Chesty Puller: 11 Badass Quotes From The USMC’s Biggest Legend

It would be hard to argue that there’s a bigger legend in Marine Corps history than Lieutenant General Chesty Puller.

Chesty Puller Medals

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…

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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 at Chosin Reservoir

Chesty Puller 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!”

Official photo of Chesty as a colonelAs 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!”

Chesty during his Nicaragua campaigns

4. “Paperwork will ruin any military force”

Colonel Lewis B. Puller

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.”

Chesty Puller in Korea


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)

LtGen Lewis Puller

7. “You don’t hurt ’em if you don’t hit ’em!”

Chesty at a format event

8. “Retreat! Hell, we’re just attacking in a different direction.” 

Chesty after promotion to brigadier general
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 Puller can’t take credit for it. Sounds like something he would say though.

9. “We’re surrounded. That simplifies the problem!” 

Chesty Puller as a young captain

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.’”

Chesty as a lieutenant


11. “Old breed? New breed? There’s not a damn bit of difference so long as it’s the Marine breed.”

LtGen Puller in Korea

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. 

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  • In bootcamp 1968 [MCRD San Diego] every evening for 13 weeks we would “Hit” the rack and say ‘Good Night Chesty Puller where ever you are’ and then the lights would go out. Semper Fi Chesty!!!

  • In Korea, Chosin reservoir, the weekly airdrop of supplies from Tokyo contained condoms. Chesty said “what the hell do they think we’re doing to the Chinese?”

  • Was it Chesty that said, “Smile and shake everyone’s hand as you enter the room, but remember….., you might have to kill all of them when u leave the room!”

  • At one point in the chosen conflict US army troops came under the command of chesty. A private in a fox hole asked how far they could fall back. Chesty pointed at the front of the hole and said, you start here, and pointed at the back of the hole and said you end up here.

  • (while being shown a flamethrower for the first time) “Where the hell do you put the bayonet?” Typical Chesty, a freaking FLAME THROWER wasn’t deadly enough for him. Oo-rah, Semper Fi!

  • My dad served under him in Korea and he said Chesty would holler out Whats the price you pay for the glory and the men would all resound back with no price too high sir.

  • My Dad was a marine and was in the frozen Chosin. He described horror. It was 50 below zero! So cold their guns didn’t work. Had to fight hand to hand combat. Men froze to death standing in place. Dad described a Chinese soldier strangling my dad and my dad felt the life going out of him. At the last second he grabbed his helmet and beat the soldier to death. My dad got malaria and his ear drums busted while in the Korean war. He was one of the “Chosin Few” that made it out. The name Chesty Puller was heard in our household many times over the years! He was a legend!