord guard and guide the men who fly
Through the great spaces of the sky;
Be with them traversing the air
In darkening storms or sunshine fair.

Thou who dost keep with tender might
The balanced birds in all their flight,
Thou of the tempered winds, be near,
That, having thee, they know no fear.

Aloft in solitudes of space,
Uphold them with thy saving grace.
O God, protect the men who fly
Thro' lonely ways beneath the sky.


These are the lyrics of the Official Hymn of the United States Air Force. Written by Henry Baker (1835-1910) an English civil engineer by profession, he considered himself to be a recreational musician. The prayer was composed by Mary C.D.Hamilton in 1915 during World War I with the transcript first appearing in the American Student Hymnal of 1928 set to Dona Nobis Pacem, a tune adapted from Mozart. Dona Nobis Pacem means “Grant us Peace”, and is taken from the Agnus Dei sung at the end of the Mass, attributed to John the Baptist and associated with the “kiss of Peace”. followed by a later association with the tune Hesperus found in the Armed Forces Hymnal of the 1950s.

There are many traditions found in the song and verse of the US Air Force. Courtesies to the Air Force Hymn are:

The Board of Christian Education in a small booklet published the earliest known source for this adaptation in 1943 titled A Book of Worship and Devotion for the Armed Forces

    ”Apparently, during or shortly after World War II, someone in the Navy familiar with the words above adapted this verse for choral rendition. The adaptation changed a word or two here and there and substituted two new fifth and six lines. What some might call the "Naval Aviation version.”

From this song the American Presbyterian Church took the first verse and the last two lines to the fourth verse using them to form new verse to the Navy hymn "Eternal Father, Strong to Save." You might be interested to know that the lines from this song are sung during the blockbuster-hit movie Titanic. It would have been impossible for the passengers and crew to sing this song since the ship sank on April 14, 1912. Mary Hamilton didn’t pen the words until almost a later.

Public Domain


Goofs for Titanic:

"Lord, Guard and Guide the Men Who Fly":

Public domain text taken from

South Windsor Community Chorus Program Notes:
www.swchorus.org/SWCCPages/ConcertSpring2002/ ProgramNotes.htm