Home  »  Respectfully Quoted  »  Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964)

Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1727
AUTHOR: Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964)
QUOTATION: Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.
ATTRIBUTION: General DOUGLAS MACARTHUR, address to a joint session of Congress, April 19, 1951, Congressional Record, vol. 97, p. 4125.

According to The Home Book of Quotations, ed. Burton Stevenson, 9th ed., p. 2298h, col. 2 (1964), this is a line from a soldier’s parody of a nineteenth century gospel hymn, “Kind Words Can Never Die.” The parody was known at West Point where MacArthur was graduated in 1903. However, since the earliest printed version of the song “Old Soldiers Never Die” is found in the London publication, Tommy’s Tunes, compiled by Frederick T. Nettleingham, p. 58 (1917), there is also the theory that the origin of the parody was English. That version’s line read: “Old soldiers never die, they always fade away.” Several other variations have been used by English authors: “They simply fade away,” Frank Richards, Old Soldiers Never Die, chapter 23, p. 324 (1933); and “they only fade away,” James Ronald, Old Soldiers Never Die, p. 7 (1942).
SUBJECTS: Soldiers