Who is believed to have said, “Only the dead have seen the end of war”?
This apocryphal quotation, “Only the dead have seen the end of war”, has been attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher from Athens, Plato (428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC). However, no scholars or historians have yet found this quote in any of Plato’s dialogues or any personal writings.
These words have been used or reportedly used by American soldiers and others in combat situations. Michael Takiff (b. 1951), an independent scholar and oral historian whose writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New York Post, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and Salon, specifically found a situation when it was attributed to Plato by a US soldier in Vietnam. The soldier had written home and his letter was later printed in a book titled "Brave Men, Gentle Heroes: American Fathers and Sons in World War II and Vietnam" (2003).
General Douglas MacArthur directly used the quote in a farewell address to cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point, in 1962, attributing it to Plato. MacArthur's use is one of the most likely sources of its popularity among US soldiers.
The Imperial War Museum, in London, England has the quote engraved on its walls, attributed to Plato. The museum opened in 1936.