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It would be hard to argue that there’s a bigger legend in Marine Corps history than Lieutenant General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller.
If you’re not familiar with the leadership and bravery that earned him the healthy rack of medals shown above, you can read all about him in this comprehensive biography.
In addition to his battlefield exploits recognized by those five Navy Crosses and numerous other valor awards, he was equally well-known for his colorful sayings. Here are a few of them…
1. “All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us…they can’t get away this time”
Chesty commanded the 1st Marine Regiment while the 1st Marine Division was surrounded by Chinese and North Korean forces at Chosin Reservoir, outnumbered at least eight to one. Some saw a crisis, but Chesty saw an opportunity to be able to attack in any direction and hit some enemy forces.
2. “Don’t forget that you’re First Marines! Not all the Communists in hell can overrun you!”
As the Marines fought their way out of Chosin, Chesty moved up and down the lines exhorting his troops to keep fighting.
3. “Our Country won’t go on forever, if we stay soft as we are now. There won’t be any AMERICA because some foreign soldiery will invade us and take our women and breed a hardier race!”
4. “Paperwork will ruin any military force”
Chesty’s “filing system” supposedly consisted of one pocket on his field jacket for incoming messages and one pocket for outgoing messages.
5. “The mail service has been excellent out here, and in my opinion this is all that the Air Force has accomplished during the war.”
He wasn’t too fond of the close air support that the Air Force provided (or didn’t provide) in Korea, greatly preferring the services of Navy and Marine Corps aviation.
6. “Alright you bastards, try and shoot me!” (to North Korean forces)
7. “You don’t hurt ’em if you don’t hit ’em!”
8. “Retreat! Hell, we’re just attacking in a different direction.”
I’ve also seen this one attributed to Major General Oliver P. Smith, who was CG of the 1st Marine Division during the Chosin campaign, so maybe Chesty can’t take credit for it. Sounds like something he would say though.
9. “We’re surrounded. That simplifies the problem!”
Also during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, upon realizing that some 8 Chinese divisions had encircled the 1st Marine Division.
10. “Take me to the Brig. I want to see the ‘real Marines.’”
11. “Old breed? New breed? There’s not a damn bit of difference so long as it’s the Marine breed.”
In the early years of World War II there was friction between the “Old Breed” Marines — those who had been around prior to 1941 — and the “New Breed” who joined (or were drafted) after Pearl Harbor.
That rivalry about which generation is tougher has probably existed since the second recruiter replaced the first one at Tun Tavern in 1775, and it has repeated itself with Korea vs. Vietnam vs. Gulf War vs. OIF/OEF generations in the years since. But Chesty didn’t think age or generation mattered much as long as the culture and spirit of the Marine Corps continued to be passed down from year to year.