Military Wit and Wisdom Quotes: Quotes About Combat and War from the Military

Respected for their discipline, honor and ability to face the most intense situations in the name of liberty, the U.S. military knows a thing or two about surviving combat. These are some of our favorite quotes from our armed forces.

“Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.”

– General James Mattis

“If I always appear prepared, it is because before entering an undertaking, I have meditated long and have foreseen what might occur. It is not genius where reveals to me suddenly and secretly what I should do in circumstances unexpected by others; it is thought and preparation.”

– Napoléon Bonaparte

“If you find yourself in a fair fight – you didn’t plan your mission properly.”

– David Hackworth

“Wars begin when you will, but they do not end when you please.”

– Niccolò Machiavelli

“No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.”

– Helmuth von Moltke

“God is on the side with the best artillery.”

– Napoléon Bonaparte

“It would be a joke if the conduct of the victor had to be justified to the vanquished.”

– Napoléon Bonaparte

“If you wage war, do it energetically and with severity. This is the only way to make it shorter and consequently less inhuman.”

– Napoléon Bonaparte

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

– William Arthur Ward

“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

“Both optimists and pessimists contribute to society. The optimist invents the aeroplane, the pessimist the parachute.”

– George Bernard Shaw

“Optimists study English; pessimists study Chinese; and realists learn to use a Kalashnikov.”

– Russian Proverb

“If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.”

– Niccolò Machiavelli

“That city is well-fortified which has a wall of men instead of brick.”

– Lycurgus

“To be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprise is to be educated.”

– James Carse

“Battles really are the wildfires of history, out of which the survivors float like embers and then land to burn far beyond the original conflagration. To teach us those important lessons we must go back through the past to see precisely how such calamities affected now lost worlds—and yet still influence us today.”

– Victor Davis Hanson

“In my opinion, the M1 rifle is the greatest battle implement ever devised.”

– General George S. Patton

“I am sometimes a fox and sometimes a lion. The whole secret of government lies in knowing when to be the one or the other.”

– Napoléon Bonaparte

“If the enemy is in range, so are you.”

– Infantry Journal

“Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword, obviously never encountered automatic weapons.”

– General Douglas MacArthur

“Do you know what a soldier is, young man? He’s the chap who makes it possible for civilized folk to despise war.”

– Allan Massie

“Tracer rounds work both ways.”

– Army Ordinance Manual

“When you’re short of everything but the enemy, you are in combat.”

– Unknown

“Every plan is a good one - until the first shot is fired.”

– Carl von Clausewitz

“You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”

– Leon Trotsky

“What you can’t solve with politics, you can solve with a 5.56.”

– U.S. Marine Corps Expression

“These fallen heroes represent the character of a nation who has a long history of patriotism and honor – and a nation who has fought many battles to keep our country free from threats of terror.”

– Michael N. Castle, Former Republican Governor of Delaware

Military Wit and Wisdom Quotes: Quotes About Combat and War from the Military originally appeared on the Resistance Library on


There are so many great ones. What a great thread!

I will start off with one of my favorites. He was so adored by them, that the Marines named their mascot after him … Forever.





I’ll finish with another larger than life character.


WOW, great thread and replies :salute:

Great inspiration from you both, so greatly needed too in the age where monuments are toppled to erase history in favor of … :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:

I suppose the conclusion to that thought should be left to the reader


They wont show much of Smedley’s wisdom when military genius is the subject, he was basically the JSOC commander of his day, always in the action even when there was no official action, wonder why they don’t promote such a historical defender of the dollar…
“The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.”
“War is a racket. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”
“Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few - the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.”
“War is a racket. It always has been… A few profit - and the many pay. But there is a way to stop it. You can’t end it by disarmament conferences. You can’t eliminate it by peace parleys at Geneva. Well-meaning but impractical groups can’t wipe it out by resolutions. It can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war.”
“The only way to smash this racket is to conscript capital and industry and labor before the nations manhood can be conscripted.”
“Victory or defeat will be determined by the skill and ingenuity of our scientists. If we put them to work making poison gas and more and more fiendish mechanical and explosive instruments of destruction, they will have no time for the constructive job of creating greater prosperity for all peoples.”
A long one but I love the dig, the clarity it adds to war;
“Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen! “Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth into battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it — For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimmage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen. (After a pause.) “Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits.” …”
Smedley Butler


Quite a bit there. I have to say I disagree with some of it. Much is right on though.

He seems to blame War on the Economic Elite. I feel it is more complicated than that.

“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” - Mao Zedong


I love how the Marines picked one of the cutest and least athletic animals in existence as their mascot.


:laughing: I know it, right!



Hmmm, praying to the God of love for a violent end to one’s enemy - sounds a little ironic, no? Of course, that same God has been violent on His own, too. So, maybe not too ironic. Still, it does seem a bit odd to me when “Thou shall not kill” gets mixed in with “Please help us kill…”.


That is an incorrect translation. It should be translated in modern english as "Do not MURDER. ’

Why would anyone do that?

Oh I know to decieve…



Well, in my KJV Bible, it does not use the word “murder” - it uses the word “kill” - so, you can believe what you want, I am going with what it says in my Bible. Besides, most times, murder = kill, kill = murder.

And, “Why would anyone do that?” - Do what?

I certainly am not trying to deceive! That is the devil’s territory!


In this case it is leaving it uncorrected for literally hundreds of years. I wasn’t accusing you of deception, only by inferrence pointing out (politely I thought) that you had been deceived. The implication is that it continues. That certainly would seem to fall under the devil’s purview.

Impreciseness of language is how they (Demonrats) confuse and decieve to ‘kill’ your culture. I believe murder is more appropriate in this use because I believe it is premeditated. The root word in the original written in stone by the finger of God has the connotation of ‘to lie in wait to kill’ in other words, premeditated murder in our laws.

As regards the mistranslations in the KJV1611, they are myriad. A Strong’s Concordence is very helpful when something doesn’t make any sense. Such as God’s commandment to not kill given to a nation of warriors whom he will soon commision to cleanse their future homeland of the Baal Worshippers (basically everyone) tbrough war.



Agreed that some words in some versions of the Bible have likely been mistranslated. Though, frankly, given some of the stories in the Bible, there certainly were some directives from God to kill, as in murder, such as what the Israelites were told to do to the Canaanites so that they, the Israelites, could take the land they were promised.

So, yes, murdering is a sin, except, I guess, when God tells you to.

And, of course, except soldiers defending their country in times of war, or citizens in defense of their (or their loved ones, etc), or police in performing their duty, et al appropriate circumstances, it is a crime. So, sin or crime, either way, don’t do it.


In what language do you think the Tablets were inscribed? 1611 English? Greek? …For the Hebrews of 3,333 years ago?

I read the Torah in Hebrew, and in the Ten Commandments it says לֹא תִּרְצָח “Lo tirtzach” (Ex. 20:13, Deut. 5:17). The term there, retzach (murder, from the same root r-tz-ch), is distinct from other terms like hereg (killing [by force]), mos (death [of any sort, human or animal, natural or otherwise]), or shofech dam (spilling blood [including a non-lethal cut]). I have several Jewish translations, and some say in English “Do not kill” for the command in the Decalogue, while others say “Do not murder.”

I think “murder” is more precise, since elsewhere we have commandments that a legal system should - kill - a convicted murderer (Gen. 9:6, Num. 35:12), and that one about to murder or rape another should be stopped by killing, provided nothing less will work (Deut. 25:11,12, 22:26). Retzach is not the term used in these places for the executioner or defender, and is reserved for the wrongful killer.



Thanks for the detailed background.

So, don’t “wrongfully kill” someone. No problem. Now, for our courts to come up with a standard for what that really means and apply it equally to all cases…

Seems like the courts have so many exceptions, though, that coming up with an unbreakable definition (and no exceptions to it needed), will be quite difficult. It is one of those things we all can feel what is right, but holding someone else accountable to what we feel just doesn’t work as well.


“Fly your air space, shoot down the enemy, Nothing else matters”

Manfred von Richthofen


Smedley’s point exactly. When you read that prayer and don’t get a little ethical warning bell going off I would say you are a good candidate for the nazi party or maybe even the cia.


I think they want it seen as more complicated, it can really easily be broken down if the time is taken. Like most camo this clutter only looks like a solid object from a distance, get up close and you start to see the holes, when you get close enough to see through the holes there’s nothing but banksters, the moneyed elite.


My FIL is a retired AF Col. He says they have a perfect record. They never left one up there.