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American Legion Band Helps Celebrate Soviet Victory Day

May 9, 1990

MOSCOW (AP) _ An American Legion band didn’t get to march through Red Square as planned, but the musicians did strut down Marx Prospect today, drawing hugs, kisses and cheers from Muscovites celebrating Victory Day.

Bandleader Dorothy Hill, 74, brought the 70-member, all-male band from American Legion Post 156 in Waltham, Mass., to the Soviet Union on a mission of peace.

Mrs. Hill said band members had originally been led to believe from Soviet officials that they would be the first U.S. band to play in the main Victory Day military parade through Red Square celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany.

But after the band arrived in Moscow, the Soviet Peace Committee, which is organizing their visit, kept changing the Americans’ schedule and finally they were informed that they wouldn’t be able to march in the Red Square parade.

No explanation was immediately available for the change in schedule.

Instead, the band had to settle for taking part in another Victory Day parade in downtown Moscow of marching musical units from various Soviet republics.

And the Americans proved to be a crowd favorite.

As the band marched down Gorky Street and turned onto cordoned-off Marx Prospect playing ″God Bless America,″ traffic police gave up trying to control the crowds thronging after the Americans.

During ″The Battle Hymn of the Republic,″ one woman in the crowd running beside the band shouted back ″Slava 3/8 Slava 3/8″ (″Glory 3/8 Glory 3/8″). Others gave the ″V″ for victory sign and waved their fists in a salute.

The band settled into seats in an open space next to the Bolshoi Theater for a concert, and a crowd of about 1,000 pressed around it so tightly that it had to be warned repeatedly to move back.

Soviet war veterans wearing medals repeatedly hugged the American Legion members wearing their military decorations.

During a one-hour concert, the band played ″When the Saints Go Marching In,″ ″Yankee Doodle Dandy″ and ″Old Gray Mare,″ during which Mrs. Hill twirled around jauntily to the music.

As they played ″Hail Massachusetts,″ the band members put down their instruments and sang the chorus: ″Swinging down the avenue, with colors on high; We’ll tell the whole creation that Massachusetts passes by.″

The crowd responded by improvising a chorus of ″Moscow Nights.″

″You see there is friendship and everybody is watching with pleasure. That’s why so many people are gathered here, thanks to them,″ said Nikolai Sidorenko, a World War II paratrooper.

After the concert, the band members laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier who fell in World War II.

Summing up the trip, Mrs. Hill, a World War II Coast Guard veteran, said it was ″far more than I ever expected to accomplish on a first visit.″

Richard Giovangelo, a band member from Newtonville, Mass., expressed some regret in not being able to march through Red Square.

″I wanted to. It was my impression that we were going to. Now that we didn’t, I’m somewhat disappointed,″ he said. ″But overall, I’m satisfied.″

The Joseph P. Hill American Legion Band, named after Mrs. Hill’s late husband, arrived in Moscow on Saturday on a 10-day trip. Its members range in age from 17 to 82, and include veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

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