The World War II Song: A Mnemonic Device

Mnemonics (pronounced “ne-mon’-ics”) assist the memory by using a system of  rhymes, rules, phrases, diagrams or acronyms.
They help to remember and memorize, to recall trivial information such as names, dates, facts or figures.

They do that by turning original information into an easy more appealing rhyme or sentence. This can be stored into your brain in bigger ‘meaningful’ chunks.
When you need the original you can reproduce that by translating the mnemonic memory.

For example: ‘Roy G Biv‘ helps you reproduce the names and order of the colors of the rainbow. Every letter stands for a color (R for red, O for Orange, ….).
The order is preserved by the somewhat meaningless sentence Roy G Biv.
For some reason we as humans even remember meaningless sentences better than storing the complete original information (order of things).

– The information is translated into ‘meaningfull’ parts (chunked)
– Then stored in our brain
– Once reproduced (remembered) it can be re-translated into the original data

Other names for a mnemonic device are: memory tool, memorizing aid, aid to memory, memory device, learning device, learning trick or brain tool. Sometimes it’s confused with a pneumonic device, which is equipment used for lungs. They are all names for the same, an easy way to help you use your memory more effectively, to memorize more effectively.

Music as a Mnemonic Device

Studies have shown that the right kind of music can help you relax your mind which enables you to concentrate better. Perfect to studying, doing homework or studying for a test or exam. It cuts down on distractions and helps you focus on your work. Now we are not talking heavy or death metal here! The most cited study is the “Mozart effect”; a set of research results that indicate that listening to Mozart’s music may induce a short-term improvement on the performance of certain kinds of mental tasks known as “spatial-temporal reasoning” which is the ability to think out long-term, more abstract solutions to logical problems that arise.

I would argue that it doesn’t have to be “Baroque” style of music but any song that you actually like would help you along the way! Take languages for example, I may not be able to speak fluently in foreign languages but I know songs in French, German, Irish and understand their meaning. This is not me saying that it is the only way of learning a language, but if I can learn these because I like music, surely using music could be worth a try in other subjects.

The World War II Song

In researching this topic I came across a wordpress page This page included a World War II song aimed at learning off the events leading to the start of World War II. They used the melody of Billy Joel’s “We didn’t start the fire” which is an amazing song! I couldn’t believe how easy it was to sing the lyrics to the song after only a few minutes study, although writing them to fit was quite challenging. With the first 2 verses and the chorus used (and edited slightly) I began adding more verses and a bridge to the song.

So here are the lyrics. It is advised that you have a couple of listens to the song at the bottom for cues and rhyming pattern! Have a go and see how you get on! PLEASE NOTE THAT THE SONG IS NOT YET COMPLETE

Versailles Treaty starts it all

Failed putsch in a Munich hall

Reparation costs were huge

Hitler blamed things on the Jews

Joined Nazi Party in ’19

Wrote Mein Kampf in ’23

Hitler’s Chancellor in ’32

In ’34 he’s Fuhrer too

Anschluss was unification

Czechoslovakia was then taken

Munich in ’38

To decide on the poor Czechs’ fate

Nazi-Stalin ’39

Hitler Says “Poland’s mine”

Peace in Europe was no more

This is what they were fighting for!


We didn’t start the war

Chamberlain appeased him

But Sudetenland didn’t please him


Blitzkrieg was the ‘lightning war’

Then there came the ‘phoney war’

France constructs the Maginot Line

Britain’s running out of time

Dunkirk was a complete disaster

Could not get troops out of there faster!

Denmark and Norway in his hands

Hitler conquered “Vichy France”

‘Sea Lion’ its Britain’s time

Churchill steps up to the line

Encourages people to fight back

“Battle of Britain” “RAF”

Spitfires, Hurricanes

Those were British aeroplanes

Hitler waits, halts his stake

Victory for Churchill!



Mussolini Italy

Rommel and Montgomery

Turning point “El Alamein”

Hitler wants a change of scene

Operation Barbarossa

Tries to take from communist Russia

Lebensraum for Moscow town

Stalin is going down!


Now it’s your turn! Here is a Karaoke version of the song. Include the lyrics above to fit to the music. You will know all about world war II once you have mastered this Billy Joel song!


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