[PW] Origin of "Generals" quote?

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com
Thu Oct 4 14:23:25 PDT 2012

The great reference Dictionary of Modern Proverbs (2012) has an entry
for this saying with a few citations starting in 1934. Here is the
first cite and a link into Google Books:

Short link:   http://bit.ly/PdmU4A

Cite: 2012, The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs, Compiled by Charles
Clay Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred R. Shapiro Page 94, Yale
University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)

Generals(Soldiers, etc.) always fight (prepare to fight, are condemned
to fight) the last war.

1934 Edward P. Warner, “Present Conditions under the N.R.A. [National
Recovery Act],” American Marketing Journal1: 12: “There is a saying
that is rather common among the critics of the military profession
that ‘soldiers are always preparing to fight the last war.’ Business
must not incur the rebuke that it is devoting itself to preparing to
sell goods under the conditions of the last economic cycle.”

Typos possible; please double-check.

Garson O'Toole

On Thu, Oct 4, 2012 at 4:49 PM, Katherine Harper <kharper4 at gmail.com> wrote:
> My guess would be that this dates from around 1914, when innovations like
> air bombardment and gas warfare were in use but the armies still relied on
> mules and horses for transport and instructions to troops still had to be
> carried by hand across active battlefields. However, the earliest direct
> usage I could find was from 1952: John Jewkes uses it in reference to
> "economic generals" in this American Enterprise pamphlet:
> http://tinyurl.com/953kwyv
> The lack of citations in English from the early 20th century makes me
> suspect that this phrase was originally in another language. Perhaps
> someone here with a better knowledge of languages than mine could glance
> over the 92 full-text Hathi Trust returns for the phrase "guerre précédent"
> and whatever its equivalent is in German.
> Kathy
> I'm wondering whether there is a single originator for the line:
>> "Generals are always preparing to fight the last war.
> --
> Katherine Harper, Ph.D.
> kharper4 at gmail.com
> _______________________________________________
> Project Wombat - Project-Wombat
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