So, today I present you with some of the manliest things ever uttered. I invite you to contribute your own - my recollection of history is obviously somewhat impacted by the limitations of my memory. To whit - I may have a photographic memory, but it only seems to take pictures of rum and boobies. I've included here only things that are actual and at least vaguely historically verifiable - there are many, many fictional quotes which would otherwise go in. (Chief among them, "THIRTEEN!" )
Without further ado:
1. This is and always will be the manliest thing ever said. Leonidas and his three hundred Spartans (and true, 6700 allies) went to the pass of Thermopylae, and there met in battle Xerxes and one million Persian soldiers. One million seems like a vast exaggeration, but several reputable historians have said that while improbable, it's possible - but that any rate, it was certainly no less than several hundred thousand. We'll allow the number one million as being effectively congruent with 400,000 - and far more poetic. They met in the narrow pass for battle - Leonidas sent his allies to guard the mountain trails that led to the passes. After a few skirmishes which principally masked the movement of the nearly limitless Persian hordes into the pass - Xerxes himself confronted the intractable Spartans, and urged them to lay down their spears and honorably surrender. Leonidas' response was "Come and get them." ( Μολών Λαβέ ) It echoes even today as the single most courageous thing any man has said - not leastwise because it wasn't just bravado. Years later, at his death site the Spartans made a monument - a carved lion with the inscription, "Go, tell the Spartans, stranger passing by,/ That here, obedient to their laws, we lie."
2. On Dec. 22nd, 1944, the 101st Airborne Division had been holding Bastogne for 4 days. They'd been ordered there to hold it at all costs and rushed to the front with few supplies and little to no winter clothing. It was bitterly cold and they were surrounded by a vastly superior German army corps that was determined to take the strategically important road junction of Bastogne. The German commander sent a surrender party, offering terms. Upon hearing of their arrival, Gen. McAuliffe, the American commander was heartened to hear about the impending German surrender. When his staff made clear to him that in fact, the Germans expected him to surrender, he was less sanguine. To the German commander's letter demanding surrender, he sent a letter saying simply, "Nuts."
Notably, the 82nd held out, and as Cololen Harper promised the German surrender party as they left American lines - "we will kill every goddamn German that tries to break into this city." The American victory was decisive, and a turning point in the war. This was the first case of a Presidential Citation of Merit being awarded to an entire Division.
3. We return again to Thermopylae. Dienekes was considered the bravest amongst Spartans selected to fight there. (!!!) The night before the battle Dienekes came upon a Trachian who reported to him that the Persian archers were so numerous that their volleys or arrows blocked out the sun. Dienekes laughed, clapped the man on the back and said, "Good! Then we will have our battle in the shade." What kills me about this is that - like Leonidas, it wasn't just bravado, he probably meant it.
4. During the Arab revolt amidst WWI, T.E. Lawrence lead an army of irregular Arab fighters to harass the Turkish army. His greatest achievement was in negotiating the cooperation of otherwise inimical Beduin tribes - including the fearsome old fighter, Auda Abu Tayi. During a period of inactivity, Auda urged battle so that his men could take plunder - but Lawrence insisted that words, not war were needed at the moment. Auda said, "Work, work, work. Where are words? There is only blood, bullets, and Abu Tayi!" (Lawrence himself had some self-deprecatingly excellent quotes, but to preserve his literary legacy, he cleaned them up in his memoirs. Never the less, this one perhaps deserves remembering, "All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in thedusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it wasvanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may acttheir dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." (Seven Pillars of Wisdom)
5. Exemplifying the self-sacrifing nature of the American revolutionaries that is lionized even today, Nathan Hale said before his hanging, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." His example inspires even today, countless thousands of American patriots.
6. Camarone! Ten Thousand Mexican soldiers surrounded a rude hut in which 60 members of the French Foreign Legion were making a stand to allow the escape of a vital supply train. They fought for ten hours - and despite being down to one bullet each, the house on fire, and only four men surviving, fixed bayonets rather than surrender. At last the Mexican general came personally and begged them to surrender rather than be killed. The Legionnaires agreed, but only if they were allowed to keep their arms, bury their dead, and leave afterward - in effect, not surrendering at all, just leaving. The Mexican general said, "To men such as you, I can deny nothing."
7. At the battle of Waterloo, the Imperial Guard attacked up the center while pressured on all sides. The attack failed, and their orderly retreat was followed up by devastating counter-attacks by British cavalry and artillery. The British offered surrender to the commander of the Imperial Guard, General Cambronne, who replied, "La Garde meurt, elle ne se rend pas!" - "The Guard dies, it does not surrender." When Brtish artillery was wheeled up to short range to assure the truth of his assertion - he was offered a second chance to surrender. Cambronne simply said, "Merde!"
8. Upon leaving Manila at the outset of WWII, and having conducted an improbable successful rearguard action out from under the noses of crushing Japanese forces - General MacArthur said, "I shall return." He did, too.
9. "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" has become almost a cliche. But let us not forget - Admiral David Farragut really was facing torpedoes that would likely sink his ship, and that was his order in response to the threat.
Editing to add:
10. ""I am just going outside and may be some time." Capt. Oates - as he crawled out of his tent to walk 40 miles in a blinding blizzard to make it to the South Pole and spare his comrades the danger.
11. During his second inaugural address, President Lincoln said: ...every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword"
12. After the French repeatedly urged the U.S. forces to retreat, Marine Captain Lloyd Williams of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines uttered the now-famous retort "Retreat? Hell, we just got here." An idea about the battle: The casualties were the highest in Marine Corps history (and remained so until the capture of Tarawa in November 1943). Overall, the woods were taken by the Marines (and the US Army 3rd Infantry Brigade) a total of six times before they could successfully expel the Germans. They fought off more than four divisions of Germans, often reduced to using only their bayonets or fists in hand-to-hand combat. In order to enter and take the woods, it was necessary to advance across an open field of wheat that was continuously swept with murderous German machine gun and artillery fire.
I'm sure I'll recall some more as I stop thinking about it - and I welcome your contributions.