Friendly Fire (1932)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Mon Nov 21 17:49:39 UTC 2005

Quoting Dave Wilton <dave at>:
> OED has 1976; Barry traced it back to 1966.
> In the context of fire being delivered onto the enemy by friendly forces, NY
> Times (Proquest Hist Newspapers), 6 Mar 1932, "Effectiveness of Modern Gas
> Attack" p. xx8:
> "A smoke screen laid over an enemy artillery battery by airplanes reduces
> its effectiveness by only 4 percent, while friendly fire is almost 12
> percent effective through smoke."
> And in the context of friendly forces firing on one another, also NY Times
> (Proquest Hist Newspapers), 3 April 1944, "War News Summarized" p.1:
> "Admiral Nimitz disclosed that thirteen Americans had been killed and
> forty-six wounded by friendly fire in another 'tragic episode' of the war."

I turned up this WWI-era quote a few years ago when "friendly fire" was being
discussed on the alt.usage.english newsgroup:

1918 _New York Times_ 18 Oct. 11/2 When the infantry was advancing in a position
exposed to cross fire he volunteered and carried a message to the advancing
troops, informing them that a machine gun barrage laid down on the enemy
emplacements was friendly fire from a unit not in their support and acting
without orders to cover their advance.

--Ben Zimmer

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