The origins of “V for Victory!”

Almost everyone is familiar with the phrase “V for Victory” and the two-fingered V-for-victory hand gesture popularized by Winston Churchill during World War II. But few people today are aware of their origin. The use of “V” as a symbolic message of defiant resistance to tyranny was first proposed by Victor de Laveleye, a member of … Read more

“We must love one another or die.”

September 1, 1939 is now known as the day when World War II started. On that day, Germany’s Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler ordered his military forces to invade neighboring Poland. He claimed it was an act of self defense, necessary to protect German citizens and the territorial rights of Germany. “Germans in Poland are persecuted … Read more

“Why are you not here?” – Thoreau’s famous (apocryphal) question to Emerson…

Fake quotes are sometimes harder to identify and debunk than “fake news,” especially when they are cited by hundreds of books and thousands of websites. A good example is the question Henry David Thoreau supposedly asked his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson in July 1846 when Thoreau was jailed overnight in Concord, Massachusetts for refusing to … Read more

April 2, 1865 – “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”

On September 22, 1969, The Band released the great self-titled album that includes what became one of their most famous songs, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Like many songs by The Band, it was primarily written by lead guitarist Robbie Robertson, with creative contributions from the other Band members: Levon Helm, Rick Danko, … Read more

“Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”

On April 19, 1951, General Douglas MacArthur made a high-profile “farewell address” to a joint meeting of both houses of Congress. Eight days earlier, he’d been fired as the top commander of the American forces in the Korean War by President Harry Truman, essentially for having the gall to publicly criticize Truman’s denial of his … Read more

“Life is unfair,” as President John F. Kennedy famously observed on this date…

Many people are familiar with the famous quotation by President John F. Kennedy, “Life is unfair.” But few people today remember or know the context of this quote. It was something he said, in part, with respect to what would become the Vietnam War. In 1961, the newly-elected president decided to send more than a … Read more

“The Final Solution of the Jewish Problem” (“Endlösung der Judenfrage”)

“The Final Solution” is one of the most chilling phrases associated with Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. It’s a euphemism for genocide. “The Final Solution” was immortalized by a memo sent on July 31, 1941 by Hermann Göring (often spelled Goering in English), head of the Gestapo, to Nazi SS General Reinhard Heydrich. The memo … Read more

On this date in 1813, Oliver Hazard Perry launched two immortal naval quotations…

On September 10, 1813, American ships under the command of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry engaged a British naval squadron on Lake Erie during the War of 1812. Perry’s flagship was a 20-gun brig that had recently been renamed The Lawrence, in honor of his fallen friend, U.S. Navy Captain James Lawrence. On June 1, 1813, … Read more

“No pasarán!” – They shall not pass!

During the long siege of Verdun in World War I, French military leaders urged their troops to fight the invading German army with the rallying cry “Ils ne passeront pas!” (“They shall not pass!”) Some books of quotations attribute this to General Robert Nivelle (1856-1924), some to Henri Phillipe Pétain (1856-1951). Others say it’s a … Read more