Quotations about   soldier

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The mass of men serve the State thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, gaolers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American philosopher and writer
“On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” (1849)
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Added on 12-Jul-21 | Last updated 12-Jul-21
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“Those who fought know a secret about themselves, and it is not very nice.” They have experienced secretly and privately their natural human impulse toward sadism and brutality. […] Not merely did I learn to kill with a noose of piano wire put around somebody’s neck from behind, but I learned to enjoy the prospect of killing that way. It’s those things that you learn about yourself that you never forget. You learn that you have much wider dimensions than you had imagined before you had to fight a war. That’s salutary. It’s well to know exactly who you are so you can conduct the rest of your life properly.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
“The Initial Shock,” Interview by Sheldon Hackney, Humanities (Nov/Dec 1996)
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Added on 23-Jun-21 | Last updated 23-Jun-21
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Gentlemen, ideas outlive men; ideas outlive all earthly things. You who fought in the war for the Union fought for immortal ideas, and by their might you crowned the war with victory. But victory was worth nothing except for the truths that were under it, in it, and above it.

James A. Garfield (1831-1881) US President (1881), lawyer, lay preacher, educator
Speech to the “Boys in Blue,” Madison Square Park, New York City (6 Aug 1880)
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Added on 4-Dec-20 | Last updated 4-Dec-20
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We’re poor little lambs who’ve lost our way,
Baa! Baa! Baa!
We’re little black sheep who’ve gone astray,
Baa-aa-aa!
Gentlemen rankers out on a spree,
Damned from here to Eternity.
God ha’ mercy on such as we,
Baa! Yah! Bah!

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) English writer
“Gentlemen-Rankers,” (1892)
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Added on 12-Jun-17 | Last updated 12-Jun-17
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O God, if there be a God, save my soul, if I have a soul!

Other Authors and Sources
Anonymous Soldier, Battle of Blenheim (31 Aug 1704)

Also given as "Oh, God, if there is one, save my soul, if I have one."

The original printed source for this quote appears to be in William King (1685-1763), Political and Literary Anecdotes of His Own Times (1761), who quotes William Wyndham (1688-1740) claiming it "the shortest prayer he had ever heard," given by a common soldier prior to the Battle of Blenheim.

Also attributed to:
  • Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899), without citation, supposedly on his deathbed, sometimes with the final phrase "... from hell, if there be a hell!"
  • Ernest Renan (1823-1892) as "The Agnostic's Prayer" or "Prayer of a Skeptic [Prière d'un sceptique]" ("Ô Seigneur, s'il y a un Seigneur; sauvez mon âme, si j'ai une âme.")
  • Frederick the Great (1712-1786), in M. Goldsmith, Frederick the Great (1929), without citation.
  • Voltaire (1694-1778), without citation.
Added on 29-May-17 | Last updated 29-May-17
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It would repel me less to be a hangman than a soldier, because the one is obliged to put to death only criminals sentenced by the law, but the other kills honest men who like himself bathe in innocent blood at the bidding of some superior.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
Persons and Places, entry, c. 1880 (1944)
Added on 14-Apr-16 | Last updated 14-Apr-16
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Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in blood of his followers and sacrifices of his friends.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, Guildhall, London (12 Jun 1945)
Added on 23-Feb-16 | Last updated 23-Feb-16
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Dependability, integrity, the characteristic of never knowingly doing anything wrong, that you would never cheat anyone, that you would give everybody a fair deal. Character is a sort of an all-inclusive thing. If a man has character, everyone has confidence in him. Soldiers must have confidence in their leader.

Omar Bradley (1893-1981) American general
Personal interview with Edgar Puryear (15 Feb 1963)

Quoted in Edgar Puryear, 19 Stars : A Study in Military Character and Leadership (1981).
Added on 28-Jan-16 | Last updated 28-Jan-16
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Are there no ideals more stirring than those of martial glory? Is this generation conscious of calls to the service of native land in ways no more worthy than the way of taking a musket and killing somebody? You ask, in the language of Prof. James, for a moral equivalent for war. A patriot needs only look about to find numberless causes that ought to warm the blood and stir the imagination. The dispelling of ignorance and the fostering of education, the investigation of disease and the searching out of remedies that will vanquish the giant ills that decimate the race, the inculcation of good feeling in the industrial world, the cause of the aged, the cause of the men and women who had so little chance — tell me, has war anything that beckons as these things beckon with alluring and compelling power? Whoso wants to share the heroism of battle let him join the fight against ignorance and disease — and the mad idea that war is necessary.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) American industrialist and philanthropist
“A Plea for Peace,” New York Times (7 Apr 1907)
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Added on 8-Jan-16 | Last updated 8-Jan-16
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General, man is very useful.
He can fly and he can kill.
But he has one defect:
He can think.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
“General, Your Tank Is a Powerful Vehicle,” in “From a German War Primer,” The Svendborg Poems (1939) [tr. Baxandall]
Added on 7-Jan-16 | Last updated 26-Mar-21
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General, your tank
is a powerful vehicle
it smashes down forests
and crushes a hundred men.
but it has one defect:
it needs a driver.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
“General, Your Tank Is a Powerful Vehicle,” in “From a German War Primer,” The Svendborg Poems (1939) [tr. Baxandall]
Added on 10-Dec-15 | Last updated 26-Mar-21
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I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, Canadian Club, Ottawa (10 Jan 1946)
Added on 16-Mar-15 | Last updated 16-Mar-15
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The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps!

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
(Attributed, 1945)
Added on 10-Jul-14 | Last updated 10-Jul-14
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One does not learn how to die by killing others.

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) French writer, politican, diplomat
Memoirs from Beyond the Grave [Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe], Book 8, ch. 4 (1848-1850) [tr. Kline]
Added on 3-Jun-14 | Last updated 11-Aug-14
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War would end if the dead could return.

Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947) British Conservative politician, Prime Minister
(Attributed)
Added on 26-May-14 | Last updated 26-May-14
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You’re in the Army now,
You’re not behind a plow;
You’ll never get rich
A-diggin’ a ditch,
You’re in the Army now.

William "Tell" Taylor (1876-1937) American vaudevillian, singer, playwright, composer, lyricist
“You’re in the Army Now” (1917) [with Ole Olsen]
Added on 21-May-14 | Last updated 21-May-14
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I don’t consider myself dovish and I certainly don’t consider myself hawkish. Maybe I would describe myself as owlish — that is, wise enough to understand that you want to do everything possible to avoid war.

Norman Schwarzkopf (b. 1934) American military leader
In New York Times (28 Jan 1991)
Added on 30-Apr-14 | Last updated 30-Apr-14
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Boys are the cash of war. Whoever said
We’re not free-spenders doesn’t know our likes.

John Ciardi (1916-1986) American poet, writer, critic
“New Year’s Eve,” This Strangest Everything (1966)
Added on 26-Mar-14 | Last updated 26-Mar-14
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If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) English writer
“Common Form,” The Years Between (1919)
Added on 19-Mar-14 | Last updated 19-Mar-14
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Here dead lie we because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose;
But young men think it is, and we were young.

A. E. Housman (1859-1936) English scholar and poet [Alfred Edward Housman]
More Poems, #36 (1936)
Added on 12-Mar-14 | Last updated 12-Mar-14
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They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. But in modern war there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
“Notes on the Next War,” Esquire (Sep 1935)
Added on 5-Mar-14 | Last updated 5-Mar-14
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Courage (in a soldier) is maintained by a certain anger; anger is a little blind and likes to strike out. And from this follows a thousand abuses, a thousand evils and misfortunes that are impossible to predict in an army during war.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
Added on 22-Jul-13 | Last updated 13-May-16
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For it’s Tommy this, and Tommy that, an’ ‘Chuck him out, the brute!’
But it’s ‘Saviour of ‘is country’ when the guns begin to shoot.

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) English writer
“Tommy,” Barrack-Room Ballads (1893)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 19-Mar-14
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To delight in war is a merit in the soldier, a dangerous quality in the captain, and a positive crime in the statesman.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, vol. 2 “Reason in Society,” ch. 3 “Industry, Government, and War” (1905-06)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-Mar-20
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