The 7 Greatest Pieces of Trash Talk in the History of War
Some one-liners uttered by historical figures during the heat of battle are so awesome that they seem taken right out of a particularly bombastic Hollywood war movie. But we've already gone over those. The following quotes aren't like that: These are the real-life wartime quotes no one would ever put in a film, because they're simply too badass to believe.
In 1690, Quebec was about to come under attack by superior English forces from Massachusetts. The English, confident they could easily wipe the floor with the French poofters they found waiting there, sent a messenger to deliver their official ultimatum to Count Louis de Buade de Frontenac, the Governor-General of Quebec. After reading the ultimatum, the English messenger added that the Governor had exactly one hour to reply, and whipped out a watch for dramatic effect.
It would have been an incredibly tense moment if everyone wasn't dressed like a little girl.
After a couple moments of silence, the English messenger impatiently asked if the Governor would be providing a written response to the ultimatum. That's when Governator Frontenac looked at the Englishman and uttered the line up there in the header image, simultaneously inventing the genre of gangsta rap 300 years too early while debunking that whole "the pen is mightier" bullshit in one sentence.
This historical re-enactment really captures his badass-with-a-touch-of-crazy side.
The envoy presumably let them keep his watch and hurried back to the ship for a change of ridiculous pants.
If anyone in Quebec questioned the wisdom of Frontenac's decision to piss off the huge army stationed right in front of their city, those doubts dissipated when unexpected reinforcements dropped in from Montreal, giving the French the numerical advantage. Frontenac crushed the English forces and sent them packing back to Massachusetts while suffering only 19 casualties.
And 10 of those were from trying to make the muskets talk.
We've previously pointed out how some of the most badass one-liners in the film 300, as Hollywoodesque as they sound, were actually real. However, the single most famous line in the entire movie ("THIS! IS! SPARTA!") was completely fabricated ... because it turns out that the truth is even more awesome.
Including the possibility that Leonidas was completely naked when he kicked that dude.
You don't need to have seen the movie to know the scene we're talking about -- it was in every single ad and trailer. The army of evil Persian King Xerxes is on their way to invade. King X sends a messenger ahead to Sparta to demand surrender. When Leonidas refuses, the messenger says, "This is madness," and Leonidas replies by power kicking the messenger into a well while shouting ...
This hangs next to the "Warning: Frequent Slow Motion" signs in Sparta.
That scene actually happened, in the sense that the Spartan and a Persian messenger had a meeting by a well. Of course, the real messenger was not there to set Leonidas up for a killer one liner. He was there on business, and got down to brass tacks by specifying that Xerxes wanted Sparta to "give us your earth and water." Having to think on his feet in the face of the messenger's weirdly specific demand, the real Spartan invited the Persians to "dig it out for themselves" while ... well, power kicking him into the well. They got that part right. So not only was the real line just as badass, it used verbal Judo to make it look like the messenger had asked permission to be kicked into the well. It was the ancient equivalent of the old bully standby -- "Want a Hertz Donut?" PUNCH "Hurts, don't it?" -- a tactic which we'd imagine is twice as demoralizing when it's being used to kick you to your death.
The historian Herodotus speculated that the horrible war that followed under Xerxes was a consequence of what the Greeks did to his father's heralds, but we're sure the Spartans would agree that it was totally worth it (especially because it inspired so many more zingers).
"Madness? This is ... well, yes, this is a little messed up, I'll admit."
Related: Happy Birthday, Badass - August 6
In 1918, the last year of "the war to end all wars" (i.e., the first of two freaking world wars), a bunch of U.S. Marines were dug in at a location near Paris called Belleau Wood in preparation for a massive German invasion. During the first few days of the fight, the Marines encountered remnants of battle-weary French forces retreating from the relentless German attack.
Not to mention posing for these endless Call of Duty ads.
The French (who had made it this far into the war and were clearly no pansies themselves) advised the Marines to turn back: A French major reportedly ordered Capt. Lloyd W. Williams of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines to retreat, to which Capt. Williams shouted the above line, making it clear that he was only starting to have fun.
Lloyd Williams: A man's man's man. A double-man.
Even after heavy losses (including Capt. Williams himself), the Marines repelled wave after wave of German assaults, eventually taking the woods for the Allied side and preventing an invasion of Paris. Even the enemy was impressed: An official German report described the Marines as "remarkable" and "waaaay more scary than the French."
"Also there's one coming here right AGGGGHHH!"
Even today, the words "Retreat Hell" are still on the shield of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines (personally, we would have gone with "We Just Got Here!").
We suppose you could also interpret this as a threat to the devil.
Related: Happy Birthday, Badass - August 5
Pointe du Hoc is a huge cliff that overlooks Omaha Beach, which is pretty cool if you're there on vacation and not so cool if you're there because you're an Allied soldier and it's D-Day. At a treacherously steep 100 feet of height, it was so pants-shittingly scary that one preacher with the U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion literally "dropped his pants and took a crap" immediately after climbing it.
In a mission that would send any Call of Duty fan running for a cheat code, the Rangers were tasked with not just climbing the cliff while German soldiers shot at them from above, but also overpowering said soldiers and locating a stash of guns. The stash, however, was not where their intel said it'd be.
"Are you sure about this?"
As they looked for the guns, a Lt. Jacob Hill spotted a German machine gun unloading on his Rangers. According to one witness, "Hill studied the position for a few moments, then stood up and shouted" the above stream of obscenity-spiced folksy goodness.
While it's unlikely that the Germans were familiar with this particular idiom, apparently they got the general idea because they were turning the machine gun around to shut him up. And that's when Hill invented the manliest punctuation mark of all time, throwing a grenade at the guys he'd just verbally owned, and wiping them all out.
Like a boss.
A few minutes later, some men from Easy Company came down the same road, so Hill's insult may have saved their lives. The Rangers eventually found the guns they were looking for and blew them up with thermal detonators. So, yeah, never underestimate the power of some good trash talk.
"Your mama's so ugly we put her on our propaganda posters to dehumanize the German people!"
Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, the Eastern Front of WWII
1941 was an unusually rough year for the Soviet Union, what with that whole German/Romanian/Italian/Hungarian/Finnish/Slovakian invasion going on. This didn't stop 18-year-old Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya from signing up for the Partisan-Reconnaissance Unit No. 9903, where she was tasked with burning down the houses in a Nazi-occupied village (preferably while they were being occupied).
Zoya managed to set fire to a few buildings before she was caught, tortured and paraded around town with a sign that said "Houseburner."
Her guard detail here are easily the most half-assed Nazis we've ever seen.
But before Zoya was publicly executed on November 29, 1941, she had a few words of hard-assed strategy to share with her captors and the audience, pointing out that "There are two hundred million of us, you can't hang us all!"
This was actually part of a larger speech where she kindly instructed her compatriots to "Kill the Germans, burn them, hunt them down like rats!" while the Germans were standing right there, preparing to hang her and feeling super awkward.
"It was the rudest thing I'd seen since we, y'know, killed all those people."
Once Stalin heard about Zoya, he immediately named her a Hero of the Soviet Union, the first female ghost to be bestowed with that title. Before the war was even over, she was honored with poems, paintings, statues and even a freaking movie. Just to give you an idea of how big of a deal Zoya became, there is a currently an asteroid named after her.
Everyone will feel just awful if it lands on Germany.
Also, her whole prediction about there being too many Russians for the Germans to hang turned out to be completely accurate -- by the end of it, the Germans were "hanging" themselves (or shooting themselves, you get the idea). We'll bet someone in the Third Reich got fired over that little miscalculation.
And now attractive young women wash and dress her statues yearly, so it's not a complete loss.
Anne Bonny, Pirate
Anne Bonny was an Irish pirate who enjoyed a successful career during the golden age of piracy in the 18th century. She did her piracy thing alongside her partner Mary Read and her on-again, off-again husband Calico Jack. It was like a sitcom, only with more rape and plunder.
She's a hot-headed swashbuckler, and she's an axe-wielding anarchist, this week on That's My Bonny!
In 1720, their ship was ambushed by a sloop sent by the Governor of Jamaica. Only Anne, Mary and one other pirate fought back, since the rest of the crew were either sleeping or too drunk to fight. After they were captured, Anne and Mary were able to avoid the gallows on account of their respective pregnancies. Jack, lacking a uterus, was not so lucky.
"I tried arguing that my chlamydia was alive, just like a baby, but they wouldn't listen."
As he was on his way to be executed, Anne Bonny comforted her pirate lover by politely pointing out that if he'd fought like a man, he wouldn't have been hanged like a dog. To which he probably didn't reply, "Yeah, good point. Love you!"
And this is the man who practically invented the Jolly Roger flag.
Calico Jack was hanged on November 18, 1720, not unlike a dog. Anne Bonny, meanwhile, moved to South Carolina, had 10 children and died "a respectable woman, at the age of 80."
Brig. Gen. Anthony Clement McAuliffe, the Siege of Bastogne
The Battle of the Bulge was the costliest battle in American history. Nearly 90,000 Americans were killed, captured or wounded just in time for Christmas. Smack-dab in the meat grinder were 12,000 U.S. soldiers holed up in a new circle of hell known as Bastogne.
Bastogne: Come for the unimaginable slaughter, stay because you're a corpse.
For eight days, the Germans laid siege to the city, and on December 22, 1944 a German truce party offered Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe a chance to surrender. Upon hearing the terms and carefully considering the situation, McAuliffe offered the above invitation, which we take to mean that they were free to shit themselves so hard that they would be propelled into the air, though historians are split on this interpretation.
His soldiers knew the "C" stood for "Come here so I can punch you in the dick."
Actually, that specific message never reached the Germans. But a version of it did. It went through a couple of revisions.
When McAuliffe first read the ultimatum, his initial reaction was to say, "Aw, nuts!" His aide, Lt. Col. Harry O. W. Kinnard, suggested turning that into the formal reply:
Col. Joseph Harper delivered the general's reply to their understandably flummoxed German adversaries. The Germans still didn't understand what the note was about (being unfamiliar with the concept of humor), so Harper instructed his interpreter, Army medic Ernie Premetz, "You can tell them to take a flying shit." He apparently thought that would be clearer.
But Premetz, trying to phrase it in a way that would not get lost in translation, told the officers "Du kannst zum Teufel gehen" (which translates to "You can go to hell").
"And if that fails, just gesture toward your crotch until they get the idea."
McAuliffe's men outlasted their German adversaries, earning the nickname the "Battered Bastards of Bastogne," and were eventually relieved by a tag team of Gen. George S. Patton and God. McAuliffe's ballsy response might very well have saved his life: According to the film Patton, the moment "Old Blood and Guts" heard the anecdote, he smiled and said, "A man that eloquent has to be saved." Patton then personally presented McAuliffe with the Distinguished Service Cross.
Not pictured: A magnificent exchange of curse words.
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