Joseph was chief of the Nez Perce, a Native American tribe in Northwest Oregon. In 1877 the Nez Perce refused to go to a reservation, a land prescribed by the US government for Native Americans. Instead, Chief Joseph attempted to lead 800 of his people to Canada. They made a journey of 1100 miles, fighting the U.S. Army all the way. Eventually, they were trapped forty miles from their destination, where, after a fight lasting five days, the 431 surviving Nez Perce were beaten. Accepting this defeat, Chief Joseph made his speech of surrender.
“I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohulhulsote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led the young men is dead.
It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are – perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead.
Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”
Patton’s Speech was intended to motivate the inexperienced Third Army for its pending combat duty. Patton’s blunt, aggressive speaking was viewed as unprofessional by some other officers but the speech resounded well with his men. Some historians have acclaimed the oration as one of the greatest motivational speeches of all time.
Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best and removes all that is base. Americans pride themselves on being He Men and they are He Men. Remember that the enemy is just as frightened as you are, and probably more so. They are not supermen…
Sure, we want to go home. We want this war over with. The quickest way to get it over with is to go get the low-life who started it. The quicker they are whipped, the quicker we can go home. The shortest way home is through Berlin and Tokyo. And when we get to Berlin, I am personally going to shoot that paperhanging mongrel, Hitler. Just like I’d shoot a snake!
Some of you men are wondering whether or not you’ll chicken out under fire. Don’t worry about it. I can assure you that you’ll all do your duty. War is a bloody business, a killing business. The Nazis are the enemy. Wade into them, spill their blood or they will spill yours. Shoot them in the guts. Rip open their belly. When shells are hitting all around you and you wipe the dirt from your face and you realise that it’s not dirt, it’s the blood and guts of what was once your best friend, you’ll know what to do.
There is one great thing that you men will all be able to say after this war is over and you are home once again. You may be thankful that twenty years from now, when you are sitting by the fireplace with your grandson on your knee and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you won’t have to shift him to the other knee and say, ‘Well, your granddaddy drove a bus in Louisiana.’ No, sir, you can look him straight in the eye and say, ‘Son, your granddaddy rode with the great Third Army and a flag-waving son-of-a-gun named Georgie Patton!’
All right, men. You know how I feel. I’ll be proud to lead you wonderful guys in battle anytime, anywhere. That’s all.