The only things more badass than these quotes were the actions that followed them.
1. “Just hold the phone and I’ll let you talk to one of the bastards!” – Maj. Audie Murphy, U.S. Army
In January 1945, while fighting to reduce the Colmar Pocket, then-Lt. Audie Murphy led the depleted B Company, 15th Infantry Regiment in an attack on the town of Holtzwihr. The attack quickly ran into stiff resistance from German armor and infantry. Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw while he held his position to continue to call in artillery on the advancing Germans. The Germans were nearly on top of him, but he continued to call for fire. Fearful of firing on their own soldier, headquarters asked Murphy how close the enemy was, to which he replied: “Just hold the phone and I’ll let you talk to one of the bastards!” During the same engagement, Lt. Murphy mounted a burning tank destroyer and drove off the Germans with its .50 caliber machine gun and continued artillery fire. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions.
2. “I have not yet begun to fight!” – John Paul Jones, U.S. Navy
When John Paul Jones sailed the USS Bonhomme Richard against the HMS Serapis in 1779, he was already famous in the Continental Navy for his daring in the capture of the HMS Drake. Although outgunned by the Serapis, Jones attempted to run alongside and lash the ships together, thus negating the advantage. The Bonhomme Richard took a beating, which prompted the British captain to offer to allow Jones to surrender. His reply would echo in eternity: “I have not yet begun to fight!” And he hadn’t – after more brutal fighting, with Jones’ ship sinking and his flag shot away, the British captain called out if he had struck his colors. Jones shouted back “I may sink, but I will never strike!” After receiving assistance from another ship, the Americans captured the Serapis. Unfortunately, the Bonhomme Richard was beyond salvage and sank.
3. “Come on you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?!” – Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly, USMC
Then-1st Sgt Dan Daly was leading the 73rd Machine Gun Company at the Battle of Belleau Wood. He already had two Medals of Honor and cemented his place in Marine Corps history by then. Always tough and tenacious in the face of the enemy, Daly inspired his men to charge the Germans by jumping up and yelling “Come on you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?!” The Marines attacked the woods six times before the Germans fell back. Daly was awarded a Navy Cross for his actions during the battle.
4. “I’m the 82nd Airborne and this is as far as the bastards are going.” – Pvt. 1st Class Martin, U.S. Army
As Christmas 1944 approached, the American forces in the Ardennes Forest were still in disarray and struggling to hold back the German onslaught. Versions of the story vary, but what is known is that retreating armor came upon a lone infantryman of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment digging a foxhole. He was scruffy, dirty, and battle-hardened. When he realized the retreating armor were looking for a safe place, he told them, “Well buddy, just pull that vehicle behind me. I’m the 82nd Airborne and this is as far as the bastards are going.” They would indeed hold the line before driving the Germans back over the next several weeks.
5. “You’ll never get a Purple Heart hiding in a foxhole! Follow me!” – Col. Henry P. Crowe, USMC
Henry Crowe is known in the Marine Corps for his time as a Marine Gunner and his exploits in combat. He first displayed his gallantry at Guadalcanal while leading the Regimental Weapons Company of the 8th Marines. While engaged in fierce fighting with the Japanese, then-Capt. Crowe leaped up and yelled “Goddammit, you’ll never get a Purple Heart hiding in a foxhole! Follow me!” before leading a charge against Japanese positions. He received a Silver Star and Purple Heart for his actions on Guadalcanal and later a Navy Cross for his actions on Tarawa.
6. “Retreat, Hell!” – A number of American badasses who were told to retreat
Americans troops hate to retreat and traditionally respond with “Retreat, Hell!” when told that they should. Here are three of the most badass examples:
Maj. Lloyd W. Williams, USMC
The Battle of Belleau Wood had no shortage of hardcore Marines making a name for the Corps (literally, the moniker ‘Devil Dog’ is attributed to the battle) and then-Capt. Lloyd Williams set the tone from day one. As the French were falling back in the face of a German assault, they came across a Marine officer of the 5th Marine Regiment advancing on Belleau Wood. A frantic French officer advised the American that they must retreat. Not one to shy away from a fight, Capt. Williams responded “Retreat, Hell! We just got here!” Capt. Williams was killed in the fighting nine days later but posthumously received the Distinguished Service Cross and a promotion to Major.
Col. Rueben H. Tucker, U.S. Army
After the initial assault landings at Salerno in September 1943, the Allied beachhead was in a precarious position. The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment conducted a combat jump to reinforce allied lines and moved out to the high ground at Altavilla to shore up the line. When a strong German counterattack threatened to dislodge the paratroopers, Gen. Dawley, VI Corps commander, called Col. Tucker and ordered his withdrawal. He vehemently replied “Retreat, Hell! Send me my 3rd Battalion!” 3/504 went in support and the regiment held the line.
Gen. Oliver P. Smith, USMC
The Battle of Chosin Reservoir is a story of incredible toughness and tenacity by American forces, particularly the 1st Marine Division. Chesty Puller had his own memorable quotes during the battle, but it was 1st Marine Division commander Oliver P. Smith who reiterated American resolve and refusal to retreat when he said “Retreat, Hell! We’re just advancing in a different direction!” And he meant it – the 1st Marine Division broke through the encirclement and fought its way to evacuation at Hungnam.