World War 2 produced a variety of house-hold names, from world leaders and generals to important political players and individual soldiers. Quotes went on to become an important part of the war in the years following, particularly to those of us today who have become students of the conflict, for they give us a glimpse of the characters within. As the reader, one has the opportunity to take something away from these quotes as spoken by their owners and begin to see the person behind the quote with a clearer set of eyes - bringing a more vivid picture of the years that encompassed man's greatest modern conflict.
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson:
"It must be a peace without victory...Victory would mean peace forced upon the loser, a victor's terms imposed upon the vanquished. It would be accepted in humiliation, under duress, at an intolerable sacrifice and would leave a sting, a resentment, a bitter memory upon which terms of peace would rest, not permanently, but only as upon quicksand. Only a peace between equals can last." - addressing the United States Senate on January 22, 1917
Mathematician Albert Einstein:
"As long as there are sovereign nations possessing great power, war is inevitable."
Unknown TIME Magazine Writer:
"The battlefront disappeared, and with it the illusion that there had ever been a battlefront. For this was no war of occupation, but a war of quick penetration and obliteration - Blitzkrieg, Lightning War." - September 25th, 1939
American General Douglas MacArthur:
"Old soldiers never die, they just fade away."
"I'll come back as soon as I can with as much as I can. In the meantime, you've got to hold!" - As spoken to General Wainright in March of 1942
American General Dwight D. Eisenhower:
"During the time I have had WACs under my command, they have met every test and task assigned to them...their contributions in efficiency, skill, spirit, and determination are immeasurable." - in a speech referring to the five women whom served on his staff during the war - 1945
"No amphibious attack in history has approached this one in size. Along miles of coastline there were hundreds of vessels and small boats afloat and ant-like files of advancing troops ashore." - Speaking on the Allied landings at Sicily in July 1943
"Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well-trained, well-equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely" - Addressed to Allied soldiers on June 6th, 1944
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt:
"I have seen war...I hate war." - at in address at Chautauqua, NY - August 14, 1936
"The Soviet Union, as everybody who has the courage to face the fact knows, is run by a dictatorship as absolute as any other dictatorship in the world." - before the American Youth Congress - February 10, 1940
"Democracy alone, of all forms of government, enlists the full force of men's enlightened will...It is the most humane, the most advanced, and, in the end, the most unconquerable of all forms of human society. The democratic aspiration is no mere recent phase of human history...We...would rather die on our feet than live on our knees." - in his Third Inauguration Speech, January 20, 1941
"I say that the delivery of needed supplies to Britain is imperative. I say that this can be done; it must be done; and it will be done...The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." - during his Fireside Chat radio address, May 27, 1941
"The massed, angered forces of common humanity are on the march. They are going forward - on the Russian front, in the vast Pacific area, and into Europe - converging upon their ultimate objectives: Berlin and Tokyo. I think the first crack in the Axis has come. The criminal, corrupt Fascist regime in Italy is going to pieces." - in a Fireside Chat - July 28, 1943
"The world has never seen greater devotion, determination, and self-sacrifice than have been displayed by the Russian people...under the leadership of Marshal Joseph Stalin. With a nation that in saving itself is thereby helping to save all the world from the Nazi menace, this country of ours should always be glad to be a good neighbor and a sincere friend to the world of the future." - during a Fireside Chat - July 28, 1943
"On this tenth day of June 1940, the hand that held the dagger has struck it into the back of its neighbor"
"Force is the only language they understand, like bullies." - speaking in reference to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and German dictator Adolph Hitler.
American General George S. Patton:
"Maybe there are 5,000, maybe 10,000 Nazi bastards in their concrete foxholes before the Third Army. Now if Ike stops holding Monty's hand and gives me some supplies, I'll go through the Siegfried Line like %*$# through a goose."
"Sure, we want to go home. We want this war over with. The quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards who started it. The quicker they are whipped, the quicker we can go home. The shortest way home is through Berlin and Tokyo. And when we get to Berlin, I am personally going to shoot that paper-hanging son-of-a-%@&%# Hitler - just like I'd shoot a snake." - In a speech delivered to his troops before embarking for Operation Overlord (D-Day).
"We want to get the hell over there. The quicker we clean up this Goddamned mess, the quicker we can take a little jaunt against the purple-%&$#ing Japs and clean out their next too...before the Goddamned Marines get all of the credit. - To his soldiers before Operation Overlord (D-Day).
American General Joseph Stilwell:
"The Limeys want us in even with our hastily made plans and our half-trained and half-equipped troops." - on joining the war alongside Britain, date unknown
"I claim we got a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma and it is as humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, go back and retake it." - May 1942
American General Bill Slim:
"The Chinese soldier was tough, brave, and experienced. After all he had been fighting on his own without help for years. He was a veteran among the Allies."
The New York Times:
"Germany having seized the prey, Soviet Russia will seize that part of the carcass that Germany cannot use. It will play the noble role of hyena to the German lion."- commenting on the joint invasion of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union, 1939
British General Bernard Law Montgomery:
"The Germans should have thought of some of these things before they began the war, particularly before attacking the Russians." - referring to a German soldier's request to surrender only to British or American forces and not the Russians.
"Nice chap, no General." - on first impressions of American General Dwight D. Eisenhower
British Labor Party Opposition Leader Clement Atlee:
"In a life and death struggle, we cannot afford to leave our destinies in the hands of failures." - on the British handling of the war in Norway
British Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander:
"The knowledge not only of the enemy's precise strength and disposition, but also how, when, and where he intends to carry out his operations brought a new dimension to the prosecution of war." - Commenting on the ULTRA code system
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain:
"How horrible, how fantastic, how incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas masks here because of a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing."- 1938
"It is evil things we shall be fighting against, brute force, bad faith, injustice, oppression and persecution." - 1939
King George VI:
"Like so many of our people, we have now had a personal experience of German barbarity which only strengthens the resolution of all of us to fight through to final victory."-September 1940
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill:
"Singapore could only be taken after a siege by an army of at least 50,000 men. It is not considered possible that the Japanese would embark on such a mad enterprise." - 1940
"From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Atlantic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind the line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe...All these famous cities...lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow."
"In War: Resolution. In Defeat: Defiance. In Victory: Magnanimity. In Peace: Good Will."
"Without ships, we cannot live." - on the importance of winning the War in the Atlantic
"Good night, then - sleep to gather strength for the morning. For the morning will come. Brightly will it shine on the brave and true, kindly on all who suffer for the cause, glorious upon the tombs of heroes. Thus will shine the dawn." - to the people of France - October 21, 1940
"We must be very careful not to assign this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations" - in a speed to Parliament on June 4th, 1940
"Before Alamein, we had no victories. After Alamein, we had no defeats."
"In Hitler's launching of the Nazi campaign on Russia, we can already see, after six months of fighting, that he has made one of the outstanding blunders in history." - before the House of Commons - December 11, 1941
"The enemy is still proud and powerful. He is hard to get at. He still possesses enormous armies, vast resources, and invaluable strategic territories...No one can tell what new complications and perils might arise in four or five more years of war. And it is in the dragging-out of the war at enormous expense, until the democracies are tired or bored or split that the main hopes of Germany and Japan must reside." - to the American Congress, May 19, 1943
"The only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-Boat peril...It did not take the form of flaring battles and glittering achievements, it manifested itself through statistics, diagrams, and curves unknown to the nation, incomprehensible to the public."
"I expected to see a wild cat roaring into the mountains - and what do I find? A whale wallowing on the beaches!" - to Sir Harold Alexander on the handling of the Allied landings at Anzio.
"Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few." - September 1940
"The whole of northern Norway was covered with snow to depths which none of our soldiers had ever seen, felt, or imagined. There were neither snow-shoes nor skis - still less skiers. We must do our best. Thus began this ramshackle campaign." - 1940
"The Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the future of Christian civilization." - June 1940
"We have taken a grave and hazardous decision to sustain the Greeks and try to make a Balkan Front."
British Air Marshal "Bomber" Harris:
"They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind."
German Grand Admiral Donitz:
"Our losses... have reached an intolerable level." - Commenting on German naval losses in the Atlantic Theater, May 1943
German Leader Adolf Hitler:
"I saw my enemies in Munich, and they are worms."
"It is the last territorial claim which I have to make in Europe, but it is a claim from which I will not recede and which, God willing, I will make good." - Delivered in a speech covering the Sudetenland, 1938
"Germany must either be a world power or there will be no Germany" - from his autobiography 'Mein Kampf'
"Soldiers of the Reich! This day, you are to take part in an offensive of such importance that the whole future of the war may depend on its outcome." - July 5th, 1943
"Why should this war in the West be fought for the restoration of Poland? The Poland of the Versailles Treaty will never rise again." - September 1939
"Gentlemen, you are about to witness the most famous victory in history." - addressing his generals on June 9th, 1940, prior to 'Operation Yellow'.
"Czechoslovakia has ceased to exist." - March 15th, 1939
"Wipe out the entire defense potential remaining to the Soviets." - Directive 41 issued to German Army generals
"Dunkirk has fallen...with it has ended the greatest battle of world history. Soldiers! My confidence in you knew no bounds. You have not disappointed me" - June 5th, 1940
"You only have to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down." - on invading the Soviet Union
"A victory at Kursk would shine like a beacon to the world!" - to his generals
"Whenever I think of this attack, my stomach turns over." - to tank warfare specialist Heinz Guderian prior to the assault on Kursk.
"I speak in the name of the entire German people when I assure the world that we all share the honest wish to eliminate the enmity that brings far more costs than any possible benefits. It would be a wonderful thing for all of humanity if both peoples would renounce force against each other forever. The German people are ready to make such a pledge." - October 14th, 1933
"The assertion that it is the intention of the German Reich to coerce the Austrian State is absurd!" - January 30th, 1934
"Germany neither intends nor wishes to interfere in the internal affair of Austria, to annex Austria, or to conclude an Anschluss" - May 21st, 1935
"Nationalist Socialist Germany wants peace because of its fundamental convictions. And it wants peace also owing to the realization of the simple primitive fact that no war would be likely essentially to alter the distress in Europe. The principal effect of every war is to destroy the flower of the nation. Germany needs peace and desires peace!" - May 21st, 1935
"Germany has concluded a Non-Aggression Pact with Poland. We shall adhere to it unconditionally. We recognize Poland as the home of a great and nationally conscious people." - May 21st 1935
"...the existence and increase of our race and nation, the sustenance of its children and the purity of its blood, the freedom and independence of the Fatherland, and the nation's ability to fulfill the mission appointed to it by the Creator of the universe."
German General Erwin Rommel:
"Which would your men rather be, tired, or dead?" - extorting an Officer during the building of Hitler's 'Atlantic Wall'.
"To every man of us, Tobruk was a symbol of British resistance and we were now going to finish with it for good." - June 1942
"The battle is going very heavily against us. We're being crushed by the enemy weight. We are facing very difficult days, perhaps the most difficult that a man can undergo" - November 3rd, 1942
"The enemy must be annihilated before he reaches our main battlefield. We must stop him in the water, destroying all his equipment while it is still afloat!" - April 22nd, 1944
German Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels:
"In 1933, a French premier ought to have said - and if I had been the French premier I would have said it: The new Reich chancellor is the man who wrote Mein Kampf, which says this and that. This man cannot be tolerated in our vicinity. Either he disappears or we march! But they didn't do it."
"If we have power, we'll never give it up again unless we're carried out of our offices as corpses"
German Lieutenant-Colonel Hermann Balck:
"Schutzenregiment 1 has, at 22:40, taken high hill just to the north of Cheveuges. Last enemy blockhouse in our hands. A complete breakthrough!" - In a wartime cable sent from the battlefield near Sedan
German General Oberst von Armin:
"Even without the Allied offensive, I should have had to capitulate by June 1st at the latest as I had no more food to eat." - May 1943, following the Axis surrender to the Allies in Tunisia
German Army General Chief of Staff Franz Haldervon Armin:
"The Russian Colossus...has been underestimated by us...whenever a dozen divisions are destroyed the Russians replace them with another dozen." - Commenting on the might of the Soviet Army following the invasion of the Soviet Union
German Armaments Magnate Gustav Krupp von Bohlen:
"Greater Germany - the dream of our fathers and grandfathers - is finally created."
Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini:
"Fuehrer, we are on the march! Victorious Italian troops crossed the Greco-Albanian frontier at dawn today!" October 28th, 1940
"Fascism accepts the individual only insofar as his interests coincide with the state's."
"The Mediterranean will be turned into an Italian lake."
"War alone can carry to the maximum tension all human energies and imprint with the seal of nobility those people who have the courage to confront it; Every other test is a mere substitute." - 1930
"I've had my fill of Hitler. These conferences called by the ringing of a bell are not to my liking. The bell is rung when people call their servants. And besides, what kind of conferences are these? For five hours I am forced to listen to a monologue which is quite fruitless and boring" - To his son-in-law on June 10th, 1941
Leningrad Party Committee Head Andrei Zhdanov:
"The enemy is at the gate. It is a question of life and death." - Referring to the German Army encircling the city
Soviet leader Joseph Stalin:
"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!" - July 1941
Unknown Soviet Red Army Soldier:
"Men were thrown headlong at Finnish guns. Tanks and their crews were shelled and burned, whole regiments of infantry encircled. Entire battalions of troops, the spearhead of the Red Army, were cut off from their reinforcements and supplies." - During the Soviet-Finnish Winter War
French General Charles de Gaulle:
"Today we are crushed by the sheer weight of the mechanized forces hurled against us, but we can still look to the future in which even greater mechanized forces will bring us victory. Therein lies the destiny of the world."
French President Raymond Poincare:
"You hold in your hands the future of the world." - January 1919
French General Maxime Weygand:
"There is nothing preventing the enemy reaching Paris. We were fighting on our last line and it has been breached. I am helpless, I cannot intervene."
Imperial Japanese Navy Rear-Admiral Ito
"A gigantic fleet has amassed in Pearl Harbor. This fleet will be utterly crushed with one blow at the very beginning of hostilities. Heaven will bear witness to the righteousness of our struggle'" - November 1941
Japanese Emperor Hirohito
"The fruits of victory are tumbling into our mouths too quickly." - April 29th, 1942
Japanese General Hideki Tojo, Prime Minister
"Australia and New Zealand are now threatened by the might of the Imperial Japanese forces, and both of them should know that any resistance is futile."
Reverend Martin Niemoller:
"In Germany they came for the communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."
Text ©2003-2017 www.SecondWorldWarHistory.com. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Permitted. Email corrections/comments to SecondWorldWarHistory at Gmail dot com.