“Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do. Some of you always seem to think he is suddenly going to turn a double somersault, and land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time. Go back to your command, and try to think what we are going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do.”

Ulysses S. Grant (April 27, 1822–July 23, 1885), commanding general of the Union Army and former U.S. president, as quoted by General Horace Porter in Campaigning with Grant

“I have only two out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and a constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold.”

Clifton B. Cates (August 31, 1893–June 4, 1970), Marine Corps general and 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps from 1948 to 1951, avowed during the vicious fighting at Belleau Wood. 

“Attack rapidly, ruthlessly, viciously, without rest, however tired and hungry you may be, the enemy will be more tired, more hungry. Keep punching.” 

George S. Patton (November 11, 1885–December 21, 1945), U.S. Army general and commander of the U.S. Seventh Army and later the U.S. Third Army. 

“Americans, indeed, all free men, remember that in the final choice a soldier’s pack is not so heavy a burden as a prisoner’s chains.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower (October 14, 1890–March 28, 1969), Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe and former U.S. president, in his inaugural address in 1953.

“Retreat, Hell! We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in a different direction.”

Oliver P. Smith (October 26, 1893–December 25, 1977), Marine Corps general and commanding officer of the 1st Marine Division, famously declared this “tactic” during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.

“I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you f*ck with me, I’ll kill you all.”

James N. Mattis (September 8, 1950–), retired Marine Corps general and former defense secretary to President Donald Trump, offering this message to Iraqi leaders following the 2003 invasion.

 

  • Ulysses S. Grant (Library of Congress)
  • Clifton B. Cates (Naval History and Heritage Command)
  • George S. Patton (Library of Congress)
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower (National Archives)
  • General Oliver P. Smith (left) with Rear Admiral James H. Doyle (Naval History and Heritage Command)
  • James N. Mattis (USMC)