Ferdinand Foch

Ferdinand
Foch
1851
1929

French Marshall, Soldier, Military Theorist, Allied Generalissimo during the First World War

Author Quotes

I am conscious of having served England as I served my own country.

The laurels of victory are at the point of the enemy bayonets. They must be plucked there; they must be carried by a hand-to-hand fight if one really means to conquer.

I am going on to the Rhine. If you oppose me, so much the worse for you, but whether you sign an armistice or not, I do not stop until I reach the Rhine.

The military art is not an accomplishment, an art for dilettante, a sport. You do not make war without reason, without an object, as you would give yourself up to music, painting, hunting, lawn tennis, where there is no great harm done whether you stop altogether or go on, whether you do little or much. Everything in war is linked together, is mutually interdependent, mutually interpenetrating. When you are at war you have no power to act at random. Each operation has a raison d'etre, that is an object; that object, once determined, fixes the nature and the value of the means to be resorted to as well as the use which ought to be made of the forces.

In a time such as ours when people believe they can do without an ideal, cast away what they call abstract ideas, live on realism, rationalism, positivism, reduce everything to knowledge or to the use of more or less ingenious and casual devices — let us acknowledge it here — in such a time there is only one means of avoiding error, crime, disaster, of determining the conduct to be followed on a given occasion — but a safe means it is, and a fruitful one; this is the exclusive devotion to two abstract notions in the field of ethics: duty and discipline; such a devotion, if it is to lead to happy results, further implies besides… knowledge and reasoning.

The truth is, no study is possible on the battle-field; one does there simply what one can in order to apply what one knows. Therefore, in order todo even a little, one has already to know a great deal and to know it well.

In our time, which thinks it can do without ideals, that it can reject what it calls abstractions, and nourish itself on realism, rationalism and positivism; which thinks it can reduce all questions to matters of science or to the employing of more or less ingenious expedients; at such a time, I say, there is but one resource if you are to avoid disaster, and only one which will make you certain of what course to hold upon a given day. It is the worship — to the exclusion of all others — of two Ideas in the field of morals: duty and discipline. And that worship further needs, if it is to bear fruit and produce results, knowledge and reason.

The unknown is the governing condition of war.

In tactics, action is the governing rule of war.

Then came the attack in the Amiens sector on August 8. That went well, too. The moment had arrived. I ordered General Humbert to attack in his turn. "No reserves." No matter. Allez-y (Get on with it) I tell Marshal Haig to attack, too. He's short of men also. Attack all the same. There we are advancing everywhere--the whole line! En avant! Hup!

In the first place, the data of a military problem are but seldom certain; they are never final. Everything is in a constant state of change and reshaping.

There is but one means to extenuate the effects of enemy fire: it is to develop a more violent fire oneself.

In war there are none but particular cases; everything has there an individual nature; nothing ever repeats itself.

This absence of similarity among military questions naturally brings out the inability of memory to solve them; also the sterility of invariable forms, such as figures, geometrical drawings (épures), plans (schémas), etc. One only right solution imposes itself : namely, the application, varying according to circumstances, of fixed principles.

In whatever position you find yourself determine first your objective.

This is not a peace. It is an armistice for 20 years.

A lost battle is a battle one thinks one has lost.

It takes 15000 casualties to train a major general.

To be disciplined does not mean being silent, abstaining, or doing only what one thinks one may undertake without risk; it is not the art of eluding responsibility; it means acting in compliance with orders received, and therefore finding in one's own mind, by effort and reflection, the possibility to carry out such orders. It also means finding in one's own will the energy to face the risks involved in execution.

A war not only arises, but derives its nature, from the political ideas, the moral sentiments, and the international relations obtaining at the moment when it breaks out. This amounts to saying : try and know why and with the help of what you are going to act; then you will find out how to act.

Men called to the conduct of troops should prepare themselves to deal with cases more and more varied upon an ever-increasing horizon of experience. They can only be given the capacity to arrive at a prompt and judicious position by developing in them through study their power of analysis and of synthesis; that is, of conclusion in a purely objective sense, conclusion upon problems which have been actually lived and taken from real history. Thus also can they be founded through the conviction that comes from knowledge in a confidence sufficient to enable them to take such decisions upon the field of action.

To inform, and, therefore to reconnoitre, this is the first and constant duty of the advanced guard.

Against what should fire be opened? Against the obstacles which may delay the march of infantry. The first obstacle is the enemy gun. It will be the first objective assigned to artillery masses.

My right has been rolled up. My left has been driven back. My center has been smashed. I have ordered an advance from all directions.

Victory is a thing of the will.

Author Picture
First Name
Ferdinand
Last Name
Foch
Birth Date
1851
Death Date
1929
Bio

French Marshall, Soldier, Military Theorist, Allied Generalissimo during the First World War