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Old 09-11-2021, 06:41 AM
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Wink What's the origin of the phrase 'Old soldiers never die'?

What's the origin of the phrase 'Old soldiers never die'?
By: The Phrase Finder

As many of us who've served or had family members serve we often here
the phrase that Old Soldier's Never Die.

Most of us heard that expression many years ago and even today when one soldier
dies it is felt by the many not just the family.

Most us today know the words spoken by "General MacArthur" growing up in the 40's
but he wasn't the first man to say this.

Old soldiers never die -

Other phrases about: Death and dying - War and the military

What's the meaning of the phrase 'Old soldiers never die'?

The proverb 'Old soldiers never die, they simply fade away' is a rather melancholic notion that, long after they have outlived the wars they fought, old soldiers are forgotten and their passing ignored.

OK now - Here's the origin of the phrase "Old soldiers never die'?
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The proverbial phrase 'old soldiers never die, they simply fade away' is widely creditted to J. Foley who is said to have copyrighted a song with that title in 1920. The lyrics of the first verse of the song are:

Old soldiers never die,
Never die, never die,
Old soldiers never die,
They simply fade away.

There are at least two problems with the notion that Foley originated to phrase:

- Foley was born in 1906 and would have been only 14 when the song was copyrighted.

- The expression was mentioned in Siegfried Sassoon's Counter-attack and Other Poems, which was published in 1918:

‘Old soldiers never die; they simply fide a-why!’ That's what they used to sing.

The 'that's what they used to sing' text indicates that the expression was in use by soldiers in the trenches before either Sassoon or Foley put it into print.

It may have drifted into obscurity but was given a new lease of life when the US general Douglas MacArthur used a variant of it in his farewell address to Congress in 1951:

Old soldiers never die - Young ones wish they would.

The British soldier Frank Richards published his memoir of the Great War, called Old Soldiers Never Die, in 1933. He included this:

We generally wound up our evenings with the old song, set to the tune of a well-known hymn.

It is generally accepted that the hymn Richards was referring to was 'Kind Thoughts Can Never Die'.

There are numerous jokey variants of the expression - for example:

Old pilots never die, they just go to a higher plane.

Old deans never die, they just lose their faculties.


Personal note: Sadly old soldier's do die everyday. Until wars no longer exist - they will always fade away in one fashion or another. As Daniel Daly once said;

Quote: "Do you want to live forever?"
Daly is popularly attributed in Marine Corps lore, on June 6, 1918, as yelling,

"Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?" to his men during the Battle of Belleau Wood. Daly later told a Marine Corps historian that his words were "For Christ's sake men—come on!

Note: This comment was used in a recent movie: Starship Trooper's (if you recall)

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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