Military Quotations

This is a collection of military quotations from generals, historians, emperors, philosophers, and other famous people throughout history.

  • Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.(Sun Tzu)
  • Dulce bellum inexpertis [War is delightful to those who have no experience of it] (Erasmus)
  • Men willingly believe when they want to. (Julius Caeser)
  • Death is lighter than a feather; duty, heavy as a mountain. (Emperor Meiji)
  • Never forget that no military leader has ever become great without audacity. (Karl von Clausewitz)
  • The best strategy is always to be very strong. (Karl von Clausewitz)
  • God is always with the strongest battalion. (Frederick the Great)
  • Go Sir, gallop and don’t forget that the world was made in six days. You can ask me for anything but not time. (Napoleon Bonaparte)
  • Soldiers usually win the battles and the generals get the credit for them (Napoleon Bonaparte)
  • Every French soldier carries in his cartridgepouch the baton of a marshal of France. (Napoleon Bonaparte)
  • Time is everything. Five minutes makes the difference between victory and defeat. (Nelson)
  • War makes the victor stupid and the vanquished vengeful. (Nietzsche)
  • To be prepared for war is the most effective means of preserving peace. (George Washington)
  • Minds are like parachutes. They only function when they are open. (Sir James Dewar)
  • The most solid moral qualities melt away under the effect of modern arms.
  • The will to conquer is the first condition of victory. (Foch)
  • My centre gives way, my right is pushed back, situation excellent, I am attacking. (Foch)
  • Fighter pilots rove in the area allotted to them in any way they like, and when they spot an enemy they attack and shoot them down…. Everything else is rubbish. (Baron von Ricthofen)
  • The urge to gain release from tension by action is a precipitating cause of war. (Liddel Hart)
  • External peace lasts only until the next war. (Russian proverb)
  • Russians, in the knowledge of inexhaustible supplies of manpower, are accustomed to accepting gigantic fatalities with comparative calm. (Barbara Tuchman)
  • A single death is a tragedy, a million is just a statistic. (Stalin)
  • The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophes. (Albert Einstein)
  • Above all personal feelings and considerations and above all selfishness stands the iron law to which we everywhere must always remain true. (Theodore Eicke)
  • A piece of spaghetti or a military unit can only be led from the front end. (Patton)
  • We can still lose this war. (Patton, during the Battle of the Bulge, December, 1944)
  • Hit hard, hit first, hit often. (Admiral Halsey)
  • Leadership is intangible and therefore no weapon ever designed can replace it. (Bradley)
  • Logistics is the ball and chain of armoured warfare. (Heinz Guderian)
  • When the situation is obscure, attack.
  • New weapons require new tactics. Never put new wine into old bottles. (Guderian)
  • You can’t say civilization don’t advance. For every war, they kill you a new way. (Will Rogers)
  • There is only one purpose to which a whole society can be directed by a deliberate plan. That purpose is war, and there is no other. (Walter Lippman)
  • Professional soldiers are sentimental men, for all the harsh realities of their calling. In their wallets and in their memories they carry bits of philosophy, fragments of poetry, quotations from the Scriptures, which, in times of stress and danger speak to them with great meaning. (Ridgway)
  • At last we are eye to eye with death. We must renounce all hopes of freaks and fortunes. Sacrifice to the last drop of blood is demanded of us. Surrender would paralyse and sap our race for generations. (German Army’s radio spokesman in a broadcast to German troops during the battle for Hungary, October, 1944 )
  • There is only one right in the world and that right is one’s own strength. (Adolf Hitler)
  • The last battle has begun. Enormous masses of troops, tanks and aircraft are being hurled together against us in the East. The Russians are out there for the final decisions. (Berlin Radio, January 12th, 1945 )
  • No one can guarantee success in war, but only deserve it. (Winston Churchill)
  • War is fear soaked in courage.
  • War is a crime. Ask the infantry and ask the dead. (Hemingway)
  • War is only fun when you are winning. (Star Trek)
  • It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it. (Douglas MacArthur)
  • Confuse the enemy. Keep him in the dark on your intentions. Sometimes what seems a victory isn’t really a victory and sometimes a defeat isn’t really a defeat.
  • Whether in attacking, counterattacking, or defensive tactics, the idea of attacking should remain central, to always keep the initiative. (Nguyen Giap)
  • It is impossible for Westerners to understand the force of the people’s will to resist, and to continue to resist. The struggle of the people exceeds the imagination. It has astonished us too. (Pham Van Dong)
  • The bastards have never been bombed like they’re going to be bombed this time. (Nixon, during the 1972 North Vietnamese Easter Offensive)
  • I have asked General Westmoreland what he needs to meet this mounting aggression. He has told me. And we will meet his needs… We will stand in Vietnam. (Lyndon B. Johnson)
  • I always thought we could go on like this. I didn’t think these people had the capacity to fight this way…to take this punishment. (Robert McNamara)
  • The politicians in Washington just had no idea about the complexity of the situation in South Vietnam. (General Westmoreland)
  • In all honesty, we didn’t achieve our main objective. As for making an impact on the United States, it had not been our intention–but it turned out to be a fortunate result. (General Tran Do, on the 1968 Tet Offensive)
  • It’s a small war, God, but it’s the only one we’ve got. (Anonymous sign over a chaplains bunker at Con Thien, 1967)
  • It is a sensation of life. A human being is never so alive as he is in combat. He may feel terror, or he may not, but the prospect of losing his life makes it surge and flare within him. At no other time do his nerves fire with such spark. Never again will he feel as tight an emotional bond to others around him. (Philips Edwards)
  • War is like love; it always finds a way. (Bertolt Brecht)
  • That brother should not war with brother, And worry and devour each other. (William Cowper)
  • War is a trade of kings. (John Dryden)
  • As long as there are sovereign nations possessing great power, war is inevitable. (Albert Einstein)
  • There never was a good war or a bad peace. (Benjamin Franklin)
  • I have never advocated war except as a means for peace. (Ulysses S. Grant)
  • The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving. (Ulysses S. Grant)
  • I’d like to see the government get out of war altogether and leave the whole feud to private industry. (Joseph Heller)
  • War is, at first, the hope that we will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn’t any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone’s being worse off. (Karl Kraus)
  • It is well that war is so terrible–we shouldn’t grow too fond of it. (Robert E. Lee)
  • The belief in the possibility of a short decisive war appears to be one of the most ancient and dangerous of human illusions. (Robert Lynd)
  • War hath no fury like a noncombatant. (C.E. Montague)
  • Diplomats are just as essential in starting a war as soldiers are in finishing it. (Will Rogers)
  • As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar; it will cease to be popular. (Oscar Wilde)
  • The mounted knight is irresistible; he would bore his way through the walls of Babylon. (Anna Comnena)
  • The patriot volunteer, fighting for country and his rights, makes the most reliable soldier on earth. (Stonewall Jackson)
  • Honor to the soldier, and Sailor everywhere , who bravely bears his country’s cause, Honor also to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field, and serves, as he best can, the same cause–honor to him, only less than to him, who braves, for the common good, the storm of heaven and the storms of battle. (Abraham Lincoln)
  • The soldier, above all other men, is required to perform the highest act of religious offering–sacrifice. In battle and in the face of danger and death he discloses those divine attributes which his amke gave when he created in his own image. No physical courage and no brute instincts can take the place of the divine annunciation and spiritual gift which will alone sustain him. (Douglas MacArthur)
  • An atheist could not be as great a military leader as one who is not an atheist. (Thomas H. Moorer)
  • Then was een with what a strength and majesty the British soldier fights. (William Napier)
  • It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived. (George S. Patton)
  • The soldier’s body becomes a stock of accessories that are not his property. (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
  • In the great hour of destiny they stand, Each with his feuds, his jealousies, his sorrows. Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives. Soldiers are dreamers, when the guns begin They think of firelit homes, clean beds, and wives. (Siegfried Sassoon)
  • You can always tell an old soldier by the inside of his holsters and cartridge box. The young ones carry pistols and cartridges; the old ones, grub. (George Bernard Shaw)
  • He who defends everything, defends nothing. (Fredrick The Great)
  • No poor bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making other bastards dying for their country. (Patton)
  • There are very few personal problems which cannot be solved by the suitable application of high explosives. (Scott Adams)
  • The quickest way to end a war is to lose it. (George Orwell)
  • War does not determine who is right, only who is left. (Bertrand Russell)
  • If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty one… I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds. (J. Robert Oppenheimer at the first nuclear explosion “Trinity”)
  • Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way – that is not easy. (Aristotle)
  • If the enemy is in range, so are you! (Murphy)
  • I am not giving you an order to attack, I am ordering you to die! (Colonel M.Kemal Ataturk, his address to Turkish Troops fighting versus ANZACS(Australia-New Zealand Army Corps) at Dardanelles, WWI 1915)
  • In the career of glory one gains many things; the gout and medals, a pension and rheumatism….And also frozen feet, an arm or leg the less, a bullet lodged between two bones which the surgeon cannot extract….all of these fatigues experienced in your youth, you pay for when you grow old. Because one has suffered in years gone by, it is necessary to suffer more, which does not seem exactly fair. (Elzear Blaze)
  • Horses have no patriotism; soldiers fight without bread, but horses insist on oats. (Etienne, Comte de Nansouty)
  • He who angers you conquers you. (Elizabeth Kenny)
  • Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind. (John F. Kennedy, 1961)
  • In the end the answer is peace and the only difference from now and then is the blood on the ground. (Palestinian peacemaker)
  • You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake. (Jeanette Rankin)
  • Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come. (Carl Sandburg)
  • Patriots always talk of dying for their country and never of killing for their country. (Bertrand Russell)
  • War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace. (Thomas Mann)
  • All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers. (François Fénelon)
  • You’re an old-timer if you can remember when setting the world on fire was a figure of speech. (Franklin P. Jones, referring to the atomic bomb)
  • The more we sweat in peace the less we bleed in war. (Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit)
  • You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist. (Attributed to both Golda Meir and Indira Gandhi)
  • An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind. (Mahatma Gandhi)
  • Get there firstest with the mostest. (Nathan Bedford Forrest)
  • Amateurs talk about tactics. Professionals talk about logistics. (Aleks Hindin)
  • Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. (JRR Tolkien)
  • Death can be experienced once, winning maybe more, but losing can happen all the time. (Ron Howard)
  • Do you enter war to win it, or just to fight? Do you enter a war to make peace, or just to kill something and have a good time? (Lord Kamin)
  • I would rather have a general who was lucky than one who was good. (Napoleon Bonaparte)
  • Therefore a victorious army first wins and then seeks battle; a defeated army first battles and then seeks victoy. (Sun Tzu)
  • It seems to be a law of nature, inflexible and inexorable, that those who will not risk cannot win. (John Paul Jones)
  • He who controls the past commands the future. He who commands the future conquers the past. (George Orwell)
  • Only the dead have seen the end to war. (Plato)
  • The military don’t start wars. Politicians start wars. (William Westmoreland)
  • If you are going through hell, keep going. (Winston Churchill)
  • Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake. (Napoleon Bonaparte)
  • It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both. (Niccolo Machiavelli)
  • Opportunities multiply as they are seized. (Sun Tzu)
  • Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. (Sun Tzu)
  • Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death. (Sun Tzu)
  • First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. (Mahatma Gandhi)
  • Victory favors neither the righteous nor the wicked it favors the prepared. (Unknown)
  • I don’t know with what weapons World War III will be fought with, but I know World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones. (Albert Einstein)
  • I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world because they’d never expect it. (Jack Handey)
  • No great reliance should be placed on the eagerness of young men for battle because the prospect of fighting is agreeable only to those who are strangers to it. (Vegetius)
  • A good man does not make a warrior, just as good steel does not go for nails. (attributed to Confucius)
  • All, right – it’s instinctive. But the instinct can be fought. We’re human beings, with the blood of a million savage years on our hands. But we can stop it! We can admit we’re killers, but we’re not going to kill today. That’s all it takes. Knowing that we’re not going to kill… today. (Kirk, Star Trek)
  • If we lose the war in the air, we lose the war, and we lose it quickly. ( Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein)
  • The morale of the soldier is the greatest single factor in war. (Field marshal Sir Bernard Law Montgomery)
  • The art of concentrating strength at one point, forcing a breakthrough, rolling up and securing the flanks on either side, and then penetrating like lightning deep into his rear, before the enemy has time to react. (Field Marshal Erwin Rommel)
  • Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed. (Winston Churchill)
  • To the German Commander, “Nuts!” The American Commander, acting Division Commander General Tony McAuliffe, 101st Airborne Division (December 24, 1944, Bastogne, when offered a surrender ultimatum from overwhelming German forces that had them surrounded)
  • Nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won. (Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington)
  • All the true heroes of history will be forgotten and all the villains will be remembered as heroes. (Leo Tolstay, War and Peace)
  • Quantity has a quality all of its own. (Josef Stalin)
  • Blessed be those happy ages that were strangers to the dreadful fury of these devilish instruments of artillery, whose inventor I am satisfied is now in Hell, receiving the reward of his cursed invention, which is the cause that very often a cowardly base hand takes away the life of the bravest gentleman. ( Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote)
  • Arms are my ornaments, warfare my repose. (Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote)
  • Ubi concordia, ibi victoria [Where is the unity, there is the victory.] (Roman proverb)
  • Vae victis. [Woe to the vanquished.] (Livy)
  • The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. (Edmund Burke)
  • War is evil, but it is often the lesser evil. (George Orwell)
  • If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilization, then be prepared to accept barbarism. (Thomas Sowell)
  • It is even better to act quickly and err than to hesitate until the time of action is past. ( Carl von Clausewitz)
  • Obsolete weapons do not deter. (Margaret Thatcher)
  • War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest thing of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling that thinks nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing more than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature, and has no chance of being free unless made or kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. (John Stuart Mill)
  • War is as much a punishment to the punisher as it is to the sufferer. (Thomas Jefferson)
  • You must not fight too often with one enemy, or you will teach him all your
    art of war. (Napoleon Bonaparte)
  • Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily. (Napoleon Bonaparte)
  • Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another. (Ernest Hemingway)
  • In the Soviet army it takes more courage to retreat than advance. (Joseph Stalin)
  • We must be prepared to make heroic sacrifices for the cause of peace that we make ungrudgingly for the cause of war. There is no task that is more important or closer to my heart. (Albert Einstein)
  • They died hard, those savage men (like wounded wolves at bay. They were
    filthy, and they were lousy, and they stunk. And I loved them. (General Douglas MacArthur)
  • The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must
    suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. (General Douglas MacArthur)
  • In war, you win or lose, live or die(and the difference is just an eyelash. (General Douglas MacArthur)
  • Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. (General Omar Bradley)
  • In war there is no prize for the runner-up. (General Omar Bradley)
  • Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. (Winston Churchill)
  • The only winner in the War of 1812 was Tchaikovsky. (Solomon Short)
  • I don’t know whether war is an interlude during peace, or peace is an interlude during war. (Georges Clemenceau
  • We happy few, we band of brothers/For he today that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother. (William Shakespeare, King Henry V)
  • There are no atheists in foxholes isn’t an argument against atheism, it’s an argument against foxholes. (James Morrow)
  • Live as brave men; and if fortune is adverse, front its blows with brave hearts. (Cicero)
  • Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air. (John Quincy Adams)
  • Courage is being scared to death (but saddling up anyway. (John Wayne)
  • Above all things, never be afraid. The enemy who forces you to retreat is himself afraid of you at that very moment. (Andre Maurois)
  • I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it. (Voltaire)
  • It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees! (Emiliano Zapata)
  • War is a series of catastrophes which result in victory. (Georges Clemenceau)
  • Incoming fire has the right of way. (Unknown)
  • A ship without Marines is like a garment without buttons. (Admiral David D. Porter, USN)
  • Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you! (Nikita Khrushchev)
  • If the enemy is in range, so are you. (Infantry Journal)
  • Any military commander who is honest will admit he makes mistakes in the application of military power. (Robert McNamara)
  • You can make a throne of bayonets, but you cant sit on it for long. (Boris Yeltsin)
  • The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle! (General John J. Pershing)
  • The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. Thomas Jefferson)
  • Five second fuses only last three seconds. (Infantry Journal)
  • If your attack is going too well, you’re walking into an ambush. (Infantry Journal)
  • When the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is not our friend. (U.S. Army Training Notice)
  • If you can’t remember, the claymore is pointed toward you. (Unknown)
  • Never forget that your weapon was made by the lowest bidder. (Unknown)
  • Try to look unimportant; they may be low on ammo. (Infantry Journal)
  • It is generally inadvisable to eject directly over the area you just bombed. (U.S. Air Force Marshal)
  • If at first you don’t succeed, call an air strike. (Unknown)
  • Tracers work both ways. (U.S. Army Ordinance)
  • Teamwork is essential, it gives them other people to shoot at. (Unknown)
  • They’ll be no learning period with nuclear weapons. Make one mistake and you’re going to destroy nations. (Robert McNamara
  • Any soldier worth his salt should be anti(war. And still, there are things worth fighting for. (General Norman Schwarzkopf)
  • It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle. (General Norman Schwarzkopf)
  • Let your plans be as dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt. (Sun Tzu)
  • Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons. (General Douglas MacArthur)
  • My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth. (George Washington)
  • Cluster bombing from B(52s are very, very, accurate. The bombs are guaranteed to always hit the ground. (USAF Ammo Troop)
  • The bursting radius of a hand(grenade is always one foot greater than your jumping range. (Unknown)

References:

Charlton, James. The Military Quotation Book. Thomas Dunne Books, 2002
Tsouras, Peter. Greenhill Dictionary of Military Quotations. Greenhill Books, 2004
Haiber, Robert. Military Quotations 2000. Info Devels Press, 2001
Dewar, Michael. An Anthology of Military Quotations. Robert Hale Limited, 1990
Foley, Charles. Commando Extraordinary. Batnam Books, 1989
Macdonald, Peter. Giap. Fourth Estate Limited, 1993
Moore, Harold G., Galloway, and Joseph L. . Airlife Publishing, 1994