Many a great U.S. military leader has also been profoundly well spoken. Their words below will make you proud, and perhaps give you a few goosebumps. Remember to thank a veteran this Veterans’ Day.
1. George S. Patton, Jr.:
“We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.”
Pocket Patriot: Quotes from American Heroes (2005) edited by Kelly Nickell, p. 157.
General George Smith Patton, Jr. is best known for leading the U.S. Third Army in France and Germany following the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. He was known in his time as “America’s Fightingest General.” Gen. Patton is also one of the most quotable men of all time. Other famous lines of his include “A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood” and “The highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country.”
2. Dwight D. Eisenhower:
“The hand of the aggressor is stayed by strength — and strength alone.”
Dwight David Eisenhower, a.k.a. “Ike”, served as Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II before being elected as America’s 34th President.
3. Douglas MacArthur:
“Could I have but a line a century hence crediting a contribution to the advance of peace, I would gladly yield every honor which has been accorded me in war.”
Macarthur and the American Century: A Reader (2001) edited by William M Leary
General Douglas MacArthur was an American five-star general and Field Marshal of the Philippine Army. He served as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the Philippines Campaign, which made him and his father Arthur MacArthur, Jr., the first father and son to be awarded the medal.
4. Colin Powell:
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.”
The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell (2003) by Oren Harari, p. 164
General Colin Luther Powell served as the 65th United States Secretary of State from January 20, 2001 to November 12, 2004. He also served as National Security Advisor (1987–1989), Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command (1989) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–1993).
5. John F. Kennedy:
“In a world of danger and trial, peace is our deepest aspiration, and when peace comes we will gladly convert not our swords into plowshares, but our bombs into peaceful reactors, and our planes into space vessels. ‘Pursue peace,’ the Bible tells us, and we shall pursue it with every effort and every energy that we possess. But it is an unfortunate fact that we can secure peace only by preparing for war.”
John Fitzgerald “Jack” Kennedy served as the 35th President of the United States at the heigh of the Cold War and was in office from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963.
6. Richard Grenier:
“People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
Commonly misattributed to George Orwell, this iconic and truthful military quote is actually from a 1993 essay by Richard Grenier in which he was interpreting Orwell’s beliefs in his own words.
Richard Grenier was a neoconservative cultural columnist and film critic. He had a degree in engineering from the United States Naval Academy.
7. Anthony MacAuliffe:
– said in response to a German surrender ultimatum.
The famously laconic General Anthony Clement “Nuts” McAuliffe was the acting commander of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division troops defending Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. As this story goes, the Acting Chief of Staff, Lt. Col. Ned Moore, awakened McAulliffe in the middle of the night and said to him, “The Germans have sent some people forward to take our surrender.” McAuliffe, still half asleep, said “Nuts!” as he started to climb out of his sleeping bag.
When the Germans received this reply from McAuliffe’s men, they asked, “What does this mean?”
“Du kannst zum Teufel gehen,” the Americans explained (“You can go to hell”).
8. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr.
“True courage is being afraid, and going ahead and doing your job.”
Pocket Patriot: Quotes from American Heroes (2005) Edited by Kelly Nickell, p. 53
General Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr., a.k.a. Stormin’ Norman, served as Commander-in-Chief (now known as “Combatant Commander”) of U.S. Central Command and was commander of the Coalition Forces in the Gulf War of 1991.
9. George Washington:
“As to pay, Sir, I beg leave to assure the Congress that as no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to accept this arduous employment at the expense of my domestic ease and happiness, I do not wish to make any profit from it.”
George Washington was the successful Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War and was elected unanimously, twice, as the first President.
10. Nathan Hale:
“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
Last words before being hanged for treason against Britain
Nathan Hale was an American soldier and spy for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He volunteered for an intelligence-gathering mission in New York City and was captured by the British and executed at age 21.
11. Alexander Hamilton:
“It is long since I have learned to hold popular opinion of no value.”
Letter to Washington, November 1794
General Alexander Hamilton was chief staff aide to George Washington, the founder of the Federalist Party and the Father of the United States Coast Guard, among many other accomplishments as a Founding Father of the United States.
12. An unnamed medic:
“They’ve got us surrounded — the poor bastards.”
This was another amazing moment from The Battle of the Bulge. As the story is told in Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers, 12,000 soldiers were holed up near Bastogne when Corporal Carson of Easy Company asked a medic, “Hey, how come you got so many wounded people around here? Aren’t we evacuating anybody?”
“Haven’t you heard?” the medic replied.
“I haven’t heard a damn thing.”
And that’s when the medic said, “They’ve got us surrounded — the poor bastards.”
Indeed, although the Germans managed to begin their surprise offensive with success, the Allied soldiers held them off long enough that Gen. Patton’s 4th Armored Division, supplemented by the 26th (Yankee) Infantry Division, was able to provide relief.