11 Best General James “Mad Dog” Mattis Quotes

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It’s hard to top General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, USMC (Ret.) when it comes to having a legendary status among this generation of Marines. In addition to his expertise as a combat commander, he’s also known for saying some interesting stuff when he’s found himself in front of a microphone.

Despite the “Mad Dog” nickname (which Mattis reportedly hates) his reputation as one of our country’s most well-read and deep-thinking military leaders in decades is on par with his distinguished record as a warfighter.

While his recent tenure as Secretary of Defense seems to have tamed him a bit, he’s still managed to let off a few memorable one-liners in that role.

Read on to see our ten favorite General Mattis quotes.


1. Demonstrate to the world there is “no better friend, no worse enemy” than a U.S. Marine.

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According to his former public affairs officer at 1stMarDiv, General Mattis paraphrased this quote from a saying by a Roman general. Mattis’ version made its first appearance on the one-page commander’s intent that he distributed to the Division just prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

2. No war is over until the enemy says it’s over.  We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact the enemy gets a vote.

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This quote is the larger-scale, strategic-level version of a tactics-related quote that I remember hearing constantly at The Basic School and Infantry Officers Course — “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” In any war, sport, or even a rivalry between businesses, you’re competing against a thinking opponent who (a) can do unpredictable things in response to your plans and (b) won’t quit until they’re ready to.

3. When you men get home and face an anti-war protester, look him in the eyes and shake his hand. Then, wink at his girlfriend, because she knows she’s dating a pussy.

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According to Snopes this one is “unproven” but it sure sounds like something Mattis would say.

4. There is nothing better than getting shot at and missed. It’s really great.

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5. You are part of the world’s most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.

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This quote reinforces the “no better friend” mindset that Mattis hoped to instill in those under his command. He knew that — in a counterinsurgency fought without clear front lines against an enemy that attempted to blend in with the population — there could be severe consequences to killing the wrong people or destroying the wrong buildings.

6.  Marines don’t know how to spell the word defeat.

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7.  The most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.

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8. I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you f*** with me, I’ll kill you all.

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9. I don’t lose any sleep at night over the potential for failure. I cannot even spell the word.

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And our personal favorite…

10. Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.

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And a bonus one from his time as SecDef, because it’s too good to leave out:

Did we miss any?

AND DON’T FORGET:

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 General Mattis Quotes .50 Caliber Bottle Opener

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