Military leaders talk about the fog of war in battle – however, war has also inspired military and political leaders, among other people, to great clarity in saying memorable things that decry war’s inhumanity or inspire those who must fight. (These are the greatest wartime speeches in history.)
24/7 Tempo compiled a list of famous quotes about war from a variety of sources such as Quote Ambition, Culture Trip, BrainyQuote, USAEmbassy, goodreads, and AZ Quotes, and media sources such as the Guardian. In instances where there is an exact date for the quote, that is noted; otherwise, the era when the quote was spoken or written is given.
In the darkest hours for the British Empire, after France fell to the Nazis during World War II, the newly ascended prime minister, Winston Churchill, rallied his nation with some of the most stirring orations of all time. More than a generation earlier, the phrase “They shall not pass” was attributed to French general Robert Nivelle, who exhorted his troops to stop the German onslaught at the Battle of Verdun.
The earliest sorrowful commentary on the horrors of war comes from the Greek historian Herodotus, who said “In peace, sons bury fathers. In war, fathers bury sons.” British nurse Vera Brittain spoke passionately about the effects of mustard gas on soldiers. And American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer channeled Hindu scripture to express the dread shared by colleagues when the United States detonated the first atomic bomb. (These were the most powerful nuclear explosions in history.)
Even though they were successful on the battlefield, meditations on war from Union general William Tecumseh Sherman and Confederate general Robert E. Lee showed they were not desensitized to the violence and destruction wrought during the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, delivered just four months after the battle there, lifted a nation by speaking of sacrifice, dedication, and devotion to the Union cause.
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