You’ve probably heard the old saying that ‘war is hell.’
This is one of the most well-known war quotes of all time, but it’s also far from being the only quote about war either.
Here are the top war quotes of all time and the meaning behind each one:
“We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and on the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender.”
This is one of the most famous war quotes in history. Allied forces had been routed in France in 1940 and the British were forced to evacuate from Dunkirk. It would only be a matter of days until the German forces overran Paris and forced the French government to capitulate. Defeat appeared inevitable for the British, but Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered this speech to the British parliament, and it was sent to British citizens all over the UK. Churchill's message of defiance resonated with the British citizens and government so much that the country refused to surrender and fought on against the Axis despite being heavily outnumbered. It would be three years until the war slanted in favor of the Allies, but had the British not held strong alone it's likely the Axis would have won the war.
"The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission."
- President Kennedy
This quote from former President John F. Kennedy echoes Churchill's well-known speech to the UK Parliament, a she claims that America will never surrender or submit to our enemies even though the cost of doing so will be very high (Kennedy is no doubt referring to the price paid in the lives of American soldiers on the battlefield).
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."
Former President Dwight Eisenhower also served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the European Theater of War in World War II. Eisenhower was a brilliant military commander, but it's clear from this quote that he recognizes the brutality of war as well.
"War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over."
General William Sherman led Union forces to victory in the Western Theater in the American Civil War. He is known for his infamous scorched earth policy during his 'Sherman's March to the Sea' campaign. Sherman was known for being a brutal commander who razed Atlanta to the ground and enacted a scorched earth policy. This quote, however, suggests that Sherman used such a strategy because he believed war is horrible, but the more so it is the sooner it will be over, thereby saving lives in the long run.
“Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it.”
- Abraham Lincoln
This quote from former President Lincoln basically encourages us to not be afraid of war, which often begins with accusations from one country or one government to another. He also encourages us to not be afraid of threats to destroy our country or government as well. Instead, Lincoln encourages us to rely on our faith and reliance to duty to prevail.
“There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer.”
—Brigadier General Barnard Elliott Bee
This quote was spoken at the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861 in the American Civil War. General Stonewall Jackson on the Confederate side stood strong and tall among his men, even in the face of incoming fire from the Union troops. Jackson's bravery encouraged the Confederate troops and led them to victory in the battle. The quote was also what created General Jackson's 'Stonewall' nickname. Ironically, Stonewall Jackson would be killed two years later when he was accidentally shot by his own men (who had mistaken him and his entourage for Union troops).
“Lafayette, we are here.”
—Colonel Charles E. Stanton
Colonel Stanton said this quote when American troops first landed on the Western Front in 1917, during World War I. Up until then, America had remained neutral in the war and the conflict was being evenly fought with Britain and France on one side and Germany on the other in the Western Front. With the arrival of American forces, however, the tide slanted significantly in favor of the Allies and gave them a vast numerical superiority. That's why this quote is so significant, because it made clear that the American forces had arrive to help win the war with Britain and France.
"Yesterday, December seventh, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. We will gain the inevitable triumph, so help us God."
Japanese forces had just bombed Pearl Harbor, sinking several American ships and killing more than two thousand servicemen. America had found itself trust into the middle of World War II, and President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress for a formal declaration of war against Japan with the above speech. This speech is without question one of the most well known war-related speeches of all time.
"Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak."
– Sun Tzu
This quote is from Sun Tzu from his famous text 'The Art of War.' The quote refers to the military strategy of making your forces appear weaker than they are to the enemy (such as deploying a small portion of your forces on the battlefield before falling back and luring in the enemy into an ambush where the bulk of your own forces are located).
"War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children."
– Jimmy Carter
This quote from former President Jimmy Carter describes his views on war and conflict. Carter laments the existence of war and the evil that takes part in it, but acknowledges that it is sometimes necessary.