Near the end of World War II, Chief Warrant Officer Chester E. Whiting helped organize the First Combat Infantry Band upon his return from a tour in the Pacific Theater. The band, composed entirely of combat veterans, began an immediate mission to bolster support for their fellow Soldiers. Admission to a typical First Combat Infantry Band concert was gained by buying a war bond. The band raised over a million dollars for the war effort, earning the nickname "The Million Dollar Band."
In 1946, the United States Armed Forces were in the midst of the largest military drawdown in modern history, and millions of servicemen and women returned stateside to resume their civilian lives. General Jacob L. Devers, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Ground Forces, foresaw the need to maintain a relationship between the Army and the American people. Recognizing the success of the First Combat Infantry Band, he believed that a band made up of active duty Soldiers would be a valuable asset to the Army's public relations mission. He therefore commissioned Chief Whiting to "organize a band that will carry into the grassroots of our country the story of our magnificent Army, its glorious traditions and achievements, and of that great symbol of American manhood: the Ground Soldier." As a result, the First Combat Infantry Band disbanded and the Army Ground Forces Band was formed. In the spring of 1950, after the Army Ground Forces were renamed the Army Field Forces, the band assumed a new name: The United States Army Field Band.
Now in service of the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs, The U.S. Army Field Band includes four performing components: the Concert Band, the Soldiers' Chorus, the Jazz Ambassadors, and The Volunteers. Each component tours the United States approximately 100 days per year.
In the earliest days of the Concert Band, bandsmen would gather at the front of the stage and serenade the audience with glee club-style choral arrangements. By 1957, the band was authorized to form the Soldiers' Chorus, a separate component of male vocalists. The Soldiers' Chorus welcomed its first female Soldier-Musicians in 1974. Today, the Soldiers' Chorus performs alongside the Concert Band on tour and at home, as guests with musical organizations outside of the Army Field Band, and independently.
The Concert Band performed swing and jazz standards from the very beginning. In the early 1960s, a permanent big band began to take shape with the creation of the Studio Band. In 1969, the Studio Band was recognized as a dedicated component of the Army Field Band, and was later named the Jazz Ambassadors. Often called "America's Big Band," the Jazz Ambassadors has established itself as one of the finest big bands in the world, performing at the most prestigious jazz festivals and appearing with the biggest names in the genre.
In 1981, the Army Field Band once again found a new audience with the formation of The Volunteers. A six-member band, The Volunteers focuses on contemporary popular music, including rock, pop, country, R&B, and patriotic favorites. The Volunteers can be heard at rock festivals, country festivals, sporting events, Veteran's Hospitals, high schools, and more.