Military Quotes

"..the Reserve Components offer the nation a large measure of deterrence and warfighting power per dollar invested. "
from FM 25-100 Training the Force

The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.
Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933), U.S. Republican politician, president. Speech, 27 July 1920, Northampton, Massachusetts, accepting the Republican vice-presidential nomination.

On becoming soldiers we have not ceased to be citizens.
Address , "Humble Representation," 1647, to the English Parliament by Oliver Cromwell's soldiers.

An army without culture is a dull-witted army, and a dull-witted army cannot defeat the enemy.
Mao Zedong (1893-1976), Founder of the People's Republic of China. "The United Front in Cultural Work" (30 Oct. 1944; published in Selected Works, vol. 3).

Let him who desires peace prepare for war.
Vegetius (4th century), Roman military strategist.

My center is giving way, my right is in retreat; situation excellent. I shall attack.
Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929), French general. Message allegedly sent to General Joffre during Battle of the Marne, 8 Sept. 1914. Quoted in: B. H. Liddell Hart, Reputations, "Ferdinand Foch" (1928). This was in all likelihood apocryphal, originating in Foch's repeated refrain to his troops, Attaquez! According to Liddell Hart, his insistence decimated the companies under his command, and the eventual German withdrawal astonished the exhausted French troops. Other variations of the message include, "Ma droite est enfoncée, ma gauche cède-tout va bien-j'attaque!" ("My right gives way, my left yields, everything's fine-I shall attack!").

God is not on the side of the big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best.
Voltaire (1694-1778), French philosopher, author. Notebooks, vol. 2, "The Piccini Notebooks"

Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English philosopher, essayist, statesman. Essays, "Of Studies" (1597-1625).

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition.
And gentlemen in England now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English dramatist, poet. King Henry, in King Henry V, act 4, sc. 3.

I don't know what effect these men will have upon the enemy, but, by God, they terrify me.
Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), English soldier, prime minister. Dispatch, Aug. 1810, speaking of his generals-though commonly thought to refer to the rank-and-file soldiers. A similar remark is attributed to English prime minister Lord North,

When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen.
George Washington (1732-99), U.S. general, president. Address, 26 June 1775, to the New York legislature.

The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.
Sun Tzu (6-5TH CENTURY B.C.), Chinese general. The Art of War, ch. 5, axiom 13 (c. 490 B.C.; ed. by James Clavell, 1981).

I would rather . . . have a nod from an American, than a snuff-box from an emperor.
Lord Byron (1788-1824), English poet. Letter, 8 June 1822, to poet Thomas Moore (published in Byron's Letters and Journals, vol. 9, ed. by Leslie A. Marchand, 1979).

Follow me if I advance! Kill me if I retreat! Revenge me if I die!
Ngo Dinh Diem (d. 1963), Vietnamese politician. Reported in Time (New York, 8 Nov. 1963), on becoming President of Vietnam, 1954.

The secret of a leader lies in the tests he has faced over the whole course of his life and the habit of action he develops in meeting those tests.
Gail Sheehy (b. 1937), U.S. journalist, author.

The bond between a man and his profession is similar to that which ties him to his country; it is just as complex, often ambivalent, and in general it is understood completely only when it is broken: by exile or emigration in the case of one's country, by retirement in the case of a trade or profession.
Primo Levi (1919-87), Italian chemist, author. Other People's Trades, "Ex-Chemist" (1985; tr. 1989).

The General Order is always to manoeuver in a body and on the attack; to maintain strict but not pettifogging discipline; to keep the troops constantly at the ready; to employ the utmost vigilance on sentry go; to use the bayonet on every possible occasion; and to follow up the enemy remorselessly until he is utterly destroyed.
Lazare Carnot (1753-1823), French revolutionary, military strategist. First Order of the Day, 2 Feb. 1794, to army commanders.

What makes a regiment of soldiers a more noble object of view than the same mass of mob? Their arms, their dresses, their banners, and the art and artificial symmetry of their position and movements.
Lord Byron (1788-1824), English poet. Letter, 7 Feb. 1821, to publisher John Murray.

Soldiers have many faults, but they have one redeeming merit; they are never worshippers of force. Soldiers more than any other men are taught severely and systematically that might is not right. The fact is obvious. The might is in the hundred men who obey. The right (or what is held to be right) is in the one man who commands them.
G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936), British author. All Things Considered, "Thoughts Around Koepenick" (1908).

If you want to know the taste of a pear, you must change the pear by eating it yourself. . . . If you want to know the theory and methods of revolution, you must take part in revolution. All genuine knowledge originates in direct experience.
Mao Zedong (1893-1976), Founder of the People's Republic of China. Speech, July 1937, Yenan, China.

The most persistent sound which reverberates through man's history is the beating of war drums.
Arthur Koestler (1905-83), Hungarian-born British novelist, essayist.

There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others.
Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), Italian political philosopher, statesman.

I had rather have a plain, russet-coated Captain, that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than that which you call a Gentle-man and is nothing else.
Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), Parliamentarian general, Lord Protector of England. Letter, Sept. 1643. Quoted in: Thomas Carlyle, Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell (1845).