A collection of the world's greatest, most inspiring military speeches, each set in its historical context
Many of the most famous military speeches can be found in this collection, for example, General Dwight Eisenhower to Allied troops before the invasion of Europe in 1944, Napoleon in his heyday inspiring the French Guard to greater glories, and Elizabeth I of England's stirring speech in which she declared, "I have the body of weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king." Other famous entries include the Duke of Wellington's casual observations at the Battle of Waterloo: "I don't know what effect my men will have on the enemy, but by god they frighten me;" President Abraham Lincoln's brief but inspiring Gettysburg Address; the sometimes outrageous but often motivational General Patton "Better to fight for something than live for nothing;" and Winston Churchill's eloquent speeches of World War II. Also included are the literary orations, of which William Shakespeare was the master: "Then imitate the action of the tiger; stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, and Let slip the dogs of war;" the supreme tacticians, such as Sun Tzu: "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting;" and Karl Von Clausewitz: "War is not an independent phenomenon, but the continuation of politics by different means." Occasionally readers will find the downright ridiculous—General McAuliffe's succinct but inspiringly defiant reply of "Nuts" to demands that he surrender when surrounded by Germans in the Belgium town of Bastogne in 1945, or Brigadier General the Earl of Longford's orders just before he died in battle at Gallipoli in 1915: "And don't bother ducking, the men don't like it and it doesn't do any good."
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About the Author
Anthony Weldon started Bene Factum Publishing 15 years ago. He is the coauthor of Numeroids.
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Words of War
Speeches That Inspired Heroic Deeds
By Anthony Weldon
Bene Factum Publishing LtdCopyright © 2012 Anthony Weldon
All rights reserved.
DEFIANCE AGAINST ALL ODDS
"Defeat — I do not recognise the meaning of the word!"
In 480BC the invading Persians under Xerxes reached the Pass at Thermopylae where 300 Greeks fought an epic rearguard action to allow the remainder of their army to escape. At one point the sky was so darkened by such a vast number of Persian arrows that Spartan Dieneces joked:
"Our friend brings us good news. If the Persians darken the sun with their arrows, we will be able to fight in the shade."
Latin proverb, most commonly attributed to Hannibal in response to his generals who had declared it impossible to cross the Alps with elephants in 218BC:
"Aut viam inveniam aut faciam." ("I will either find a way, or make one.")
In AD 66, having withstood three months besieged at Masada by the Romans, and facing a certain defeat the following day, Elazar Ben-Yair gathered his people together before their mass suicide and addressed them:
"Since we long ago resolved never to be servants to the Romans, nor to any other than to God Himself, Who alone is the true and just Lord of mankind, the time is now come that obliges us to make that resolution true in practice ...We were the very first that revolted, and we are the last to fight against them; and I cannot but esteem it as a favour that God has granted us, that it is still in our power to die bravely, and in a state of freedom.
In our case it is evident that day-break will end our resistance, but we are free to choose an honourable death with our loved ones ... Let our wives die unabused, our children without knowledge of slavery. After that, let us do each other an ungrudging kindness, preserving our freedom as a glorious winding-sheet. But first, let our possessions and the whole fortress go up in flames. It will be a bitter blow to the Romans, that I know, to find our persons beyond their reach and nothing left for them to loot.
One thing only let us spare – our store of food: it will bear witness when we are dead to the fact that we perished, not through want but because, as we resolved at the beginning, we chose death rather than slavery ... Come! While our hands are free and can hold a sword, let them do a noble service! Let us die unenslaved by our enemies, and leave this world as free men in company with our wives and children."
Joan of Arc
The French heroine, also known as the 'Maid of Orléans', came from a humble background to become the iconic leader of the French army in the Hundred Years War (1337–1453). This is her letter, written in 1429, to the King of England, Henry VI, who was besieging Orléans:
"King of England, render account to the King of Heaven of your royal blood. Return the keys of all the good cities which you have seized, to the Maid. She is sent by God to reclaim the royal blood, and is fully prepared to make peace, if you will give her satisfaction; that is, you must render justice, and pay back all that you have taken.
King of England, if you do not do these things, I am the commander of the military; and in whatever place I shall find your men in France, I will make them flee the country, whether they wish to or not; and if they will not obey, the Maid will have them all killed. She comes sent by the King of Heaven, body for body, to take you out of France, and the Maid promises and certifies to you that if you do not leave France she and her troops will raise a mighty outcry as has not been heard in France in a thousand years. And believe that the King of Heaven has sent her so much power that you will not be able to harm her or her brave army.
To you, archers, noble companions in arms, and all people who are before Orléans, I say to you in God's name, go home to your own country; if you do not do so, beware of the Maid, and of the damages you will suffer. Do not attempt to remain, for you have no rights in France from God, the King of Heaven, and the Son of the Virgin Mary. It is Charles, the rightful heir, to whom God has given France, who will shortly enter Paris in a grand company. If you do not believe the news written of God and the Maid, then in whatever place we may find you, we will soon see who has the better right, God or you.
William de la Pole, Count of Suffolk, Sir John Talbot, and Thomas, Lord Scales, lieutenants of the Duke of Bedford, who calls himself regent of the King of France for the King of England, make a response, if you wish to make peace over the city of Orleans! If you do not do so, you will always recall the damages which will attend you.
Duke of Bedford, who call yourself regent of France for the King of England, the Maid asks you not to make her destroy you. If you do not render her satisfaction, she and the French will perform the greatest feat ever, in the name of Christianity.
Done on the Tuesday of Holy Week (March 22, 1429). Hear the words of God and the Maid."
Sir Francis Drake
Speech to his crew off of Puerto San Julian, Argentina, prior to entering the stormy Strait of Magellan (May 1578):
"For by the life of God, it doth even take my wits from me to think on it. Here is such controversy between the sailors and gentlemen, and such stomaching between the gentlemen and sailors, it doth make me mad to hear it. But, my masters, I must have it left. For I must have the gentleman to haul and draw with the mariner, and the mariner with the gentleman. What! let us show ourselves to be of a company and let us not give occasion to the enemy to rejoice at our decay and overthrow. I would know him that would refuse to set his hand to a rope, but I know there is not any such here ..."
John Paul Jones
At the Battle of Flamborough Head in March 1779, Commanding the USS Bonhomme Richard, John Paul Jones decided to attack a British merchant convoy, and engaged an escort vessel, HMS Serapis, led by Captain Richard Pearson. At the height of the battle, John Paul Jones was prematurely asked to surrender. This was his reply:
"I have not yet begun to fight."
Duke of Wellington
Battle of Waterloo 1815:
"Hard pounding this, Gentlemen. Let's see who will pound the longest".
William B. Travis
In 1836 American settlers in Texas demanded to be independent from Mexico and eventually rebelled. 188 Texans and American frontiersmen (including Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett) were besieged for twelve days by a vastly superior Mexican force in the Alamo in San Antonio. On 24 February, Travis sent out the following message:
"To the people of Texas and all Americans in the world: Fellow citizens and compatriots – I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna – I have sustained a continual bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours and havenot lost a man – The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken – I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls – I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism and everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch – The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily and will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country –
VICTORY OR DEATH. Lt. Col. comdt.
P.S. The Lord is on our side – When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn –We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels and got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves."
Commander William Travis refused offers of surrender and addressed the defenders on 5 March:
"My choice is to stay in this fort and die for my country, fighting as long as breath should remain in my body. This I will do even if you leave me alone. Do as you think best, but no man can die with me without affording me comfort at the moment of my death."
In the final assault every defender died but at the cost of 1500 Mexican soldiers killed.
Rome, July 2, 1849
"Soldiers, I am going out from Rome. Let those who wish to continue the war against the stranger, come with me. I offer neither pay, nor quarters, nor provisions. I offer hunger, thirst, forced marches, battles, and death. Let him who loves his country follow me."
Marshal of France Patrice MacMahon
In 1854, during the Crimean War, MacMahon commanded French troops at the long drawn-out Siege of Sevastopol and was advised to give up after a year. His retort is now famous:
"J'y suis. J'y reste!" ("I'm here. I'm staying here!")
MacMahon's persistence and the eventual French assault on key Russian redoubts led to the fall of Sevastopol for the Allies and the end of the Crimean War.
Captain Danjou, Second Lieutenant Maudet and Legionnaire Berg
Whilst beating off assault after assault by Colonel Milan's Juarist Mexican cavalry, holed up in the little hamlet of Camarón in 1863, Foreign Legion Captain Danjou with 64 Legionnaires resisted Milan's demands to surrender, saying:
"We have munitions, we will not surrender."
Danjou died of wounds, and Second Lieutenant Maudet took command. The survivors held off the attack of 2,000 Mexican soldiers for ten hours. When out of ammunition Maudet and the last five Legionnaires charged the enemy – one was killed instantly and two were wounded. The surviving three were surrounded and asked to surrender and Maine replied
"On the condition we keep our weapons and you look after our officer"
"To men such as you, one refuses nothing" was the Mexican officer's response.
Later when the three were bought before the Mexican commander he could not believe that they were the only survivors and remarked
"Truly these are not men, but demons"
Legionnaire Berg received permission to write a report to his Legion Commanding officer which read
"The Third Company of the 1st is dead, my Colonel, but it did enough to make those who speak of it say 'It had nothing but good soldiers.'"
This epic action is still commemorated by the French Foreign Legionnaire on 30th April each year.
General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson
American Civil War Confederate general
"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!"
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
Little Round Top hill was the key feature on the Gettysburg battlefield (July 1863) in the American Civil War. In the decisive moment the Union forces under Chamberlain's orders were to hold 'at all hazards' and so, despite being seriously outflanked, he decided to charge:
"Not a moment was about to be lost! Five minutes more of such a defensive and the last roll call would sound for us" Desperate as the chances were, there was nothing for it but to take the offensive. I stepped to the colours. The men turned towards me. One word was enough – 'BAYONETS!' It caught like fire and swept along the ranks."
Stepan O. Makarov
Imperial Russian Navy Admiral, 1863–1904
"My rule is: If you meet the weakest vessel, attack. If it is a vessel equal to yours, attack. And if it is stronger than yours, also attack."
Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia
In 1877, Tsar Alexander II attacked the Ottoman Empire, designating his brother Grand Duke Nicholas to lead the Russian army of 150,000. At Plevna, a tiny force of Turks, headed by Osman Pasha, held back the huge Russian army for over 5 months. When finally forced to surrender by sheer numbers of soldiers, the wounded Osman was told by Grand Duke Nicholas:
"I congratulate you on your success in defending Plevna. This is one of the most splendid exploits in history."
David Lloyd George
On the outbreak of WWI – London, 19 September, 1914
"They think we cannot beat them. It will not be easy. It will be a long job; it will be a terrible war; but in the end we shall march through terror to triumph."
General Ferdinand Foch
French General Ferdinand Foch to General Joffre during WWI Battle of the Marne 1914
"Hard pressed on my right; my left is in retreat. My centre is yielding. Impossible to manoeuvre. Situation excellent. I am attacking. Attaquez!"
Speech to the Serbian Infantry 1915
"At three o'clock sharp, the enemy must be crushed by your mighty charge, torn to pieces by your grenades and bayonets. The honour of our Serbian capital Belgrade must be spotless. Soldiers, heroes, The Supreme Command has erased our names from its roll. Our regiment is sacrificed for our King and Fatherland. You don't have to worry anymore about your lives that no longer exist. So forward, to glory! Long live Serbia! Long live the King! Long live Belgrade!"
A few hours later, 233 soldiers of the 340 member-strong volunteer unit were dead. Major Gavrilovic was himself badly wounded. But he survived to fight again, as commander of the 1st battalion of the victorious 12th Serbian infantry division at the Thessalonica (Greece) front in 1918. The gallant sacrifice of the 233 Belgrade volunteers in 1915 gave the bulk of the Serbian army enough time to retreat, regroup and eventually win the war
A famous American World War I crack shot and hero, York was born in Fentress County, Tennessee, and drafted into the U. S. Army in 1917. The next year, in the Battle of the Argonne Forest, as one of only eight men left in action, he reportedly killed 25 Germans and captured 132 prisoners. His account of the scene was thus:
"Those machine guns were spitting fire and cutting down the undergrowth all around me something awful. And the Germans were yelling orders. You never heard such a racket in all your life. I didn't have time to dodge behind a tree or dive into the brush ... As soon as the machine guns opened fire on me, I began to exchange shots with them. There were over 30 of them in continuous action, and all I could do was touch the Germans off just as fast as I could. I was sharp shooting ... all the time I kept yelling at them to come down. I didn't want to kill any more than I had to. But it was they or I. And I was giving them the best I had."
Then asked by an incredulous officer how many German prisoners he and the remaining men had taken, York replied:
"Hell, Lieutenant, I ain't had time to count them."
Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Cunningham
British Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet – before attacking the Italian fleet at Taranto – 11 November 1940:
"We are outnumbered, there is only one thing to do. We must attack!"
At Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, on the morning of Sunday 7th December 1941, Second Lieutenants George Welch and Kenneth Taylor were just about to have a final nightcap after an all night party, when they surveyed with horror the scene of devastation developing before them on the airstrip, caused by a surprise attack by the Japanese Imperial Navy. Luckily, their planes were parked on a grass airstrip 10 miles away at Haleiwa. Defying senior authority, Taylor phoned the airfield and shouted:
"Get two P-40s ready. No, it's not a gag – the Japs are here!"
They were just two of a handful of pilots who were able to get into the air in an attempt to fight back against the overwhelming force of 350 Japanese aircraft.
General Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur was an American general (and also field marshal of the Philippine army) who was Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s.
"Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul."
Ho Chi Minh
Communist leader of the Vietnamese battle for independence in the 1950s and 1960s
"You fools! Don't you realize what it means if the Chinese remain? Don't you remember your history? The last time the Chinese came, they stayed a thousand years. The French are foreigners. They are weak. Colonialism is dying. The white man is finished in Asia. But if the Chinese stay now, they will never go. As for me, I prefer to sniff French shit for five years than to eat Chinese shit for the rest of my life."
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
This was Prime Minister Thatcher's response when, prior to the 1982 Falklands War, she was told that engaging Britain in such a seemingly irrelevant conflict thousands of miles from Europe could result in defeat.
"Defeat — I do not recognise the meaning of the word!"
Excerpted from Words of War by Anthony Weldon. Copyright © 2012 Anthony Weldon. Excerpted by permission of Bene Factum Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Defiance - Against All Odds 9
The Foolhardy and the Humorous in the Face of Adversity 25
Leading from the Front - Inspirational Military Leaders 41
The Home Front - Political Leadership 63
Winston Churchill - The Great Wartime Orator 97
Wise Words - Thoughts and Comments on Warfare 113
The Pen is Mightier than the Sword - Warlike Words from Fiction 127
Lest We Forget - Last Words 147