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Not a hill worth dying for

Posted by Smokey Stover on October 22, 2009 at 17:46

In Reply to: Not a hill worth dying for posted by Laura on October 22, 2009 at 10:05:

: Not a hill worth dying for. What is the origin of this phrase?

The phrase has become very popular as a metaphorical question not related to hills. However, in military history hills have always been important, and an entrenched force on a hile is always a difficult foe. So it is possible that many, many commanders have asked themselves, "Is taking this hill worth the many casualties our army will take?" Among famous American battles involving hills were the Battle of Bunker Hill, the battle for Cemetery Ridge, the Battle of San Juan Hill in Cuba, and perhaps most germanely, the battle of "Hamburger Hill" in Vietnam, which may be the source of the current popularity of the phrase.

"In the case of Hamburger Hill, many military leaders doubted whether it was worth the 70 dead and over 400 injured soldiers that resulted!"

(Quoted from:)

The disparity between the cost in lives and the strategic value of the terrain conquered doesn't even come close to many other battles in history, e.g., the Siege of Verdun, by the Germans, in World War I. Estimates of the casualties vary from a low of a quarter million dead in battle and a half million wounded, to nearly a million casualties on each side.

But Verdun, to both sides, was a strategic position (although not a hill) worth fighting for. "Hamburger Hill" was probably not, and if it did not inspire the phrase, it was certainly an appropriate subject for it.

Of course, there are many thoughtful people for whom no hill is ever worth dying for, especially in war.

I can't give you a definitive answer to your question, but I hope my speculation has been useful.