An Incomplete List of Murphy's Laws of Combat Operations

While this document is not explicitly copyrighted — I didn’t write it, so I can’t do that — please do not reproduce this list without asking first, as this is my particular ordering of the Laws. I’m not going to say no, but I’d appreciate the benefit of some courtesy. Thanks.

The following observations are no doubt the product of that most prolific of authors, Anonymous. Please do not write and tell me you came up with one of these. As “Dear Abby” has proven time and again, any well-known phrase, poem, or anecdote will have at least fifty claimants. However, I will accept additions, original or otherwise.

The Original Fifty Laws

  1. Murphy was a grunt.
  2. A sucking chest wound is nature’s way of telling you to slow down.
  3. Recoilless rifles aren’t.
  4. Neutral countries aren’t.
  5. Suppressive fires won’t.
  6. Friendly fire isn’t.
  7. The only thing more accurate than incoming enemy fire is incoming friendly fire.
  8. Incoming fire has the right of way.
  9. When you are forward of your position, the artillery will always be short.
  10. When the enemy is closing, the artillery will always be long.
  11. Try to look unimportant — the enemy may be low on ammo.
  12. Don’t look conspicuous — it draws fire.
  13. Never draw fire — it irritates everyone around you.
  14. Never share a foxhole with someone braver than you.
  15. Teamwork is essential — it gives the enemy other people to shoot at.
  16. No combat ready unit ever passed inspection.
  17. No inspection ready unit ever passed combat.
  18. Fortify your front and you’ll get your rear shot up.
  19. Make it too tough for the enemy to get in and you can’t get out.
  20. If your attack is going really well, you’re in an ambush.
  21. The enemy diversion you are ignoring is the main attack.
  22. If you’re short of everything except the enemy, you’re in a combat zone.
  23. When in doubt, empty your magazine.
  24. If both sides are convinced they’re about to lose, they’re both right.
  25. Once you have secured an area, don’t forget to tell the enemy.
  26. There’s always a way.
  27. The easy way is always mined.
  28. If the enemy is within range so are you.
  29. Tracers work both ways.
  30. In war, important things are simple and simple things are very hard.
  31. If it’s stupid and it works, it ain’t stupid.
  32. Communications will fail as soon as you desperately need fire support .
  33. Cavalry doesn’t always come to the rescue.
  34. Weather ain’t neutral.
  35. Remember, your weapon was made by the lowest bidder.
  36. If you can’t remember — the claymore is pointed toward you.
  37. All five second fuses are three seconds.
  38. Military Intelligence can be a contradiction in terms.
  39. There is no such thing as a perfect plan.
  40. No OPLAN survives the first enemy contact.
  41. Sniper’s motto: “Reach out and touch someone.”
  42. B-52’s are the ultimate in close air support.
  43. Peace is our profession. Mass murder’s just a hobby.
  44. Killing for peace is like whoring for virginity.
  45. Professionals are predictable but the world is full of dangerous amateurs.
  46. All other things being equal, the side with the simplest uniforms wins.
  47. It’s not the one with your name on it, it’s the one addressed “to whom it may concern” that you should be worried about.
  48. Mines are an equal opportunity weapon.
  49. Smart bombs have bad days too.
  50. Remember that napalm is an area weapon.

  1. Don’t ever be the first, don’t ever be the last, and don’t ever volunteer for anything.
  2. Anything you do can get you shot — including doing nothing.
  3. A Purple Heart just proves that you were smart enough to think of a plan, stupid enough to try it, and lucky enough to survive.
  4. It is generally inadvisable to eject directly over the area you just bombed.
  5. Once the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is not our friend.