Berlin originally wrote the song in 1918 while serving in the US Army at Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York, but decided that it did not fit in a review called Yip, Yip, Yaphank, so he set it aside. The lyrics at that time included the line, "Make her victorious on land and foam, God Bless America..."
In 1938, with the rise of Hitler, Berlin, who was a Jewish immigrant from Siberia, felt it was time to revive it as a "peace song" and it was introduced on an Armistice Day broadcast in 1938 sung by Kate Smith. Manuscripts in the Library of Congress reveal the evolution of the song from victory to peace.
Berlin gave the royalties of the song to the God Bless America Fund for redistribution to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
The song was by far the most common choice for memorials for the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack.
Some atheists find the song, or at least the use of its title as a slogan, to be offensive, as they perceive it as validating a link between the deity and the United States, with the latter turning to the former for guidance and protection. However, some atheists do not take offense at the lyrics and their mention of the deity, paying little or no heed to a literal interpretation of the lyrics, and instead focus on the general theme of Americans united in love of their country and their desire for its preservation and protection.
Woody Guthrie wrote the song "This Land Is Your Land" as a socialist response to "God Bless America".