At the very beginning of the 1981 movie Taps, George C. Scott reads from the Book of Remembrance. This book contains all of the soldiers from Bunker Hill Academy (not sure if that's a real school or not) who have died in wars. After each name, he mentions the place they died and then says, "Taps" and the date of their death. i.e. "Thomas, John H., Class of '22, Okinawa, Japan, Taps September 10, 1942."

The only information I could find on "Taps" relates to the bugle call. Does "Taps" have some other meaning? What does it mean in the context of that segment of the movie?

  • 1
    Other than the fact that it's the song traditionally played at military funerals?
    – Catija
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 22:04
  • The General specifically says the word "Taps". I know it's played at military funerals, but I'm trying to figure out why he says that specific word/phrase/anagram/whatever it means. Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 22:34
  • In context, are they actually dead, or are some listed as Mia or Kia? Taps can mean date death was presumed, as not all deaths could be confirmed.
    – cde
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 0:54

2 Answers 2


Some believe "Taps" is an acronym. It is not an acronym, the origin of the word more than likely was derived from the three drum taps that were played signaling "Extinguish Lights".

While "Taps" is played at Military funerals, it is also played at US Military bases and barracks to signal soldiers that it is time for bed or lights out.

Both my Father and my Husband had served in the United States Military. They both had informed me that while in boot camp, the "Taps" story was passed onto them. The following from the US Military corroborates the story that they both told to me:

In July of 1862, in the aftermath of the bloody Seven Days battles of the Civil War, hard on the loss of 600 men and wounded himself, Union General Daniel Adams Butterfield called the brigade bugler to his tent. He thought "Lights Out" was too formal and he wished to honor his men.

Scott says "Taps" after each man's name to both honor and mourn them. When "Taps" is being played at a Military base or barracks to signal lights out, soldiers are to take that time to remember those that have fallen before them.


As a child in England, I was told that it meant that as day's end approached, military camp guards would assume their posts on the camp's perimeter when the heard the heard the bugler sound TAPS, TO ALL POSTS, SENTRIES!

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