The Big Page O' Military Quotes

compiled by Eric Lewan alphabetically by speaker


A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z - misc.

Winston Churchill Karl Von Clausewitz Basil H. Liddel-Hart Douglas MacArthur Napoleon Bonaparte George Patton Sun Tzu

note: due to the nature of the subject, several unsavory individuals and foolish ideas are presented within this page besides those noble and true. Inclusion of a quote or a source does not imply my agreement with, nor endorsement of, the person or the sentiment. Considering the occasion and circumstances of the quote, as well as the personal characteristics of the speaker, is essential in contemplating its fullest meaning.

A

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B

Fools say that they learn by experience. I prefer to profit by others' experience
- Bismark

Every plan of campaign ought to have several branches and to have been so well thought out that one or other of the said branches cannot fail of success.
- Bourchet

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C

Veni, vidi, vici. (I came, I saw, I conquered)
- Julius Caesar

The side with the simplest uniforms wins.
- Maj Mark Cancian

War is a quarrel between two thieves too cowardly to fight their own battle; therefore they take boys from one village and another village, stick them into uniforms, equip them with guns, and let them loose like wild beasts against one other.
- Thomas Carlyle

"However much we may sympathize with a small nation confronted by a big and powerful neighbor, we cannot in all circumstances undertake to involve the whole British Empire in a war simply on her account. If we have to fight it must be on larger issues than that..."
- Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (1938, about the conflict between Germany and Czechoslavkia)

"We would fight not for the political future of a distant city [Danzig], rather for principles whose destruction would ruin the possibility of peace and security for the peoples of the earth."
- Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain

"If the enemy's dispositions are visible, we can make for him in one body; whereas, our own dispositions being kept secret, the enemy will be obliged to divide his forces in order to guard against attack from every quarter."
- Chang Yu

"if a spirit of anger can be made to pervade all ranks of an army at one and the same time, its onset will be irresistible. Now the spirit of the enemy's soldiers will be keenest when they have newly arrived on the scene, and it is therefore our cue not to fight at once, but to wait until their ardor and enthusiasm have worn off, and then strike. It is in this way that they may be robbed of their keen spirit."
- Chang Yu

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Churchill

"Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valour, and be in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altar."
- Prime Minister Winston Churchill

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"I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."
- Prime Minister Winston Churchill

"Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."
- Prime Minister Winston Churchill

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
- Prime Minister Winston Churchill (about the Royal Air Force)

"We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender and even if, which I do not for the moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, will carry on the struggle until in God's good time the New World with all its power and might, sets forth to the liberation and rescue of the Old."
- Prime Minister Winston Churchill (after the fall of France)

"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."
- Prime Minister Winston Churchill

"You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all terrors. Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival."
- Prime Minister Winston Churchill

"To have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy. Now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all!...Hitler's fate was sealed. Mussolini's fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder."
- Prime Minister Winston Churchill (after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor)

"Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonor. They chose dishonor."
- Prime Minister Winston Churchill

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Clausewitz

"War is the continuation of policy by other means."
- Karl von Clausewitz

"Never forget that no military leader has ever become great without audacity. If the leader is filled with high ambition and if he pursues his aims with audacity and strength of will, he will reach them in spite of all obstacles."
- Karl von Clausewitz

"The majority of people are timid by nature, and that is why they constantly exaggerate danger. All influences on the military leader, therefore, combine to give him a false impression of his opponent's strength, and from this arises a new source of indecision."
- Karl von Clausewitz

"We must, therefore, be confident that the general measures we have adopted will produce the results we expect. Most important in this connection is the trust which we must have in our lieutenants. Consequently, it is important to choose men on whom we can rely and to put aside all other considerations. If we have made appropriate preparations, taking into account all possible misfortunes, so that we shall not be lost immediately if they occur, we must boldly advance into the shadows of uncertainty."
- Karl von Clausewitz

"After we have thought out everything carefully in advance and have sought and found without prejudice the most plausible plan, we must not be ready to abandon it at the slightest provocation. Should this certainty be lacking, we must tell ourselves that nothing is accomplished in warfare without daring; that the nature of war certainly does not let us see at all times where we are going; that what is probable will always be probable though at the moment it may not seem so; and finally, that we cannot be readily ruined by a single error, if we have made reasonable preparations."
- Karl von Clausewitz

"The first and most important rule to observe...is to use our entire forces with the utmost energy. The second rule is to concentrate our power as much as possible against that section where the chief blows are to be delivered and to incur disadvantages elsewhere, so that our chances of success may increase at the decisive point. The third rule is never to waste time. Unless important advantages are to be gained from hesitation, it is necessary to set to work at once. By this speed a hundred enemy measures are nipped in the bud, and public opinion is won most rapidly. Finally, the fourth rule is to follow up our successes with the utmost energy. Only pursuit of the beaten enemy gives the fruits of victory."
- Karl von Clausewitz

"War is the province of chance. In no other sphere of human activity must such a margin be left for this intruder. It increases the uncertainty of every circumstance and deranges the course of events."
- Karl von Clausewitz

"The best form of defense is attack."
- Karl von Clausewitz

"The conqueror is always a lover of peace; he would prefer to take over our country unopposed."
- Karl von Clausewitz

"War is a conflict of great interests which is settled by bloodshed, and only in that is it different from others."
- Karl von Clausewitz

"In war the will is directed at an animate object that reacts."
- Karl von Clausewitz

"There is only one decisive victory: the last."
- Karl von Clausewitz

"a certain grasp of military affairs is vital for those in charge of general policy."
- Karl von Clausewitz

"The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish . . . the kind of war on which they are embarking."
- Karl von Clausewitz

"no one starts a war-or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so-without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it."
- Karl von Clausewitz

If the leader is filled with high ambition and if he pursues his aims with audacity and strength of will, he will reach them in spite of all obstacles.
- Karl von Clausewitz

"Pursue one great decisive aim with force and determination."

"The bloody solution of the crisis, the effort for the destruction of the enemy's forces, is the first-born son of war."

"Only great and general battles can produce great results"

"Blood is the price of victory"
- Karl von Clausewitz [these quotes demonstrate the inadequacy of his direct form of strategy]

The truth is that the fall of Napoleon is the hardest blow that our taxing system ever felt. It is now impossible to make people believe that immense fleets and armies are necessary.
-William Cobbett

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D

"If the blood of France and of Germany flows again, as it did twenty-five years ago, in a longer and even more murderous war, each of the two peoples will fight with confidence in its own victory, but the most certain victors will be the forces of destruction and barbarism."
- Édouard Daladier, French Premier (1939)

"The enemy holds every trump card, covering all areas with long-range air patrols and using location methods against which we still have no warning... The enemy knows all our secrets and we know none of his."
- Grand Admiral Doenitz, Commander in Chief of the German Navy (1943)

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E

"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."
-Albert Einstein (contemplating nuclear devastation)

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F

"Moderation in war is imbecility."
- Admiral John Fisher

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."
- Marechal Ferdinand Foch [Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre] (circa 1911)

"A defensive war is apt to betray us into too frequent detachment. Those generals who have had but little experience attempt to protect every point, while those who are better acquainted w ith their profession, having only the capital object in view, guard against a decisive blow, and acquiesce in small misfortunes to avoid greater."
- Frederick the Great

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G

An eye for an eye only ends by making the whole world blind.
-Mohandas K. Gandhi

Do you want total war? If necessary, do you want a war more total and radical than anything that we can even imagine today?"
- Josef Goebbel, Minister of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda

"The battle we are now approaching demands a colossal measure of production capacity. No limit on rearmament can be visualized. The only alternatives are victory or destruction... We live in a time when the final battle is in sight. We are ready on the threshold of mobilization and we are already at war. All that is lacking is the actual shooting."
- Reich Marshal Hermann Göring, Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe (1936)

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H

"Democracy has no convictions for which people would be willing to stake their lives."
- Dr. Ernst Hanftstaengl

"Peace is an extension of war by political means."
- Robert Heinlein

"The highest generalship is to compel the enemy to disperse his army, and then to concentrate superior force against each fraction in turn."
- Col. Henderson

"The rules of strategy are few and simple. They may be learned in a week. They may be taught by familiar illustrations or a dozen diagrams. But such knowledge will no more teach a man to lead an army like Napoleon than a knowledge of grammar will teach him to write like Gibbon."
- Col. Henderson

"The line of supply may be said to be as vital to the existence of an army as the heart to the life of a human being. Just as the duelist who finds his adversary's point menacing him with certain death, and his own guard astray, is compelled to conform to his adversary's movements, and to content himself with warding off his thrusts, so the commander whose communications are suddenly threatened find s himself in a false position, and he will be fortunate if he has not to change all his plans, to split up his force into more or less isolated detachments, and to fight with inferior numbers on ground which he has not had time to prepare, and where defea t will not be an ordinary failure, but will entail the ruin or surrender of his whole army."
- Col. Henderson

"We have resolved to endure the unendurable and suffer what is insufferable."
- Emperor Hirohito

"How to achieve the moral breakdown of the enemy before the war has started -- that is the problem that interests me. Whoever has experienced war at the front will want to refrain from all avoidable bloodshed."
- Adolph Hitler (from Hitler Speaks<)

"A single blow must destroy the enemy... without regard of losses... a gigantic all-destroying blow."
- Adolf Hitler

"Strength lies not in defense but in attack."
- Adolf Hitler

"People have killed only when they could not achieve their aim in other ways ... there is a broadened strategy, with intellectual weapons ... why should I demoralize the enemy by military means if I can do so better and more cheaply in other ways?"
- Adolf Hitler

"Demoralize the enemy from within by surprise, terror, sabotage, assassination. This is the war of the future."
- Adolf Hitler

"Our strategy is to destroy the enemy from within, to conquer him through himself."
- Adolf Hitler

"Germany is prepared to agree to any solemn pact of non-aggression, because she does not think of attacking but only acquiring security."
- Adolf Hitler (1933)

"National Socialist Germany wants peace because of its fundamental convictions. And it wants peace also owing to the realization of the simple primitive fact that no war would be likely essentially to alter the distress in Europe... The principal effect of every war is to destroy the flower of the nation... Germany needs peace and desires peace!"
- Adolf Hitler (May 21, 1935)

"England, unlike in 1914, will not allow herself to blunder into a war lasting for years.... Such is the fate of rich countries.. .Not even England has the money nowadays to fight a world war. What should England fight for? You don't get yourself killed over an ally."
- Adolf Hitler (1939)

"The war against Russia will be such that it cannot be conducted in a knightly fashion. This struggle is one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be conducted with unprecedented, unmerciful and unrelenting harshness."
- Adolf Hitler (1941)

Sometimes it is entirely appropriate to kill a fly with a sledge hammer.
Major Holdridge

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J

"The hardships of forced marches are often more painful than the dangers of battle"
- Stonewall Jackson

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K

"We have War when at least one of the parties to a conflict wants something more than it wants Peace."
- Jeane J. Kirkpatrick

Being ready is not what matters. What matters is winning after you get there.
-Lieutenant General V.H. Krulak, USMC

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L

"The soundest strategy in war is to postpone operations until the moral disintegration of the enemy renders the delivery of the mortal blow both possible and easy."
- V. I. Lenin, Russian revolutionary leeader

"Attacking does not merely consist in assaulting walled cities or striking at an army in battle array; it must include the art of assailing the enemy's mental equilibrium."
- Li Ching (571-649 C.E.)

Liddel-Hart

The hydrogen bomb is not the answer to the Western peoples' dream of full and final insurance of their security ... While it has increased their striking power it has sharpened their anxiety and deepened their sense of insecurity.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

For whoever habitually suppresses the truth in the interests of tact will produce a deformity from the womb of his thought.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

For even the best of peace training is more theoretical than practical experience ... indirect practical experience may be the more valuable because infinitely wider.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

...the predominance of moral factors in all military decisions. On them constantly turns the issue of war and battle. In the history of war they form the more constant factors, changing only in degree, whereas the physical factors are different in almost every war and every military situation.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

the most consistently successful commanders, when faced by an enemy in a position that was strong naturally or materially, have hardly ever tackled it in a direct way. And when, under pressure of circumstances, they have risked a direct attack, the result has commonly been to blot their record with a failure.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

This high proportion of history's decisive campaigns, the significance of which is enhanced by the comparative rarity of the direct approach, enforces the conclusion that the indirect is by far the most hopeful and economic form of strategy.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

Natural hazards, however formidable, are inherently less dangerous and less uncertain than fighting hazards. All ocnditions are more calculable, all obstacles more surmountable than those of human resistance.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

The most effective indirect approach is one that lures or startles the opponent into a false move -- so that, as in ju-jitsu, his own effort is turned into the lever of his overthrow.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

The effect to be sought is the dislocation of the opponent's mind and dispositions -- such an effect is the true gauge of an indirect approach.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

In a campaign against more than one state or army, it is more fruitful to concentrate first against the weaker partner than to attempt the overthrow of the stronger in the belief that the latter's defeat will automatically involve the collapse of the others.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

The military weapon is but one of the means that serve the purposes of war: one out of the assortment which grand strategy can employ.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

While there are many causes for which a state goes to war, its fundamental object can be epitomized as that of ensuring the continuance of its policy -- in face of the determination of the opposing state to pursue a contrary policy. In the human will lies the source and mainspring of conflict.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

It should be the aim of grand strategy to discover and pierce the Achilles' heel of the opposing government's power to make war. Strategy, in turn, should seek to penetrate a joint in the harness of the opposing forces. To apply one's strength where the opponent is strong weakens oneself disproportionately to the effect attained. To strike with strong effect, one must strike at weakness.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

It is thus more potent, as well as more economical, to disarm the enemy than to attempt his destruction by hard fighting ... A strategist should think in terms of paralysing, not of killing.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

While the nominal strength of a country is represented by its numbers and resources, this muscular development is dependent on the state of its internal organs and nerve-system -- upon its stability of control, morale, and supply.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

Direct pressure always tends to harden and consolidate the resistance of an opponent.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

To ensure attaining an objective, one should have alternate objectives. An attack that converges on one point should threaten, and be able to diverge against another. Only by this flexibility of aim can strategy be attuned to the uncertainty of war.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

The higher level of grand strategy [is] that of conducting war with a far-sighted regard to the state of the peace that will follow.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

As has happened so often in history, victory had bred a complacency and fostered an orthodoxy which led to defeat in the next war.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954; discussing the French army between the World Wars)

Their strength became split in diverging directions -- due partly to divided minds at the top, but also, ironically, to dazzling initial success in all directions. Instead of keeping a single line of operation that threatened alternate objectives, they were led to pursue several lines of operation, each too obviously aiming at a single objective, which thus became easier for the devender to cover. Moreover, in each case the attacker's direction became obvious at the same time that his drive was becoming a precarious strech of his own supply line.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954; on German failure in WWII)

The more closely [the German army] converged on [Stalingrad], the narrower became their scope for tactical manoeuvre as a lever in loosening resistance. By contrast, the narrowing of the frontage made it easier for the defender to switch his local reserves to any threatened point on the defensive arc.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

With growing experience, all skillful commanders sought to profit by the power of the defensive, even when on the offensive.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

[the blurring of the line between policy and strategy] couraged soldiers to make the preposterous claim that policy should be subservient to their conduct of operations, and (especially in democratic countries) it drew the statesman on to overstep the definite border of his sphere and interfere with his military employees in the actual use of their tools.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

The more usual reason for adopting a strategy of limited aim is that of awaiting a change in the balance of force ... The essential condition of such a strategy is that the drain on him should be disproportionately greater than on oneself.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

To foster the people's willing spirit is often as important as to possess the more concrete forms of power.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

No man can exactly calculate the capacity of human genius and stupidity, nor the incapacity of will.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

In war the chief incalculable is the human will, which manifests itself in resistance, which in turn lies in the province of tactics. Strategy has not to overcome resistance, except from nature. Its purpose is to diminish the possibility of resistance, and it seeks to fulfil this purpose by exploiting the elements of movement and surprise.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

In the case of a state that is seeking not conquest but the maintenance of its security, the aim is fulfilled if the threat is removed -- if the enemy is led to abandon his purpose.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

[The] aim is not so much to seek battle as to seek a strategic situation so advantageous that if it does not of itself produce the decision, its continuation by a battle is sure to achieve this. In other words, dislocation is the aim of strategy.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

For if we merely take what obviously appears the line of least resistance, its obviousness will appeal to the opponent also; and this line may no longer be that of least resistance. In studying hte physical aspect, we must never lose sight of the psychological, and only when both are combined is the strategy truly an indirect approach, calculated to dislocate the opponent's balance.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

An army should always be so distributed that its parts can aid each other and combine to produce the maximum possible concentration of force at one place, while the minimum force necessary is used elsewhere to prepare the success of the concentration.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

While hitting one must guard ... In order to hit with effect, the enemy must be taken off his guard.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

In any problem where an opposing force exists and cannot be regulated, one must foresee and provide for alternative courses. Adaptability is the law which governs survival in war as in life ... To be practical, any plan must take account of the enemy's power to frustrate it; the best chance of overcoming such obstruction is to have a plan that can be easily varied to fit the circumstances met;
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

The unexpected cannot guarantee success, but it guarantees the best chance of success.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

Air forces offered the possibility of striking a the enemy's economic and moral centres without having first to achieve 'the destruction of the enemy's main forces on the battlefield'. Air-power might attain a direct end by indirect means -- hopping over opposition instead of overthrowing it.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

Inflict the least possible permanent injury, for the enemy of to-day is the customer of the morrow and the ally of the future
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (1925)

If you find your opponent in a strong position costly to force, you should leave him a line of retreat as the quickest way of loosening his resistance. It should, equally, be a principle of policy, especially in war, to provide your opponent with a ladder by which he can climb down.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

It is only to clear from history that states rarely keep faith with each other, save in so far (and so long) as their promises seem to them to combine with their interests.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

It is folly to imagine that the aggressive types, whether individuals or nations, can be bought off ... since the payment of danegeld stimulates a demand for more danegeld. But they can be curbed. Their very belief in force makes them more susceptible to the deterrent effect of a formidable opposing force.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

The downfall of civilized states tends to come not from the direct assaults of foes, but from internal decay combined with the consequences of exhaustion in war.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

The implied threat of using nuclear weapons to curb guerrillas was as absurd as to talk of using a sledge hammer to ward off a swarm of mosquitoes.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

War is always a matter of doing evil in the hope that good may come of it.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

The nearer the cutting off point lies to the main force of the enemy, the more immediate the effect; whereas the closer to the strategic base it takes place, the greater the effect.
-Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart (Strategy, 1954)

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M

MacArthur

"It is my earnest hope - indeed the hope of all mankind - that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past, a world found upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance and justice."
- General Douglas Macarthur, Supreme Allied Commander of South-West Pacific (1945)

"In war there is no substitute for victory."
- Gen Douglas MacArthur

"I Shall Return"
- Gen Douglas MacArthur

There is no security in this life. There is only opportunity.
- Gen Douglas Macarthur

Politics is war without bloodshed, while war is politics with bloodshed
- Chairman Mao Tse-Tung

Revolutionary war is an antitoxin which not only eliminates the enemy's poison but also purges us of our own filth.
- Chairman Mao Tse-Tung

Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun
- Chairman Mao Tse-Tung

War can only be abolished by war, and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to take up the gun
- Chairman Mao Tse-Tung

"We are determined that before the sun sets on this terrible struggle our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand, of overwhelming power on the other."
- George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff

"Patriotism...is the egg from which wars are hatched."
-de Maupassant

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
- H. L. Mencken

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
- John Stuart Mill (1868)

"Who overcomes by force, hath overcome but half his foe."
- Milton

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N

Napoleon

"The moral is to the physical as three to one"
- Napoleon Bonaparte

"the secret of war lies in the communications"
- Napoleon Bonaparte

"To have good soldiers, a nation must always be at war."
- Napoleon Bonaparte

"It is the function of the Navy to carry the war to the enemy so that it will not be fought on U.S. soil."
- Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet

"Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue."
- Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (March 16, 1945)

"Perhaps my dynamite plants will put an end to war sooner than your [pacifist] congresses. On the day two army corps can annihilate each other in one second all civilized nations will recoil from war in horror."
- Alfred Nobel

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O

"If they (the young pilots) are on land, they would be bombed down, and if they are in the air, they would be shot down. That's sad...Too sad...To let the young men die beautifully, that's what Tokko is. To give beautiful death, that's called sympathy."
- Admiral Takijiro Onishi (Note: Tokko means suicidal attack in Japanese)

"We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."
- George Orwell

P

Patton

"No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."
- General George S. Patton, Jr

"We want to get the hell over there. The quicker we clean up this Goddamned mess, the quicker we can take a little jaunt against the purple pissing Japs and clean out their nest, too. Before the Goddamned Marines get all of the credit."
- General George S. Patton, Jr (addressing to his troops before Operation Overlord, June 5, 1944)

"Sure, we want to go home. We want this war over with. The quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards who started it. The quicker they are whipped, the quicker we can go home. The shortest way home is through Berlin and Tokyo. And when we get to Berlin, I am personally going to shoot that paper hanging son-of-a-bitch Hitler. Just like I'd shoot a snake!"

- General George S. Patton, Jr (addressing his troops before Operation Overlord, June 5, 1944)

"Make your plans to fit the circumstances."
- General George S. Patton, Jr

"Moral courage is the most valuable and usually the most absent characteristic in men."
- General George S. Patton, Jr

"Take calculated risks."
- General George S. Patton, Jr

"There's a great deal of talk about loyalty from the bottom to the top. Loyalty from the top down is even more necessary and is much less prevalent. One of the most frequently noted characteristics of great men who have remained great is loyalty to their subordinates."
- General George S. Patton, Jr

"You're never beaten until you admit it."
- General George S. Patton, Jr

"It is only by doing things others have not that one can advance."
- General George S. Patton, Jr

"A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood."
- General George S. Patton, Jr

"All glory is fleeting."
- General George S. Patton, Jr

"A leader is a man who can adapt principles to circumstances."
- General George S. Patton, Jr

"Success demands a high level of logistical and organizational competence."
- General George S. Patton, Jr

"Perpetual peace is a futile dream."
- General George S. Patton, Jr

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."
- General George S. Patton, Jr

"The test of success is not what you do when your on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom."
- General George S. Patton, Jr

"If I win I can't be stopped! If I lose I shall be dead."
- General George S. Patton, Jr

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."
- General George S. Patton, Jr

"All right, they're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, they're behind us...they can't get away this time"
- Lt Gen Lewis B. Puller, USMC

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Q

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R

"The greatest intensification of the horrors of war is a direct result of the democratisation of the State. So long as the army was a professional unit, the specialist function of a limited number of men, war remained a relatively harmless contest for power. But once it became everyman's duty to defend his home (or his political "rights") warfare was free to range wherever that home might be, and to attack every form of life and property associated with that home."
- Herbert Read

"... the basic principles of the military services are unchangeable. Courage and candor, obedience and comradeship, love of fatherland and loyalty to the State: these are ever the distinguishing characteristics of the soldier and sailor. Building character through intelligent training and education is always the first and greatest goal."
- Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, Commander in Chief of the German Navy

"Romans not only easily conquered those who fought by cutting, but mocked them too. For the cut, even delivered with force, frequently does not kill, when the vital parts are protected by equipment and bone. On the contrary, a point brought to bear is fatal at two inches; for it is necessary that whatever vital parts it penetrates, it is immersed. Next, when a cut is delivered, the right arm and flank are exposed. However, the point is delivered with the cover of the body and wounds the enemy before he sees it.
... However, they are given that double-weight shield frame and foil, so that when the recruit takes up real, lighter weapons, as if freed from the heavier weight, he will fight in greater safety and faster. But when field training was ended through negligence and laxity, the equipment (which the soldiers seldom put on) began to be seen as heavy."
- Flavius Vegetius Renatus (in Epitoma Rei Militari) ...applicable to the use of whole forces, as well as individual weapons

"War is about killing people and breaking things." I have done it, war is not a lot of fun, and intellectually there is little to defend the practice. Notice, I did not say "nothing," I said "little," and it is a damn BIG little. It is this simple, if they are willing to kill people and break things, and you are not, they win. One ugly fact about human nature is: If someone will not fight for what is theirs, they lose it.
-John Carl Roat, CLASS-29

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"The forty-eight hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-racking in my life. If the French had then marched into the Rhineland, we would have had to withdraw with our tails between our legs, for the military resources at our disposal would have been wholly inadequate for even moderate resistance."
- Dr. Paul Schmidt, Hitler's interpreter

"I am quite confident that in the foreseeable future armed conflict will not take the form of huge land armies facing each other across extended battle lines, as they did in World War I and World War II or, for that matter, as they would have if NATO had faced the Warsaw Pact on the field of battle."
- H. Norman Schwartzkopf

"The fear of war is worse than war itself."
-Seneca

"There's only one truth about war: people die."
- Sheridan

Sun Tzu

The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected
-Sun Tzu

All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.
-Sun Tzu

If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is tempermental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.
-Sun Tzu

the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all! It is by attention to this point that I can foresee who is likely to w in or lose.
-Sun Tzu

He who wishes to fight must first count the cost. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be dampened. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor dampened, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue... In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.
-Sun Tzu

Though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.
-Sun Tzu

It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.
-Sun Tzu

Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy... use the conquered foe to augment one's own strength.
-Sun Tzu

In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it.
-Sun Tzu

To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.
-Sun Tzu

Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's plans, the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy's forces, the next in order is to attack the enemy's army in the field, and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.
-Sun Tzu

There are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army: By commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey; This is called hobbling the army. By attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army; This causes restlessness in the soldier's minds. By employing the officers of his army without discrimination, through ignorance of the military principle of adaptation to circumstances. This shakes the confidence of the soldiers.
-Sun Tzu

He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight. He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces. He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks. He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared. He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.
-Sun Tzu

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
-Sun Tzu

The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself. Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy.
-Sun Tzu

Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated.
-Sun Tzu

The victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.
-Sun Tzu

Fighting with a large army under your command is nowise different from fighting with a small one: it is merely a question of instituting signs and signals.
-Sun Tzu

In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory. In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack - the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers. The direct and the indirect lead on to each other in turn. It is like moving in a circle - you never come to an end. Who can exhaust the possibilities of their combination?
-Sun Tzu

Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.
-Sun Tzu

The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him.
-Sun Tzu

An army may march great distances without distress, if it marches through country where the enemy is not. You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended. You can ensure the safety of your defense if you only hold positions that cannot be attacked.
-Sun Tzu

Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.
-Sun Tzu

If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced to an engagement even though he be sheltered behind a high rampart and a deep ditch. All we need do is attack some other place that he will be obliged to relieve. If we do not wish to fight, we can prevent the enemy from engaging us even though the lines of our encampment be merely traced out on the ground. All we need do is to throw something odd and unaccountable in his way.
-Sun Tzu

Should the enemy strengthen his van, he will weaken his rear; should he strengthen his rear, he will weaken his van; should he strengthen his left, he will weaken his right; should he strengthen his right, he will weaken his left. If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak.
-Sun Tzu

In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch you can attain is to conceal them.
-Sun Tzu

Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards... Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain.
-Sun Tzu

So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.
-Sun Tzu

The difficulty of tactical maneuvering consists in turning the devious into the direct, and misfortune into gain.
-Sun Tzu

Maneuvering with an army is advantageous; with an undisciplined multitude, most dangerous.
-Sun Tzu

We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbors.
-Sun Tzu

Do not interfere with an army that is returning home. When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.
-Sun Tzu

The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.
-Sun Tzu

When the common soldiers are too strong and their officers too weak, the result is INSUBORDINATION. When the officers are too strong and the common soldiers too weak, the result is COLLAPSE. When the higher officers are angry and insubordinate, and on meeting the enemy give battle on their own account from a feeling of resentment, before the commander-in-chief can tell whether or no he is in a position to fight, the result is RUIN.
-Sun Tzu

The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.
-Sun Tzu

Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death. If, however, you are indulgent, but unable to make your authority felt; kind-hearted, but unable to enforce your commands; and incapable, moreover, of quelling disorder: then your soldiers must be likened to spoilt children; they are useless for any practical purpose.
-Sun Tzu

If we know that our own men are in a condition to attack, but are unaware that the enemy is not open to attack, we have gone only halfway towards victory. If we know that the enemy is open to attack, but are unaware that our own men are not in a condition to attack, we have gone only halfway towards victory. If we know that the enemy is open to attack, and also know that our men are in a condition to attack, but are unaware that the nature of the ground makes fighting impracticable, we have still gone only halfway towards victory.
-Sun Tzu

If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete.
-Sun Tzu

On dispersive ground, therefore, fight not. On facile ground, halt not. On contentious ground, attack not. On open ground, do not try to block the enemy's way. On the ground of intersecting highways, join hands with your allies. On serious ground, gather in plunder. In difficult ground, keep steadily on the march. On hemmed-in ground, resort to stratagem. On desperate ground, fight.
-Sun Tzu

If asked how to cope with a great host of the enemy in orderly array and on the point of marching to the attack, I should say: "Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will." Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy's unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots.
-Sun Tzu

Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight. If they will face death, there is nothing they may not achieve.
-Sun Tzu

If our soldiers are not overburdened with money, it is not because they have a distaste for riches; if their lives are not unduly long, it is not because they are disinclined to longevity.
-Sun Tzu

Bestow rewards without regard to rule, issue orders without regard to previous arrangements; and you will be able to handle a whole army as though you had to do with but a single man.
-Sun Tzu

Unhappy is the fate of one who tries to win his battles and succeed in his attacks without cultivating the spirit of enterprise; for the result is waste of time and general stagnation. Hence the saying: The enlightened ruler lays his plans well ahead; the good general cultivates his resources.
-Sun Tzu

Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical. If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are. Anger may in time change to gladne ss; vexation may be succeeded by content.
-Sun Tzu

No leader should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no leader should fight a battle simply out of pique. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life. Hence the enlightened leader is heedful, and the good leader full of caution.
-Sun Tzu

Spies cannot be usefully employed without a certain intuitive sagacity; (2) They cannot be properly managed without benevolence and straight forwardness; (3) Without subtle ingenuity of mind, one cannot make certain of the truth of their reports; (4) Be subtle! be subtle! and use your spies for every kind of warfare; (5) If a secret piece of news is divulged by a spy before the time is ripe, he must be put to death together with the man to whom the secret was told.
-Sun Tzu

The enemy's spies who have come to spy on us must be sought out, tempted with bribes, led away and comfortably housed. Thus they will become double agents and available for our service. It is through the information brought by the double agent that we are able to acquire and employ local and inward spies. It is owing to his information, again, that we can cause the doomed spy to carry false tidings to the enemy.
-Sun Tzu

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T

The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.
-Thucydides,

Without war no State could be. All those we know of arose through war, and the protection of their members by armed force remains their primary and essential task. War, therefore, will endure to the end of history, as long as there is a multiplicity of states.
- Heinrich von Treitschke

"The atom bomb was no 'great decision.' . . . It was merely another powerful weapon in the arsenal of righteousness."
-President Harry Truman

"Whether in an advantageous position or a disadvantageous one, the opposite state should be always present to your mind.
- Ts`ao Kung

Bravery without forethought causes a man to fight blindly and desperately like a mad bull. Such an opponent must not be encountered with brute force, but may be lured into an ambush and slain
- Ts`ao Kung

If you wish to feign confusion in order to lure the enemy on, you must first have perfect discipline; if you wish to display timidity in order to entrap the enemy, you must have extreme courage; if you wish to parade your weakness in order to make the enemy over-confident, you must have exceeding strength
- Tu Mu

"If I wish to wrest an advantage from the enemy, I must not fix my mind on that alone, but allow for the possibility of the enemy also doing some harm to me... If I wish to extricate myself from a dangerous position, I must consider not only the enemy's ability to injure me, but also my own ability to gain an advantage over the enemy"
- Tu Mu

"If the enemy is the invading party, we can cut his line of communications and occupy the roads by which he will have to return; if we are the invaders, we may direct our attack against the sovereign himself."
- Tu Mu

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V

God is always on the side of the heaviest battalions.
- Francois Voltaire

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W

"Weapons are baleful instruments, strife is antagonistic to virtue, a military commander is the negation of civil order!"
- Wei Liao Tzu

The hardest thing of all for a soldier is to retreat.
- Wellington

"The American forces have suffered terrible losses. The losses are far more than what Eisenhower has admitted, and worse is ahead. Tunis is only a foretaste of what is waiting for us in Europe."
- Roane Waring, Commander of the American Legion (after the victory at North Africa)

"Without harmony in the State, no military expedition can be undertaken; without harmony in the army, no battle array can be formed."
- Wu Tzu

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Y

"In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory. But then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success."
- Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander in Chief of the Japanese Navy (1940)

"A military man can scarcely pride himself on having 'smitten a sleeping enemy'; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten."
- Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander in Chief of the Japanese Navy (about Pearl Harbor, 1942)

"The mindless rejoicing at home is really appalling; it makes me fear that the first blow against Tokyo will make them wilt at once...I only wish that [the Americans] had also had, say, three carriers at Hawaii..."
- Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander in Chief of the Japanese Navy (1942)

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Z

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MISCELANEOUS

"

I swear by God this sacred oath, that I will render unconditional obedience to Adolf Hitler, the Fuehrer of the German Reich and people, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and will be ready as a brave soldier to risk my life at any time for this oath."
- German Armed Forces Oath of Loyality

"For the burned cities and villages; for the deaths of our children and our mothers; for the torture and humiliation of our people; I swear revenge upon the enemy… I swear that I would rather die in battle with the enemy then surrender myself my people and my country to the Fascist invaders. Blood for blood! Death for death!"
- Russian War Oath

Si vis pacem, para bellum. (He who desires peace must prepare for war)
- anonymous

"Frederick the Great's horse was on seven separate campaigns with him. In the end he was still a dumb horse."
- anonymous (on experience in military decision-making)

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel
- ?


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This web site is not associated with or endorsed by the United States Air Force or any government organization. All opinions are solely the author's. All material is copyright (c) 1999, 2001 by Eric Lewan and may only be copied with his permission. Last Update: May 2001

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