Quotations about   war

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And the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all men were hushed. And he sang to them, now in the Elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) English writer, fabulist, philologist, academic [John Ronald Reuel Tolkien]
The Lord of the Rings, Vol. 3: The Return of the King, Book 6, ch. 4 “The Field of Cormallen” (1955)
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Added on 11-Aug-22 | Last updated 11-Aug-22
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Surprise becomes effective when we suddenly face the enemy at one point with far more troops than he expected. This type of numerical superiority is quite distinct from numerical superiority in general: it is the most powerful medium in the art of war.

[Die Überraschung zeigt sich dadurch wirksam, dass man dem Feinde auf einem Punkt viel mehr Truppen entgegen stellt, als er erwartete. Diese Überlegenheit der Zahl ist von der allgemeinen sehr verschieden, sie ist das wichtigste Agens der Kriegskunst.]

Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) Prussian soldier, historian, military theorist
On War [Vom Kriege], Book 6 “Defense,” ch. 2 (1832) [tr. Howard & Paret (1984)]
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(Source(German)). Alternate translation:

The surprise produces an effect by opposing to the enemy a great many more troops than he expected at some particular point. The superiority in numbers in this case is very different to a general superiority of numbers; it is the most powerful agent in the art of war.
[tr. Graham (1874)]

Added on 21-Jul-22 | Last updated 21-Jul-22
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War should be made with no other view than the attainment of peace.

[Bellum autem ita suscipiatur, ut nihil aliud nisi pax quaesita videatur.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 23 (1.23) / sec. 80 (44 BC) [tr. McCartney (1798)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

And as for war, it should never be undertaken with any other aim, but only that of obtaining an honourable peace.
[tr. Cockman (1699)]

Now in engaging in war we ought to make it appear that we have no other view but peace.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

But war should be undertaken in such a way that it may seem nothing else than a quest of peace.
[tr. Peabody (1883)]

We should only take up arms when it is evident that peace is the one object we pursue.
[tr. Gardiner (1899)]

We should so enter upon war as to show that our only desire is peace.
[ed. Harbottle (1906)]

War, however, should be undertaken in such a way as to make it evident that it has no other object than to secure peace.
[tr. Miller (1913)]

You should start a war, moreover, in such a way that you clearly have no other object than peace.
[tr. Edinger (1974)]

Added on 14-Jul-22 | Last updated 11-Aug-22
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Fighting is like champagne. It goes to the heads of cowards as quickly as of heroes. Any fool can be brave on a battlefield when it’s be brave or else be killed.

Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949) American author and journalist.
Gone with the Wind, ch. 31 [Ashley] (1936)
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So when, in future times, men ask you to prove patriotism and loyalty and affection for your native land — remember that these things are not always equated with a willingness to die or to kill.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Commencement Address, Ithaca College, New York (13 May 1972)
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Remember that you can’t necessarily sanctify a cause by virtue of the fact that men die for it. A death in a worthless or even questionable cause is a pointless, meaningless, tragically premature death.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Commencement Address, Ithaca College, New York (13 May 1972)
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American society has always exercised a stronger pressure on individual behavior than Western European societies; but in time of war this pressure is notched a few degrees, and starts to become quite alarming.

Tzvetan Todorov
Tzvetan Todorov (1939-2017) Bulgarian-French historian, philosopher, literary critic, sociologist
The New World Disorder: Reflections of a European, ch. 3 (2005)
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I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them:
     neither did I turn again till they were consumed.
I have wounded them that they were not able to rise:
     they are fallen under my feet.
For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle:
     thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.
Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies;
     that I might destroy them that hate me.
They cried, but there was none to save them:
     even unto the Lord, but he answered them not.
Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind:
     I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Psalm 18:37-42 [KJV]
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Alternate translations:

I pursued my enemies and overtook them;
     and did not turn back until they were consumed.
I struck them down, so that they were not able to rise;
     they fell under my feet.
For you girded me with strength for the battle;
     you made my assailants sink under me.
You made my enemies turn their backs to me,
     and those who hated me I destroyed.
They cried for help, but there was no one to save them;
     they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them.
I beat them fine, like dust before the wind;
     I cast them out like the mire of the streets.
[NRSV]

I pursue my enemies and catch them;
     I do not stop until I destroy them.
I strike them down, and they cannot rise;
     they lie defeated before me.
You give me strength for the battle
     and victory over my enemies.
You make my enemies run from me;
     I destroy those who hate me.
They cry for help, but no one saves them;
     they call to the Lord, but he does not answer.
I crush them, so that they become like dust
     which the wind blows away.
I trample on them like mud in the streets.
[GNT]

I pursue my enemies and overtake them,
     nor turn back till an end is made of them;
I strike them down, and they cannot rise,
     they fall, they are under my feet:
You have girt me with strength for the fight,
     bent down my assailants beneath me,
made my enemies turn their backs to me;
     and those who hate me I destroy.
They cry out, there is no one to save,
     to Yahweh, but there is no reply;
I crush them fine as dust before the wind,
     trample them like the mud of the streets.
[Jerusalem]

Persequar inimicos meos, et comprehendam illos;
     et non convertar donec deficiant.
Confringam illos, nec poterunt stare;
     cadent subtus pedes meos.
Et praecinxisti me virtute ad bellum,
     et supplantasti insurgentes in me subtus me.
Et inimicos meos dedisti mihi dorsum,
     et odientes me disperdidisti.
Clamaverunt, nec erat qui salvos faceret;
     ad Dominum, nec exaudivit eos.
Et comminuam eos ut pulverem ante faciem venti;
     ut lutum platearum delebo eos.
[Vulgate, 17:38-43]

Added on 31-May-22 | Last updated 13-Jun-22
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There are things in the breast of mankind which are best
In darkness and secrecy hid;
For you never can tell, when you’ve opened a hell,
How soon you can put back the lid.

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) English writer
“The Sons of the Suburbs” (1916)
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On bloodthirstiness in war by previously peaceful people.

Originally written for the Christmas 1916 issue of Blighty, a magazine for servicemen. It was rejected, eventually to be published in the Sunday Pictorial (19 Jan 1936). It was never included by Kipling in any of his collections.
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Smiting enemies has always been so admired that, unlike medicine or archaeology, it entitled its successful practitioners to become kings, emperors, and presidents of the United States like Washington, Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Taylor, Grant, and Eisenhower.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
Wasn’t the Grass Greener?, “War” (1999)
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If a quick glance back over world history shows us anything, it shows us that war was one of our most universal joys from our earliest beginnings, savored at every possible opportunity and even some quite incomprehensible ones, like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, whomever he may have been.

Barbara Holland (1933-2010) American author
“War,” Wasn’t the Grass Greener? (1999)
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First appeared in Smithsonian (Jun 1992).
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Too many wars are fought almost as if by rote. Too many wars are fought out of sloganry, out of battle hymns, out of aged, musty appeals to patriotism that went out with knighthood and moats. Love your country because it is eminently worthy of your affection. Respect it because it deserves your respect. Be loyal to it because it cannot survive without your loyalty. But do not accept the shedding of blood as a natural function or a prescribed way of history, even if history points this up by its repetition. That men die for causes does not necessarily sanctify that cause. And that men are maimed and torn to pieces every fifteen and twenty years does not immortalize or deify the act of war.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Commencement Address, Binghamton Central High School, Binghamton, New York (28 Jan 1968)
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Everywhere, wrenching grief, everywhere, terror
and a thousand shapes of death.

[Crudelis ubique
Luctus, ubique pavor, et plurima mortis imago.]

Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 2, l. 368ff (2.368-369) (29-19 BC) [tr. Fagles (2006), ll. 461-462]
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On the fighting in the streets of Troy. (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

All parts resound with tumults, plaints, and fears;
And grisly Death in sundry shapes appears.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

Every where is cruel sorrow, every where terror and death in thousand shapes.
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

Dire agonies, wild terrors swarm,
And Death glares grim in many a form.
[tr. Conington (1866)]

And everywhere are sounds of bitter grief,
And terror everywhere, and shapes of death.
[tr. Cranch (1872), l. 506-507]

Everywhere is cruel agony, everywhere terror, and the sight of death at every turn.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

Grim grief on every side,
And fear on every side there is, and many-faced is death.
[tr. Morris (1900)]

All around
Wailings, and wild affright and shapes of death abound.
[tr. Taylor (1907), st. 49, l. 440-41]

Anguish and woe
were everywhere; pale terrors ranged abroad,
and multitudinous death met every eye.
[tr. Williams (1910)]

Everywhere sorrow,
Everywhere panic, everywhere the image
Of death, made manifold.
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

All over the town you saw
Heart-rending agony, panic, and every shape of death.
[tr. Day Lewis (1952)]

And everywhere
are fear, harsh grief, and many shapes of slaughter.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971), l. 497-98]

Grief everywhere,
Everywhere terror, and all shapes of death.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981)]

Bitter grief was everywhere. Everywhere there was fear, and death in many forms.
[tr. West (1990)]

Raw fear
Was everywhere, grief was everywhere,
Everywhere the many masks of death.
[tr. Lombardo (2005)]

All around were bitter grief and fear, and different scenes of death.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

Added on 30-Mar-22 | Last updated 30-Mar-22
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Happiness is thought to imply leisure; for we toil in order that we may have leisure, as we make war in order that we may enjoy peace.

[δοκεῖ τε ἡ εὐδαιμονία ἐν τῇ σχολῇ εἶναι, ἀσχολούμεθα γὰρ ἵνα σχολάζωμεν καὶ πολεμοῦμεν ἵν᾽ εἰρήνην ἄγωμεν.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 10, ch. 7 (10.7) / 1177b.4 (c. 325 BC) [tr. Peters (1893), 10.7.6]
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(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

Happiness is thought to stand in perfect rest; for we toil that we may rest, and war that we may be at peace.
[tr. Chase (1847), ch. 6]

It would seem that happiness is the very antithesis of a busy life, in that it is compatible with perfect leisures. And it is with such leisure in view that a busy life is always led, exactly as war is only waged for the sake of ultimate peace.
[tr. Williams (1869)]

The end of labor is to gain leisure.
[in Ballou, Treasury of Thought (1872)]

Happiness is thought to depend on leisure; for we are busy that we may have leisure, and make war that we may live in peace.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

Happiness is thought to involve leisure; for we do business in order that we may have leisure, and carry on war in order that we may have peace.
[tr. Rackham (1934)]

Happiness seems to reside in leisure, since we do unleisured things in order to be at leisure, and wage war in order to live in peace.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

Happiness is thought to depend on leisure; for we toil for the sake of leisurely activity, and we are at war for the sake of peaceful activity.
[tr. Apostle (1975)]

Happiness seems to depend on leisure, because we work to have leisure, and wage war to live in peace.
[tr. Crisp (2000)]

[Because], happiness seems to reside in leisure, we labor [sacrifice leisure] so that we may have leisure.
[tr. @sentantiq (2018)]

Added on 8-Mar-22 | Last updated 8-Mar-22
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Dear Ald,

Been an odd day … It’s all quite incredible — not that twenty years have gone by nor even that I survived … it is just to walk over the same ground after so much has happened and to remember it all with such infinite clarity.

Last week, I went back to a little village outside of Manila called Paranaque. My last visit there was February 4, 1945, and I spent one day and one night getting shelled. So I took the nostalgic walk one early morning and drank it all in and began to feel sad because nobody came up to me as they did twenty years ago and grin and say, “Victory, Joe!” So three hours later I went through a tiny alley and wound up on a dirty beach overlooking the ocean, and this little grimy 8-year-old kid comes up to me and says, “What are you looking for, Joe?” And I cup this dirty little brown face in my hand and I answer, “My youth, Joe.”

Hey, Ald! You can’t go back. At least you can’t go back and experience. You return as a tourist just to observe. Like visiting a cemetery. Nobody’s around to talk to you and reminisce, even though deep in your gut you have this urge to tap some ghost on a shoulder and say, “Hey, buddy, remember that afternoon ….”

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Letter to Alden Schwimmer (1965)

In Anne Serling, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling, ch. 7 (2013).
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Shrapnel wounds and mangled, bullet ridden bodies are not the only casualties of war. There are casualties of the mind. Every war produces a backwash, a residue of pain and grief.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Comment, Antioch College (c. 1965)
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As quoted in Anne Serling, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling (2013).
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One does not export democracy in an armored vehicle.

[On n’exporte pas la démocratie dans un fourgon blindé.]

Jacques Chirac
Jacques Chirac (1932-2019) French politician, President of France (1995-2007)
Conversation with Silvio Berlusconi (2003)

Concerning the invasion of Iraq. Attributed by Jean-Pierre Raffarin on 20 O'clock News, TF1 (11 Mar 2007).
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It seems war stories aren’t very well received at this point. I’m told they’re outdated, untimely and as might be expected — make some unpleasant reading. And, as you have no doubt already perceived, human beings don’t like to remember unpleasant things. They gird themselves with the armor of wishful thinking, protect themselves with a shield of impenetrable optimism, and, with a few exceptions, seem to accomplish their “forgetting” quite admirably. But you, my children, I don’t want you to be among those who choose to forget. I want you to read my stories and a lot of others like them. I want you to fill your heads with Remarque and Tolstoy and Ernie Pyle. I want you to know what shrapnel, and “88’s” and mortar shells and mustard gas mean. I want you to feel, no matter how vicariously, a semblance of the feeling of a torn limb, a burnt patch of flesh, the crippling, numbing sensation of fear, the hopeless emptiness of fatigue. All these things are complementary to the province of War and they should be taught and demonstrated in classrooms along with the more heroic aspects of uniforms, and flags, and honor and patriotism.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
“First Squad, First Platoon,” Dedication (c. 1947)
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Dedication to his unborn children, in one of his first (unpublished) works of fiction, while at Antioch College under the GI Bill. In Anne Serling, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling (2013)
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At the moment, for example, in 1984 (if it was 1984), Oceania was at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia. In no public or private utterance was it ever admitted that the three powers had at any time been grouped along different lines. Actually, as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge which he happened to possess because his memory was not satisfactorily under control. Officially, the change of partners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Nineteen Eighty-Four, ch. 3 (1949)
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When I read that we will fight the Japs for years if necessary and will sacrifice hundreds of thousands if we must, I always like to check from where he’s talking: it’s seldom from out here.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Letter to his parents (Fall 1943)
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While Kennedy was a US Navy Lieutenant (j.g), shortly before the invasion of Tarawa.
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You’ll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
O’Flaherty, V.C. (1917)
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They had all been brought up, as we still are, to believe in “the deterrent.” Firm resolve, a readiness to threaten war, would avert war itself. Some Power would always give way. This usually happened, indeed happened so often that the wisdom of the method seemed sure. In 1914 all the Powers, for different reasons, expected the yielding to come from the other side.

A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) British historian, journalist, broadcaster [Alan John Percivale Taylor]
“What Else Indeed?” New York Review of Books (5 Aug 1965)
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To get home you had to end the war. To end the war was the reason you fought it. The only reason.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, ch. 11 (1989)
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One of the most horrible features of war is that all the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Homage to Catalonia, Appendix 1 (1938)
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In war, it is not just the weak soldiers, or the sensitive ones, or the highly imaginative or cowardly ones, who will break down. Inevitably, all will break down if in combat long enough.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, ch. 18 (1989)
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The worst thing about war was the sitting around and wondering what you were doing morally.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
Times of London (28 Nov 1991)
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Lord, there’s danger in this land
You get witch-hunts and wars
When church and state hold hands

Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell (b. 1943) Canadian singer-songwriter and painter [b. Roberta Joan Anderson]
“Tax Free” (1985)
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Sitting in stunned silence, we remembered our dead. So many dead. So many maimed. So many bright futures consigned to the ashes of the past. So many dreams lost in the madness that had engulfed us. Except for a few widely scattered shouts of joy, the survivors of the abyss sat hollow-eyed and silent, trying to comprehend a world without war.

E B Sledge
E. B. Sledge (1923-2001) American soldier, biologist, academic, memoirist [Eugene Bondurant Sledge]
With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa (1981)

On the reaction of his fellow Marines to the announcement of the Japanese surrender in WWII.

Paul Fussell quotes this passage in his essay "Thank God for the Atom Bomb," The New Republic (26 Aug 1981), and it is sometimes misattributed to him.
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The great armies, accumulated to provide security and preserve the peace, carried the nations to war by their own weight.

A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) British historian, journalist, broadcaster [Alan John Percivale Taylor]
The First World War: A Illustrated History, ch. 1 (1963)
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What the horrors of war are, no one can imagine — they are not wounds & blood & fever, spotted & low, or dysentery chronic & acute, cold & heat & famine. They are intoxication, drunken brutality, demoralization & disorder on the part of the inferior — jealousies, meanness, indifference, selfish brutality on the part of the superior.

Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) English social reformer, statistician, founder of modern nursing
Letter to her family (5 May 1855)
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Today the Somme is a peaceful but sullen place, unforgetting and unforgiving. The people, who work largely at raising vegetables and grains, are “correct” but not friendly. To wander now over the fields destined to extrude their rusty metal fragments for centuries is to appreciate in the most intimate way the permanent reverberations of July, 1916. When the air is damp you can smell rusted iron everywhere, even though you only see wheat and barley.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
The Great War and Modern Memory, ch. 2 “The Troglodyte World” (1975)
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All the livid steeds of the Apocalypse have stormed through my life — revolution and famine, inflation and terror, epidemics and emigration. I have seen the great mass ideologies grow and spread before my eyes — Fascism in Italy, National Socialism in Germany, Bolshevism in Russia, and above all else that arch-plague nationalism which has poisoned the flower of our European culture.

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist, biographer
The World of Yesterday [Die Welt von Gestern], Preface (1942)
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Alternate translation [Sonnenfeld]:

All the pale horses of the apocalypse have stormed through my life, revolution, starvation, devaluation of currency and terror, epidemics, emigration; I have seen the great ideologies of the masses grow and spread out before my eyes. Fascism in Italy, National Socialism in Germany, Bolshevism in Russia, and, above all, that arch-pestilence, nationalism, which poisoned our flourishing European culture.
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I don’t have much truck with the “religion is the cause of most of our wars” school of thought because that is manifestly done by mad, manipulative and power-hungry men who cloak their ambition in God.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
“I create gods all the time — now I think one might exist,” Daily Mail (21 Jun 2008)
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No war is inevitable until it breaks out.

A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) British historian, journalist, broadcaster [Alan John Percivale Taylor]
The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848-1918, ch. 22 (1954)
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Added on 12-Jul-21 | Last updated 12-Jul-21
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Men use up their lives in heart-breaking political struggles, or get themselves killed in civil wars, or tortured in the secret prisons of the Gestapo, not in order to establish some central-heated, air-conditioned, strip-lighted Paradise, but because they want a world in which human beings love one another instead of swindling and murdering one another. And they want that world as a first step. Where they go from there is not so certain, and the attempt to foresee it in detail merely confuses the issue.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Can Socialists Be Happy?” Tribune (20 Dec 1943) [as John Freeman]
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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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War is one way of making decisions — but what’s decided may not be what anybody originally intended.

Ashleigh Brilliant (b. 1933) Anglo-American writer, epigramist, cartoonist
Pot-Shots
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Truth is the first casualty in war.

Aeschylus (525-456 BC) Greek dramatist (Æschylus)
(Misattributed)

Variant: "Truth is the first casualty of war."

Not found, as such, in Aeschylus' works. The closest (Fragm. Incert, xi.) is his phrase "God is not averse to deceit in a just cause." Attribution to of the subject phrase to Aeschylus dates only back to 1965. The first recorded use of the phrase as such is from 1915, but even there it is offered as a quotation from an unnamed source.

More discussion of the history of this phrase can be found here and here.
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For the moral point of this matter is never reached by calling what happened by the name of “genocide” or by counting the many millions of victims: the extermination of whole peoples had happened before in antiquity, as well as in modern colonization. It is reached only when we realize that this happened within the frame of a legal order and that the cornerstone of this “new law” consisted of the command “Thou shalt kill,” not thy enemy but innocent people who were not even potentially dangerous, and not for any reason of necessity but, on the contrary, even against all military and other utilitarian considerations.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
“Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship” (1964)
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I don’t want to kill anybody. I am passionately opposed to killing, but I’m even more passionately fond of freedom.

Edward Teller (1908-2003) Hungarian-American theoretical physicist
“Fallout and Disarmament: A Debate Between Linus Pauling and Edward Teller,” KQED-TV, San Francisco (20 Feb 1958)
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Lord have pity upon all men.
To those who are in darkness
Be their light.
To those who are in despair
Be their Hope.
To those who are suffering
Be their Healing.
To those who are fearful
Be their Courage.
To those who are defeated
Be their Victory.
To those who are dying
Be their Life.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
“Prayer for All Those Who Work or Fight in the War”
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One of several prayers found in Roosevelt's wallet after her death. Author unknown. Another prayer found there:

Dear Lord, lest I continue in my complacent ways, help me to remember that somewhere someone died for me today. And if there be war, help me to remember to ask, "Am I worth dying for?"
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They know of no solutions to the paradoxes of the Middle East and Europe, the Far East and Africa except the landing of Marines. Being baffled, and also being very tired of being baffled, they have come to believe that there is no way out — except war — which would remove all the bewildering paradoxes of their tedious and now misguided attempts to construct peace. In place of these paradoxes they prefer the bright, clear problems of war — as they used to be. For they still believe that “winning” means something, although they never tell us what.

C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) American sociologist, academic, author [Charles Wright Mills]
The Causes of World War Three (1958)
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As Israel’s own history shows, fighting a stronger opponent will cause a society to unite, but combating a weaker one will cause it to split and disintegrate.

Martin van Creveld b. 1946) Israeli military historian and theorist
“Only a wall will keep them from each other’s throats,” The Telegraph (17 Mar 2002)
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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 (b. 1924) American politician, US President (1977-1981), Nobel laureate [James Earl Carter, Jr.]
Nobel Peace Prize Lecture (10 Dec 2002)
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War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.

Benjamin Ferencz (b. 1920) American lawyer, international legal scholar, activist
“What the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive wants the world to know,” interview with Leslie Stahl, 60 Minutes (7 May 2017)
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Ferencz served as chief prosecutor of twenty Einsatzgruppen officers during the Nuremberg war crimes trials. Longer excerpt:

STAHL: Did you meet a lot of people who perpetrated war crimes who would otherwise in your opinion have been just a normal, upstanding citizen?
FERENCZ: Of course, is my answer. These men would never have been murderers had it not been for the war. These were people who could quote Goethe, who loved Wagner, who were polite --
STAHL: What turns a man into a savage beast like that?
FERENCZ: He's not a savage. He's an intelligent, patriotic human being.
STAHL: He's a savage when he does the murder though.
FERENCZ: No. He's a patriotic human being acting in the interest of his country, in his mind.
STAHL: You don't think they turn into savages even for the act?
FERENCZ: Do you think the man who dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima was a savage? Now I will tell you something very profound, which I have learned after many years. War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.
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Both gods knotted the rope of strife and leveling war,
strangling both sides at once by stretching the mighty cable,
never broken, never slipped, that snapped the knees of thousands.

[Τοὶ δ’ ἔριδος κρατερῆς καὶ ὁμοιΐου πτολέμοιο
πεῖραρ ἐπαλλάξαντες ἐπ’ ἀμφοτέροισι τάνυσσαν
ἄῤῥηκτόν τ’ ἄλυτόν τε, τὸ πολλῶν γούνατ’ ἔλυσεν.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 13, l. 358ff (13.358) (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990), l. 417ff]

On Zeus and Poseidon driving on the Greeks and Trojans during the war. Alt. trans.:

So these Gods made men’s valours great, but equall’d them with war
As harmful as their hearts were good; and stretch’d those chains as far
On both sides as their limbs could bear, in which they were involv’d
Past breach, or loosing, that their knees might therefore be dissolv’d.
[tr. Chapman (1611), l. 336ff]

These powers infold the Greek and Trojan train
In War and Discord's adamantine chain;
Indissolubly strong; the fatal tie
Is stretched on both, and close-compelled they die.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Thus, these Immortal Two, straining the cord
Indissoluble of all-wasting war,
Alternate measured with it either host,
And loosed the joints of many a warrior bold.
[tr. Cowper (1791), l. 438ff]

This way and that they tugg’d of furious war
And balanc’d strife, where many a warrior fell,
The straining rope, which none might break or loose.
[tr. Derby (1864)]

These twain had strained the ends of the cords of strong strife and equal war, and had stretched them over both Trojans and Achaians, a knot that none might break nor undo, for the loosening of the knees of many.
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

Thus, then, did these two devise a knot of war and battle, that none could unloose or break, and set both sides tugging at it, to the failing of men's knees beneath them.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

So these twain knotted the ends of the cords of mighty strife and evil war, and drew them taut over both armies, a knot none might break nor undo, that loosed the knees of many men.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

So these two had looped over both sides a crossing
cable of strong discord and the closing of the battle, not to be
slipped, not to be broken, which unstrung the knees of many.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

These gods had interlocked and drawn
an ultimate hard line of strife and war
between the armies; none
could loosen or break that line
that had undone the knees of many men.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]

Added on 30-Dec-20 | Last updated 1-Dec-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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Ah my friend, if you and I could escape this fray
and live forever, never a trace of age, immortal,
I would never fight on the front lines again
or command you to the field where men win fame.
But now, as it is, the fates of death await us,
thousands poised to strike, and not a man alive
can flee them or escape — so in we go for attack!
Give our enemy glory or win it for ourselves!

[Ὦ πέπον εἰ μὲν γὰρ πόλεμον περὶ τόνδε φυγόντε
αἰεὶ δὴ μέλλοιμεν ἀγήρω τ’ ἀθανάτω τε
ἔσσεσθ’, οὔτέ κεν αὐτὸς ἐνὶ πρώτοισι μαχοίμην
οὔτέ κε σὲ στέλλοιμι μάχην ἐς κυδιάνειραν·
νῦν δ’ ἔμπης γὰρ κῆρες ἐφεστᾶσιν θανάτοιο
μυρίαι, ἃς οὐκ ἔστι φυγεῖν βροτὸν οὐδ’ ὑπαλύξαι,
ἴομεν ἠέ τῳ εὖχος ὀρέξομεν ἠέ τις ἡμῖν.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 12, l. 322ff (12.322-328) [Sarpedon to Glaukos] (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990), ll. 374-81]

Original Greek. Alt. trans.:

O friend, if keeping back
Would keep back age from us, and death, and that we might not wrack
In this life’s human sea at all, but that deferring now
We shunn’d death ever, nor would I half this vain valour show,
Nor glorify a folly so, to wish thee to advance;
But since we must go, though not here, and that, besides the chance
Propos’d now, there are infinite fates of other sort in death,
Which, neither to be fled nor ’scap’d, a man must sink beneath,
Come, try we, if this sort be ours, and either render thus
Glory to others, or make them resign the like to us.
[tr. Chapman (1611), ll. 323-33]

Could all our care elude the gloomy grave,
Which claims no less the fearful than the brave,
For lust of fame I should not vainly dare
In fighting fields, nor urge thy soul to war;
But since, alas! ignoble age must come,
Disease, and death's inexorable doom;
The life which others pay, let us bestow,
And give to fame what we to nature owe;
Brave though we fall, and honoured if we live,
Or let us glory gain, or glory give!
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Oh Glaucus, if escaping safe the death
That threats us here, we also could escape
Old age, and to ourselves secure a life
Immortal, I would neither in the van
Myself expose, nor would encourage thee
To tempt the perils of the glorious field.
But since a thousand messengers of fate
Pursue us close, and man is born to die --
E’en let us on; the prize of glory yield,
If yield we must, or wrest it from the foe.
[tr. Cowper (1791), ll. 389-98]

O dear friend, if indeed, by escaping from this war, we were destined to be ever free from old age, and immortal, neither would I combat myself in the van, nor send thee into the glorious battle. But now -- for of a truth ten thousand Fates of death press upon us, which it is not possible for a mortal to escape or avoid -- let us on: either we shall give glory to some one, or some one to us.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

O friend! if we, survivors of this war,
Could live, from age and death for ever free,
Thou shouldst not see me foremost in the fight,
Nor would I urge thee to the glorious field:
But since on man ten thousand forms of death
Attend, which none may ’scape, then on, that we
May glory on others gain, or they on us!
[tr. Derby (1864)]

Ah, friend, if once escaped from this battle we were for ever to be ageless and immortal, neither would I fight myself in the foremost ranks, nor would I send thee into the war that giveth men renown, but now -- for assuredly ten thousand fates of death do every way beset us, and these no mortal may escape nor avoid -- now let us go forward, whether we shall give glory to other men, or others to us.
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

My good friend, if, when we were once out of this fight, we could escape old age and death thenceforward and for ever, I should neither press forward myself nor bid you do so, but death in ten thousand shapes hangs ever over our heads, and no man can elude him; therefore let us go forward and either win glory for ourselves, or yield it to another.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Ah friend, if once escaped from this battle we were for ever to be ageless and immortal, neither should I fight myself amid the foremost, nor should I send thee into battle where men win glory; but now -- for in any case fates of death beset us, fates past counting, which no mortal may escape or avoid -- now let us go forward, whether we shall give glory to another, or another to us.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

Man, supposing you and I, escaping this battle,
would be able to live on forever, ageless, immortal,
so neither would I myself go on fighting in the foremost,
nor would I urge you into the fighting where men win glory.
But now, seeing that the spirits of death stand close about us
in their thousands, no man can turn aside or escape them,
let us go on and win glory for ourselves, or yield it to others.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

But now a thousand shapes of death surround us,
and no man can escape the, or be safe. Let us attack --
whether to give some fellow glory or to win it from him.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]

Added on 2-Dec-20 | Last updated 8-Dec-21
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The moral of “The Three Bears,” for instance, is “Never break into someone else’s house.” The moral of “Snow White” is “Never eat apples.” The moral of World War One is “Never assassinate Archduke Ferdinand.”

Lemony Snicket (b. 1970) American author, screenwriter, musician (pseud. for Daniel Handler)
The Miserable Mill (2000)
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CHARLIE ANDERSON: There’s nothing much I can tell you about this war. It’s like all wars, I suppose. The undertakers are winning it. Oh, the politicians will talk a lot about the “glory” of it, and the old men’ll talk about the “need” of it — the soldiers, they just want to go home.

James Lee Barrett (1929-1989) American author, producer, screenwriter
Shenandoah (1965)
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It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.

John Jay (1745-1829) American statesman, diplomat, abolitionist, politician, Chief Justice (1789-1795)
The Federalist #4 (7 Nov 1787)
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LT. JOHNSON: When are you going to take this war seriously, Anderson?

CHARLIE ANDERSON: Now let me tell you something, Johnson, before you get on my wrong side. My corn I take serious because it’s my corn, and my potatoes and my tomatoes and fences I take note of because they’re mine. But this war is not mine and I take no note of it!

James Lee Barrett (1929-1989) American author, producer, screenwriter
Shenandoah (1965)
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His view of war — and he had seen a great deal of it — was that a general made as many blunders as he fought battles, but, by the grace of the gods, the opposing generals’ blunders were sometimes worse.

Aubrey Menen (1912-1989) English writer
A Conspiracy of Women (1966)
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See Tartakower.
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The chief reason warfare is still with us is neither a secret death-wish of the human species, nor an irrepressible instinct of aggression, nor, finally and more plausibly, the serious economic and social dangers inherent in disarmament, but the simple fact that no substitute for this final arbiter in international affairs has yet appeared on the political scene.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
“On Violence,” Crises of the Republic (1972)
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I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion. If silence is ever golden, it must be here, beside the graves of fifteen thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung. With words we make promises, plight faith, praise virtue. Promises may not be kept, plighted faith may be broken, and vaunted virtue be only the cunning mask of vice. We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke: but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue. For the noblest man that lives, there still remains a conflict. He must still withstand the assaults of time and fortune, must still be assailed with temptations, before which lofty natures have fallen; but with these the conflict ended, the victory was won, when death stamped on them the great seal of heroic character, and closed a record which years can never blot.

James A. Garfield (1831-1881) US President (1881), lawyer, lay preacher, educator
Speech at Arlington National Cemetery, Decoration Day (30 May 1868)
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A speech by Garfield, then a Congressman and a former Union Major General in the Civil War, for the first Decoration Day (later Memorial Day) ceremonies.
Added on 7-Aug-20 | Last updated 7-Aug-20
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