Special Report

The Greatest War Time Speeches in History

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has almost single handedly rallied the governments and peoples of much of the world to his country’s cause as Russia moves further and further along in the invasion of his country. Among the most impressive aspects of his addresses to legislatures in several countries has been his ability to quote famous wartime leaders from these nations’ pasts. (Here is a look at the recent military history of every former Soviet Republic.)

He has referred to Franklin Roosevelt’s speech to Congress the day after Pearl Harbor, and addresses Winston Churchill gave in The House of Commons at the start of World War II when the U.K. was in a desperate condition in its war with Germany.

At the far end of the spectrum, Russian President Vladimir Putin has given one public speech since the start of the invasion. The wooden performance was in front of a stadium of people waving Russian flags, though his words a month earlier resonated worldwide.

Wartime speeches have been used to rally armies and nations for millenia, and records of them go as far back as Ancient Greece. Some are among the most well-known orations in history. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address has been the subject of a number of books, the most well known of which may be “Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America” (1992) by Garry Wills. The address was only 272 words.

No matter how eloquent or popular these war times speeches have been, their underlying meanings have often been lost. They are a call for one group of people to kill another. This is most directly stated in the speech General George Patten gave to the U.S. 6th Armored Division in 1944 at the height of WWII. He said, “No bаstаrd ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bаstаrd die for his country.”

Wars are about killing, plain and simple. And war speeches therefore, no matter how well written or spoken, are simply about trying to get people to kill other people. (These are the wars in which the most Americans died.)

24/7 Wall St. listed quotes from some of the greatest wartime speeches in history using editorial discretion.

Click here to see the greatest war time speeches in history

Source: Central Press / Getty Images

Winston Churchill, June 4, 1941
> War: World War II

“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.”

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Source: navymedicine / Flickr

Franklin Roosevelt, Dec. 8, 1941
> War: World War II

“Yesterday, December 7, 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.”

Source: paulshark / iStock via Getty Images

Alexander the Great, 326 B.C.
> War: Battle of Hydaspes

“I could not have blamed you for being the first to lose heart if I, your commander, had not shared in your exhausting marches and your perilous campaigns; it would have been natural enough if you had done all the work merely for others to reap the reward.”

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775
> War: American Revolution

“Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

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Source: gregobagel / iStock via Getty Images

Samuel Adams, Aug. 1,1776
> War: American Revolution

“We have no other alternative than independence, or the most ignominious and galling servitude. The legions of our enemies thicken on our plains; desolation and death mark their bloody career, whilst the mangled corpses of our countrymen seem to cry out to us as a voice from Heaven.”

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 19, 1863
> War: American Civil War

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Colonel Charles E. Stanton, July 4, 1917
> War: World War I

“LAFAYETTE, WE ARE HERE.”

Source: usnationalarchives / Flickr

Robert E. Lee, Dec. 13, 1862
> War: American Civil War

“It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.”

Source: Fotosearch / Stringer / Getty Images

Gen. Douglas McCarther, May 1942
> War: World War II

“I shall return.”

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Source: national_museum_of_the_us_navy / Flickr

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, December 1941
> War: World War II

“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

Source: AlexeyBorodin / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Joseph Stalin, May 1941
> War: World War II

“The Red Army and Navy and the whole Soviet people must fight for every inch of Soviet soil, fight to the last drop of blood for our towns and villages … onward, to victory!”

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William Tecumseh Sherman, February 1905
> War: American Civil War

“War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it; the crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.”

Source: Adam Berry / Getty Images

Vladimir Putin, February 2022
> War: Russian Invasion of Ukraine

“Whoever tries to stand in our way or create threats for our country and people should know Russia’s response will be immediate and lead you to consequences you have never encountered in your history.”

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Ulysses S. Grant, 1864
> War: American Civil War

“The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on.”

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Source: LawrenceLong / iStock via Getty Images

George Patton, 1943
> War: World War II

“No dumb bаstаrd ever won a war by going out and dying for his country. He won it by making some other dumb bаstаrd die for his country.”

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Dwight Eisenhower, 1953
> War: Korean War

“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.”

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Source: Express Newspapers / Getty Images

Mao Zedong, Unknown
> War: Chinese Communist Revolution

“War can only be abolished through war, and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to take up the gun.”

Source: sgreeneptx / Flickr

Queen Elizabeth I, July 1588
> War: Anglo-Spanish War

“I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honor and my blood, even in the dust.

Napoleon Bonaparte, 1800
> War: French war with Austria

“Shall we allow our audacious enemies to violate with impunity the territory of the Republic? Will you permit the army to escape which has carried terror into your families? You will not. March, then, to meet him. Tear from his brows the laurels he has won. Teach the world that a malediction attends those that violate the territory of the Great People. The result of our efforts will be unclouded glory, and a durable peace.”

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Source: pescudero / Flickr

Pericles, 432 BCE
> War: Peloponnesian War

“When our fathers stood against the Persians they had no such resources as we have now; indeed, they abandoned even what they had, and then it was by wisdom rather than by good fortune, by daring rather than by material power, that they drove back the foreign invasion and made our city what it is today.”

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