Air Force Uber Alles

trongodeon says:
The Air Force apparently never checked with a German historian before announcing their new motto.
Link to image, don't want to spoil the schadenfreude. (thanks, Jake!)


  1. The logo also has an awesome Starship Troopers totalitarian sci-fi future kinda feel. Someone page Dr. Howser.

  2. Well, very appropriate since the USA is walking steady to become a fascist state, as Germany was in the beginning of the 20th century when the anthem was introduced.

  3. 1) The post title kind of ruins the schadenfreude anyway. :)

    2) Ironically, the song you’re referring to so mysteriously was adopted as the national anthem in 1922 and the lyrics were written in the 1840s, long before the Nazis ruined it for everybody.

    Its original meaning wasn’t a call for Germans to be “above all” other nations, but for the ideal of a free, democratic, united Germany to be “above all” the petty, tyrannical monarchies that governed a divided German people in the 1840s. For that reason, it was banned by most German monarchies. It was adopted as the national anthem by the liberal Weimar Republic, who believed they’d left behind arbitrary despotism and finally reached the idealist goal of a united and democratic Deutschland.

  4. Prufrock: That’s a bit like claiming the swastika is just a Hindu good luck charm. The Nazis did ruin it for everyone, just as they’ve ruined spiffy black-and-silver for military uniforms, lightning bolt insignias, and a lot of other things they were unfortunately very good at. The design aesthetic of Nazi Germany was so strong that it’s put a lot of strong visual impact off limits for several generations– including mine. Heck, smart designers don’t even go near red, black, white and quadrilateral symmetry mixes anymore.

    I do not, however, count sh*tty little mustaches as part of that strong design aesthetic.

    This is just a bad move on the Air Force’s part. The connotations are just too strong; ask the Dead Kennedys. Hopefully, the backlash will be effective.

  5. Yes, shouldn’t it more like, “this blogger should read more German history before telling the Air Force to read more German history” ?

    It’s kneejerkiness. According to Wikipedia,

    “The music was written by Joseph Haydn in 1797 as anthem for the birthday of the Austrian Emperor Francis II of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser, which became the Austrian Emperors’ anthem till the end of monarchy in 1918. In 1797 Haydn used it also for the second movement of his String Quartet No. 62 in C major, Op. 76, No. 3 (which is thus also known as Kaiserquartett).”

    “On 11 August 1922, President Friedrich Ebert made all three official stanzas of Das Lied der Deutschen the official German national anthem…”

    “During the Nazi era, the first stanza was heavily used, unlike the second and especially the third, which did not fit at all into the agenda with its “freedom and justice”[citation needed]. Instead, the Horst-Wessel-Lied was played after the first stanza.”

    “In 1945, after the end of World War II, singing Das Lied der Deutschen was banned for some time by the allies, due to its use by the Nazis, as were other symbols used by Nazi Germany.”

    Perhaps most interestingly,

    “Unlike many other anthems (e.g., La Marseillaise, God Save the Queen, The Star Spangled Banner, Himno Nacional Mexicano), it does not praise nor even mention war in any way, which could have played a role in Germany’s decision to continue using it after World War II.”

    A long-winded blog comment, to be sure, but simply put, cool it, folks…

  6. The swastika pre-dates even the Hindus. You can find Sumerian pottery with swastika decorations. It’s a funny feeling to see it and realize that for the people who made these things four or five thousand years ago the meaning was one of life, and knowing that no matter how hard you try you are never going to be able to get the NAZI associations out of your mind.

  7. Just in case I’m not the only ignoramus here:

    I didn’t get it, and it bugged me enough to go figure it out–albeit a very low threshold.

    In German, “above all” is “uber alles”–as in “Deutschland über alles”–as in the German national anthem.

    It’s worth noting that this anthem predates Nazi Germany–just as the USA’s national anthem predates several regrettable periods on our history, and was written and adopted while slavery was still constitutional.

    The Nazis kept the first stanza, which begins Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, but continued after that with new racist ones.

    “Above All” isn’t necessarily original, but it shouldn’t be associates with Nazi Germany.

  8. Elfsternberg – well, I agree about the swastika. The association there is much too strong for anyone to go about in the West wearing a swastika tee.

    However, If we follow your logic to the end – banning everything that could possibly recall Nazism – shouldn’t we ban the entire German language…? Or any song that might have been sung in the Nazi period ? How about Strauss ? Let’s ban all Late German classical music…

  9. Yeah Ill Lich, maybe it just means, “at least you’re not down in the shit with the grunts in Fallujah ! Sign up, please – and we’ll try to coddle you into the Marines.”

  10. The words to La Marseillaise are /awesome/, apropos #5; too bad the French right wing ruined it as well.

    I think we all know the uber alles predates the Nazis, but since that first verse was removed after WWII, it has unequivocally assumed Nazi connotations, through historical usage. Is there anything else the Nazis weren’t the first to do you would like to defend?

  11. Everybody cool it… Scottfree… Marseillaise is an awesome song, and due to repeated viewings of Casablanca, I’ve managed to retain pretty positive associations with it, French Right be fucked… if someone told me that song was banned, I’d be ready to fly over there and start setting up barricades in Paris…

    “Is there anything else the Nazis weren’t the first to do you would like to defend?”

    Well, how about being German ?

  12. Elf et al, let me be perfectly clear: I made the point to sound terribly clever, and I completely agree that the Air Force was headsmackingly stupid for picking that slogan.

  13. #9

    And are you going to have a fit every time the U.S. government does something idiotic? Bask in the sweet sweet irony like the rest of us; and if you start singing old Nazi party songs: point not worth making.

  14. My point is simply, there’s just not enough of a connection for me, personally, to find irony. Everything else that followed is just intellectual extrapolation. But if you find it, enjoy !

  15. Just compare all of the post WWII jet aircraft in use over the years to luftwaffe jet designs. Who spent the most money trying to re-create these aircraft over the years?

    I rest my case


  16. #5

    Heck, smart designers don’t even go near red, black, white and quadrilateral symmetry mixes anymore

    What about the The White Stripes? :)

    I agree that the connection between “Above All” and you know who is a bit lame.

    Bit I still think the motto is a mistake. It’s just a little too cute and must tick off the other branches of the military.

  17. I dunno, I speak German and spent some time in Germany, and have seen this USAF slogan in TV commercials a bunch of times and never thought of this. It’s a pretty weak link. “Above” isn’t really how “über” translates, and the context is so different. Hearing the German national anthem played makes me instantly think of, well, the Winter Olympics, a lot more than WWII.

    I think it’s a pretty decent recruiting slogan, a nice connotation of one-upping the other branches of the armed services. It beats “an army of one.”

    I would definitely give it a free pass over, say, Moolatté.

  18. People should realize that the Airforce (indeed much of the military) has been almost completely over run with Dominionists. These people are very scary, very fascist and have the blessing of the current administration.

    Dominionism at religious tolerance dot org.

    Its most common form, Dominionism, represents one of the most extreme forms of Fundamentalist Christianity thought. Its followers, called Dominionists, are attempting to peacefully convert the laws of United States so that they match those of the Hebrew Scriptures. They intend to achieve this by using the freedom of religion in the US to train a generation of children in private Christian religious schools. Later, their graduates will be charged with the responsibility of creating a new Bible-based political, religious and social order. One of the first tasks of this order will be to eliminate religious choice and freedom. Their eventual goal is to achieve the “Kingdom of God” in which much of the world is converted to Christianity. They feel that the power of God’s word will bring about this conversion. No armed force or insurrection will be needed; in fact, they believe that there will be little opposition to their plan. People will willingly accept it. All that needs to be done is to properly explain it to them.

    Mike Huckabee has been linked with this extreme sect.

  19. to train a generation of children in private Christian religious schools.

    Concentrated targets. Bad strategy for a group with so many military members.

  20. I thought the initial ad campaign itself — which caused webpages that carried the ad to go black for a few seconds — was extremely annoying and idiotic. That alone was a tip off that this advertising effort was not well thought out.

  21. From a speaker of both German and English, this is inane. “Above all” doesn’t make me think of Nazis, nor does “super omnes/omnia” (found in plenty of mottoes, epigrams and such), nor any other rendition. The American lack of familiarity with foreign languages means that “über alles” seems like some sort of reïfied lifeless fragment, forever tied to its use in WWII-era Germany (which is usually the first and only time an American hears it used), but it is of course a common enough phrase alive in all sorts of contexts, most completely pacific.

    Whether it’s the Nazis or the Dead Kennedys, the totalitarian overtones come when you pair “above all” with a state or nation; without an explicit pairing of “America, America” with the “above all”, that’s pretty weak sauce for scorn or outrage. It’s like protesting that the “Air” in “Air Force” is just like “Luft” in “Luftwaffe”.

    Did you know Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica and Ireland all have a “Defence Force”? By George, but isn’t that a literal calque of the Nazi “Wehrmacht”? Clearly, the Commonwealth is overrun by covert Gestapo agents! Panic!

  22. O3, you’re correct that there are shades of gray here. There are always shades of gray. However the feeling of many is that this crosses a line and frankly I think it does too. Ultimately it’s a matter of opinion and given the current state of affairs I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be concerned about the implications behind this slogan.

  23. There’s a standard called ‘appearance of impropriety’. Government bodies are generally held to it.

  24. #9 I too felt more than a little out of the know on this (though i had a hunch it had to do with Nazis) until you explained it. So, thank you very much. And in my defense, i think the fact that i did not get this says more about the poor quality of our education system than about my innate stupidity.

  25. #29
    it may be a matter of opinion. but the opinions of the ignorent must be taken as just that. As a member of the Airforce who is stationed in germany, i agree with 03 fully and have heard no complaints from anyone here. just from non cultured americans, who think they have a good opinion and speak without a proud member of the Airforce i enjoy the new slogan. feel free to let the patriot airman bashing commence. but i am proud of what i do and what i stand for.

  26. I suspect the slogan is a bit more striking to the English, actually, where antagonism with Germany is much more pronounced. I concede the US Air Force using this slogan is only funny if you learned about this in school…or follow football.

    This could become an interesting discussion on the achievement of social meaning. I mean it was funny when the punks wore swastikas, up until the BNP really kicked off in the eighties, but it really isn’t cool for any armed service to use a rough translation of the only bit of German language many people know, as a direct result of its prominence in the Nazi anthem.

  27. #32 I think I agree with you about the education system. Those here with a deeper familiarity with Germany (#’s 22, 29, 33) seem to find less irony and schadenfreude in this post than the rest of us.

    I was wondering, by way of analogy, what if there had been a segregationist version of The Star Spangled Banner, would it have permanently caused disrepute on the original version once restored?

    I couldn’t take the thought experiment very far, but I found this, about a racist hit song, “Jump Jim Crow”:

    [I]n 1841 the USA ambassador to Central America, John Lloyd Stephens, wrote that upon his arrival in Mérida, Yucatán, the local brass band played “Jump Jim Crow” under the mistaken impression that it was the USA’s national anthem.

  28. The Air Force has had bad luck with catchy slogans.

    Some years ago, they had a whole slew of TV commericals, with jets swooping and zooming and being all cool and macho, ending with the slogan:

    “The U.S. Air Force – No one comes close.”

    Which got pulled on September 12, 2001.

  29. This is ridiculous. Almost as dumb as the tempest in the teapot that was the so called ‘blog blocking debacle.

    I’m all for picking on intolerant bible thumpers, but just because they infest my USAF doesn’t mean that it is turning into the 4th Reich. This connection is pretty reaching.

  30. In Americanese, “ünderall” means “underwear”. Join the Air Force, underwear above all!

  31. My integrity on the issue doesn’t extend to taking the time to prove this, but i feel confident a google image search for neo nazi will reveal uber alles patches.

    i would be more impressed if rather than people who know German, people who knew nazis didn’t get it.

  32. To the people that don’t see anything wrong with this slogan, we are not talking about the “Save the California Condor Organization” or the “US Hang Gliding Association” here.
    We’re talking about the air force of a major super power.
    If you don’t see the irony and poor judgment of picking such a slogan what to say…

  33. Rather like the swastika, the term ‘uber alles’ — once benign– has now become tarnished for centuries. Check out this info below on its history, found at–

    “Deutschland, Deutschland ueber Alles” … “The “official” name of the German National Anthem is Das Lied der Deutschen, or simply, Das Deutschlandlied. The song is often called Deutschland ueber Alles, simply because those are the opening words of the first stanza….

    Not surprisingly, during the next European War, the words “über Alles” were ruthlessly exploited by Allied (Hitler) propagandists.

    Banned after 1945 by the victors, the Deutschlandlied is again the German national anthem, but only the third stanza is used. The first stanza is absolutely verboten, since it refers to the traditional ethnographic boundaries of Germany (“from the Maas [in Belgium] to the Memel [between the present day Kaliningrad area of Russia and Lithuania], from the Etsch [on the Austro-Italian border] to the Belt [in Denmark]”). Likewise, the propagandistic mistranslation of the words “über alles” has now become accepted truth, thus precluding their use.”

  34. Another website/blog shows both the illustration of the Airforce new logo, and a Hitler logo with the words Uber Alles at the bottom.
    Check out– Uber alles!

    Note the ‘plane’ and eagle at the top of each.

    And I can’t believe the words at the bottom of the new Airforce logo…
    Cyberspace?? That’s rather creepy! But then again, if the CIA is tracking our emails (and phone calls), why not the Airforce?

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