Useful Quotations on the Military

Pithy Prose for Politicians, Preachers, Professors, Pundits, and Public Speakers.

By Mark D. Harris

“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.” Marcus Aurelius

“Be polite; write diplomatically; even in a declaration of war one observes
the rules of politeness.” Otto Von Bismarck

“People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an
election.” Otto Von Bismarck

“Fools say that they learn by experience. I prefer to profit by others experience”
Otto Von Bismarck

“The most dangerous moment comes with victory” Napoleon Bonaparte

“There are but two powers in the world, the sword and the mind. In the long run the sword is always beaten by the mind.” Napoleon Bonaparte

“Read over and over again the campaigns of Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Gustavus, Turenne, Eugene and Frederic. … This is the only way to become a great general and master the secrets of the art of war. …”Napoleon Bonaparte, “Military Maxims of Napoleon”

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)

“I learned that good judgment comes from experience and that experience grows out of mistakes.” General Omar N. Bradley

“Men are nearly always willing to believe what they wish.” Julius Caesar

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. You ask, what is our policy? I say it is to wage war by land, sea, and air. War with all our might and with all the strength God has given us, and to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. 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.”
Winston Churchill in his initial speech as Prime Minister to the House of Commons (10 May 1940)

It’s no use saying, ”We are doing our best.” You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary. Winston Churchill

This is no time for ease and comfort. It is the time to dare and endure. Winston Churchill

“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

“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

“The backbone of surprise is fusing speed with secrecy.” Clausewitz (1780-1831)

“On becoming soldiers we have not ceased to be citizens.” Oliver Cromwell’s Soldiers (“Humble Representation”)

“To lead uninstructed people to war is to throw them away.” Confucius

“What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog” General Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 1958. Republican National Convention

“History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.”
General Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” General Dwight D. Eisenhower

“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 with 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

“Without supplies no army is brave” Frederick the Great, “Instructions to his Generals” 1747

“I am up and about when I am ill, and in the most appalling weather. I am on horseback when other men would be flat out on their beds, complaining. We are made for action, and activity is the sovereign remedy for all physical ills.” Frederick the Great

“Don’t say it’s impossible! Turn your command over to the next officer. If he can’t do it, I’ll find someone who can, even if I have to take him from the ranks!” General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

“I yield to no man in sympathy for the gallant men under my command; but I am obliged to sweat them tonight, so that I may save their blood tomorrow.” General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

“In matters of style swim with the current in matters of principle stand like a rock.” Thomas Jefferson

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

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)

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

“We are not retreating – we are advancing in another Direction.” General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964)

A general is just as good or just as bad as the troops under his command make him. General Douglas MacArthur

“One cannot wage war under present conditions without the support of public opinion, which is tremendously molded by the press and other forms of propaganda.” General Douglas MacArthur

“In no other profession are the penalties for employing untrained personnel so appalling or so irrevocable as in the military.” General Douglas MacArthur

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

By profession I am a soldier and take pride in that fact. But I am prouder — infinitely prouder — to be a father. A soldier destroys in order to build; the father only builds, never destroys. The one has the potentiality of death; the other embodies creation and life. And while the hordes of death are mighty, the battalions of life are mightier still. It is my hope that my son, when I am gone, will remember me not from the battle field but in the home repeating with him our simple daily prayer, ”Our Father Who Art in Heaven.” General Douglas MacArthur

“I hold it to be of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards any one, for neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy; but the one makes him more cautious, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you” Niccolo Machiavelli

“It is absurd to believe that soldiers who cannot be made to wear the proper uniform can be induced to move forward in battle. Officers who fail to perform their duty by correcting small violations and in enforcing proper conduct are incapable of leading.” General George S. Patton Jr., April 1943

“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.” General George Patton (1885-1945)

“The test of success is not what you do when you’re on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” 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 Patton Jr

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

“If you are going to win any battle, you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do… the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.” General George S. Patton

“Paper-work will ruin any military force” Lieutenant-General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller

“We’re surrounded. That simplifies the problem.” Attributed to Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, USMC

“Few men are born brave. Many become so through training and force of discipline”-Flavius Vegetius Renatus

“The courage of the soldier is heightened by the knowledge of his profession”
Flavius Vegetius Renatus

“Be an example to your men, in your duty and in private life. Never spare yourself, and let the troops see that you don’t in your endurance of fatigue and privation. Always be tactful and well-mannered and teach your subordinates to do the same. Avoid excessive sharpness or harshness of voice, which usually indicates the man who has shortcomings of his own to hide.” Field Marshall Erwin Rommel

“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 here, And hold their manhood’s cheap whiles any speaks, That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.” William Shakespeare (“King Henry V”)

“The more comfort the less courage there is” Field Marshal Prince Aleksandr V. Suvorov, Published in “Soviet Military Review” 1979

“Accustom yourself to tireless activity…” Field Marshal Prince Aleksandr V. Suvorov

We must remember that one man is much the same as another, and that he is best who is trained in the severest school.” Thucydides, “History of the Peloponnesian War” (431-404 B.C.)

“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

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

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

“Military tactics are like unto water, for water in its natural course runs away from high places and hastens downward. So in war, the way to avoid what is strong is to strike what is weak.” Sun Tzu

Everlasting peace is a dream, and not even a pleasant one; and war is a necessary part of God’s arrangement of the world. Without war, the world would slide dissolutely into materialism. Helmuth von Moltke (1800-1891)

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