‘The Most Ferocious Fighters on Earth’ and Other Army and Navy Quotes About Marines

November 9, 2021Mac Caltrider
Marine Corps finest fighting force quotes

A US Marine drinks snake blood during jungle survival training in Banyuwangi, Indonesia, Aug. 4, 2019. DOD photo by Cpl. Destiny Dempsey.

Marines around the world will soon celebrate the fact that 246 years ago “a few good men” in a bar in South Philly volunteered to be “soldiers of the sea” in exchange for a daily half-pint of rum. To commemorate the Marine Corps birthday on Nov. 10, leathernecks will don their dress blues, drink excessively, and celebrate “the world’s finest fighting force.” 

While this time of year is usually full of Marines boasting about themselves, here are 12 iconic quotes from the Army and Navy that capture the unique fighting spirit of America’s Marines. We apologize in advance to any soldiers and sailors who may be hurt by these quotes from their services’ flag or general officers. 

Iwo Jima
Marines raise the American flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. Photo by Joe Rosenthal/Associated Press, courtesy of the National Archives.

US Army Generals

“The safest place in Korea was right behind a platoon of Marines. Lord, how they could fight!” Maj. Gen. Frank E. Lowe, who served as President Harry Truman’s “eyes and ears” in the Korean War 

“There are only two kinds of people that understand Marines: Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion.” — Gen. William Thornson

“We have two companies of Marines running rampant all over the northern half of this island and three Army regiments pinned down in the southwestern corner doing nothing. What the hell is going on?” — Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Vessey on the 1983 invasion of Grenada

“The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle.” — Gen. John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I 

“I have just returned from visiting the Marines at the front, and there is not a finer fighting organization in the world.” — Gen. Douglas MacArthur, after the pivotal Inchon landings during the Korean War

Marine Corps finest fighting force
US Marines engage enemy fighters during a patrol in Zamindawar, Helmand province, Afghanistan, June 1, 2012. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christopher M. Paulton.

US Navy

“When you’re working with Army and Marine Corps units, you immediately notice a difference. The Army is pretty tough, but their performance can depend on the individual unit. Some are excellent, filled with hoorah and first-class warriors. A few are absolutely horrible; most are somewhere in between. In my experience, Marines are gung-ho no matter what. They will all fight to the death. Every one of them just wants to get out there and kill. They are bad-ass, hard-charging mothers.” — Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle, SEAL sniper who worked closely with the Marines during the Battle of Ramadi

“Marines I see as two breeds, Rottweilers or Dobermans, because Marines come in two varieties, big and mean, or skinny and mean. They’re aggressive on the attack and tenacious on defense. They’ve got really short hair, and they always go for the throat.” — Rear Adm. James R. Stark, a Vietnam veteran and the 47th president of the Naval War College

Reconnaissance Sniper Course Marine
A Reconnaissance Sniper Course student engages targets with the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System during marksmanship training on Camp Pendleton Feb. 25, 2021. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

“You cannot exaggerate about the Marines. They are convinced to the point of arrogance that they are the most ferocious fighters on earth. And the amusing thing about it is that they are.” Chaplain Kevin Keaney, 1st Marine Division Chaplain during the Korean War

“The Marine Corps has just been called by the New York Times, ‘The elite of this country.’ I think it is the elite of the world.” — Adm. William “Bull” Halsey, one of four officers to achieve the rank of fleet admiral

Marine Corps finest fighting force
Marine 1st Lt. Baldomero López scales the seawall at Inchon moments before sacrificing himself to save his Marines. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Bonus Quotes

Beyond the Army generals and Navy admirals, many other great leaders have spoken highly of Marines throughout history. Here are a few examples:

“I am convinced that there is no smarter, handier, or more adaptable body of troops in the world.” — Sir Winston Churchill, prime minister of the United Kingdom during World War II

“The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps!” Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady of the United States

Marine Corps finest fighting force
A Marine carries a child to be processed during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 25, 2021. DOD photo.

Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in this world. The Marines don’t have that problem.” President Ronald Reagan, US Army veteran and 40th president of the United States

Read Next: Salty Dogs: The Long and Proud Tradition of Tattoos in the Marine Corps

Mac Caltrider
Mac Caltrider

Mac Caltrider is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. He served in the US Marine Corps and is a former police officer. Caltrider earned his bachelor’s degree in history and now reads anything he can get his hands on. He is also the creator of Pipes & Pages, a site intended to increase readership among enlisted troops. Caltrider spends most of his time reading, writing, and waging a one-man war against premature hair loss.

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