The history of the 42nd Infantry Division Band is tied in with the history of the 42nd Infantry Division. The 42nd Infantry Division was created in August of 1917 and consisted of the best National Guard regiments from 26 different states. Colonel (later General) Douglas MacArthur commented that the component regiments of the new division would "stretch over the whole country like a rainbow", and thus the 42nd Infantry Division thereafter became known as the "Rainbow Division".

At the time, Army Bands existed at the regimental level, with each of the component regiments fielding their own band. The "Rainbow Division March", the first official musical piece associated with the 42nd Division, was penned in 1918 by Danny Nirella, an Italian immigrant and musician who resided in Pittsburgh, PA. It was an extremely popular march and was recorded by former Sousa trombonist Arthur Pryor's Orchestra. Pryor was a recording pioneer, and his orchestra was one of the most popular bands in the country at the time; the record was a huge seller. The 42nd Division itself fought well and became one of the most decorated formations in the American Expeditionary Force.

The 42nd Infantry Division was deactivated after World War One, and its component units returned to their home states...but not before the now famous rainbow shoulder sleeve quarter-arc insignia (meant to symbolize the half of the Division which became casualties during the war) was officially authorized for wear in 1922!

The 42nd Infantry division was reconstituted and reactivated in 1943 for service in World War II. Coincident to that was the abolition of regimental bands that same year. Army Bands were thereafter authorized only at the division level and higher, and thus the 42nd Infantry Division Band was created. The Band's first commander was a gentleman named Herman C. Giersch.

A young composer, Norman Monath, was serving as a musician with the 42nd infantry Division Band when the Division Commander, Major General Harry J. Collins requested that he compose a song for the Division. In 1944, "There's a Rainbow in the Army" was published, and remains the 42nd Infantry Division's official song to this day. Monath would go on to become a composer of popular tunes, music for motion pictures (including the iconic "Blackboard Jungle"), and an author of numerous books on music and chess.

The 42nd Infantry Division made history during WWII, being one of the first American units to break the Siegfried Line; among their other exploits, the Division liberated 30,000 inmates of the notorious Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. The Band was right there with them.

The 42nd Infantry Division was made a permanent National Guard formation in 1947, with headquarters in New York City and later Troy, NY where its headquarters remain to this day. Its component units have been reorganized many times over the years, but the Band remained, operating out of the 14th Street Armory in NYC and later the Freeport, NY Armory on Long Island.

In 2004-2005, the 42nd infantry Division Band was activated along with other units in the Division for service in Iraq, relieving the 1st Infantry Division. The 42nd ID Band became the first National Guard Band mobilized for Federal service since the Korean War. Upon returning home, the 42nd Infantry Division Band was amalgamated with the 199th Army Band (the oldest band in the National Guard, dating back to 1849), absorbing not only its fine musicians but also its lineage. In 2006, the 42nd Infantry Division Band moved from the Freeport Armory to its new (and current) home at Camp Smith in Cortlandt Manor, NY.

In 2008, the Band went to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, where they performed at a veterans' reunion of former 42nd Infantry Division Band members. The guest conductor for the evening was none other than the Band's original commander, Mr. Herman C. Giersch, who conducted "There's a Rainbow in the Army" and "Stars and Stripes Forever".

In 2012, the Band was mobilized by the Governor of New York for state active duty following hurricane Sandy and, along with other components of the New York Army National Guard, assisted with cleanup efforts and the guarding of downed power lines which helped Con Edison personnel to more quickly restore power.

To this day and for years to come, the 42nd Infantry Division Band will continue to uphold the finest traditions of the US Army and New York Army National Guard, as well as the proud heritage of the 42nd Infantry "Rainbow" Division...

Shoulder Sleeve Insignia

Distinctive Unit Insignia