Truth Is the First Casualty in War

Aeschylus? Philip Snowden? Ethel Annakin? Samuel Johnson? Anne MacVicar Grant? E. D. Morel? W. T. Foster? Agnes Maude Royden? Hiram Johnson? Arthur Ponsonby? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The participants in a violent conflict often engage in crude propaganda and advocacy. Here are four versions of a pertinent saying:

  1. Truth is the first casualty in war.
  2. The first casualty of war is truth.
  3. When war is declared, truth is the first victim.
  4. In war, truth is the first casualty.

This adage has been credited to Aeschylus, Hiram Johnson, Arthur Ponsonby, and others. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match known to QI appeared in a paper presented at an education conference in August 1915 by Ethel Annakin who was the wife of the British politician Philip Snowden. Annakin disclaimed credit by providing an anonymous attribution. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Someone has finely said that “truth is the first casualty in war”; and never was a greater untruth spoken than that war is waged for the protection of women and homes.

The above citation is given in the important reference “The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs” from Yale University Press. 2 It is also listed on the helpful website of researcher Barry Popik. 3

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Truth Is the First Casualty in War

Notes:

  1. 1915, Journal of Proceedings and Addresses of the Fifty-Third Annual Meeting and International Congress on Education, Held at Oakland, California, August 16-27, 1915, Section: Papers and Discussions, Article: Woman and War by Mrs. Philip Snowden (Ethel Annakin) of Liverpool, England, Start Page 54, Quote Page 55, Published by The National Education Association of the U.S., Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 2012, The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs, Compiled by Charles Clay Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred R. Shapiro, Quote Page 265, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)
  3. Website: The Big Apple, Article title: “The first casualty of war is truth”, Date on website: January 2, 2011, Website description: Etymological dictionary with more than 10,000 entries. (Accessed barrypopik.com on April 9, 2020) link