I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be A Soldier

by Philip Greenspan

May 10, 2004   


When I think of Mother's Day with troops being killed daily in Iraq and Afghanistan I recall Alfred Bryan's lyrics of the popular World War I song, "I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier."

My father, who had enlisted in the US Army, would often relate what the country was experiencing before, during, and after the U.S. entered the war. One aspect was the popular music of those days -- browsing through the prevalent tunes of any period conveys the sentiments and culture of the people. Two still well known WWI songs were George M. Cohan's "Over There," and Irving Berlin's "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning."

The first conveyed a braggadocio of the American can-do spirit and abilities: . . . send the word . . . that the Yanks are comin' . . . we're comin' over and we won't be back till it's over, over there.

The other informed of the tedious humdrum grind of military life: . . . the hardest call of all . . . the bugle call . . . You've got to get up . . . I'm going to murder the bugler. . .

There were, of course, many other songs that expressed different feelings; but dad most often mentioned "Would You Rather Be a Colonel with an Eagle on Your Shoulder, or a Private with a Chicken on Your Knee?" and "I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier." They've stuck in my mind over the years.

Would You Rather Be a Colonel... was obviously a comic number whose title pretty much tells the story. I never heard the words, but they had to be good enough for the song made the Ziegfeld Follies in 1919.

I Didn't Raise My Boy... was a popular pre- and anti-war song. With the knowledge of the slaughters that had engulfed the poor innocent soldiers in Europe, American citizens were vastly opposed to having the U.S. enter into that abominable cauldron.

Woodrow Wilson won reelection in 1916 with his slogan "He kept us out of war." It didn't take long however before he asked Congress to declare war on Germany (April 2, 1917), which it promptly did (April 6, 1917). The ensuing pro-war environment and war propaganda quickly converted an intelligent public into misinformed, misguided, intolerant, chauvinistic partisans for that double-crossing government.

And so, this powerful anti-war song was quickly forgotten. It was even derided at the time by former president Theodore Roosevelt who called for another tune he titled, "I Didn't Raise My Girl to Be a Mother," and "suggested that the place for women who opposed war was 'in China -- or by preference in a harem -- and not in the United States.'" (See "History Matters.") That was a shame! The lyrics should be permanently remembered. The words of the chorus convey good old common sense:
I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier,

I brought him up to be my pride and joy,

Who dares to put a musket on his shoulder,

To shoot some other mother's darling boy?

Let nations arbitrate their future troubles,

It's time to lay the sword and gun away,

There'd be no war today,

If mothers all would say,

I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier.

Thinking of it, there is just one gift that all the worrying mothers of those now serving in the military would want over any other: That their children be returned home -- safe, unharmed, healthy and happy.

Let's then support those brave moms. Join in our pleas to:


· · · · · ·


Iraq on Swans

America the 'beautiful' on Swans


Philip Greenspan on Swans (with bio).

Do you wish to share your opinion? We invite your comments. E-mail the Editor. Please include your full name, address and phone number. If we publish your opinion we will only include your name, city, state, and country.

Please, feel free to insert a link to this article on your Web site or to disseminate its URL on your favorite lists, quoting the first paragraph or providing a summary. However, please DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work on the Web without the expressed written authorization of Swans. This material is copyrighted, © Philip Greenspan 2004. All rights reserved.
· · · · · ·

This Week's Internal Links

Nappytime Of The Gods: American Somnambulists In The House Of Death - by Phil Rockstroh

Evangelical Democracy: What Gunboat Salvation Won't Fix . . . - by John Blunt

Robert Bolaño's By Night in Chile - Book Review by Louis Proyect

The Politics Of Anti-Semitism Part II: Stereotypes And Other Canards - Book Review by Gilles d'Aymery

The Chicken Parable - by Milo Clark

The Palestinians Versus The SUV - by Manuel García, Jr.

From the Ashes Of The Old - by Joel Wendland

The Weight of One More Voice - Poem by Gerard Donnelly Smith

Letters to the Editor


Published May 10, 2004
[Copyright]-[Archives]-[Resources]-[Main Page]