Where Have all the Soldiers Gone?

“Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone
Long time ago?”

If you ask this question in Switzerland they will answer;
“They went home.”
In 1847 there was a month-long Civil War in Switzerland that produced about a hundred casualties. Since that time no Swiss soldier has fired a shot in anger. So, if you go to Switzerland and ask; “Where have all the soldiers gone?” the answer will be; “They have gone home, every one.”
“When will they ever learn?” In 1847, in Switzerland.

Every adult male in that Alpine nation is a soldier, and keeps a military assault rifle in his home; a weapon capable of fully automatic fire; pull the trigger and the gun fires untill the magazine empties.
Even the German Army wanted no part of a war with Switzerland.

Its strange, but if there is a universal brotherhood of man, it is a brotherhood of soldiers. Every nation has soldiers. Every soldier can identify, on some level with every other soldier; across language barriers, different cultures, customs, even through the curtain of centuries. An American infantryman walking the dusty roads of  Afghanistan can feel a kinship with the Hoplite warriors who followed Alexander to that far end of the Greek world 2300 years ago.

At military academies around the world, where the leaders of soldiers are trained, the battles of antiquity are studied as closely as those of World War 2 and the present missions in Afghanistan. Strategic and tactical principles remain unchanged across centuries. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Civil War cavalry commander, would have understood the tactics of Desert Storm as thoroughly as Gen. Schwarzkopf  who executed them.

C. S. Lewis, the Christian Apologist and writer, served in the trenches of World War 1. He reflected that every soldier that ever went onto a battlefield, today or a thousand years ago, had one body to be wounded, one mind to be broken, and one life to lose. If the wounds were from a bullet or arrow, bomb dropped by a jet aircraft or a stone hurled from a sling, the body was broken all the same.

The bloodiest and most all encompassing war fought to date was World War 11. Over 100 million soldiers were engaged for six years in battle fields spanning the globe.

With 18 million men under arms, the nation of Germany suffered the greatest casualty rate among its military forces of all the combatant nations; 30%

By comparison, the United States with 16 million in service lost 2% of their forces in the war.

‘Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one.”

Not quite every one. 70% of the German soldiers went home; 98% of American soldiers went home.

C.S. Lewis observed that war does not increase the death rate among humans; All men die, soon or late. So in that sense, the song is correct; All the soldiers go to graveyards, along with the sailors, grocers, teachers, truck drivers and songwriters.

“Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn
When will they ever learn?”


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Posted on January 2, 2013, in Where have all the Flowers Gone? and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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