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The Bridge on the River Kwai

The Bridge on the River Kwai quotes

37 total quotes

Cmdr. Shears
Col. Nicholson
Col. Saito
Maj. Clipton
Maj. Warden

You and your officers may return to your quarters. As part of this amnesty, it will not be necessary for officers to do manual labor.

Colonel Saito. I've seen and heard everything. So has every man in the hospital. There are too many witnesses. You'll never get away with calling it a mass escape. Most of those men can't walk...Is this your soldier's code? Murdering unarmed men?

Are they both mad or am I going mad? Or is it the sun?

The fact is, what we're doing could be construed as, forgive me sir, collaboration with the enemy. Perhaps even as treasonable activity...Must we work so well. Must we build them a better bridge than they could have built for themselves?

I can't understand it. It's such a solid, well-designed job. Not like the temporary bridges the enemy usually throws together.

[on killing Joyce and Shears] I had to do it. I had to do it. They might have been captured alive. It was the only thing to do.

Radio Transmission: One: Original bridgeworks reported abandoned. New construction downstream from first site. Two: Enemy intends to open railway with passage of special train, Bangkok to Rangoon with troops and VIP estimated to arrive target, AM, 13th. Three: You should synchronize demolition with pass of this train. Four: Good hunting. Have fun.

Shears: Those new prisoners see us diggin' graves, they might all run away.
Kanematsu: No time for jokes. Finish work...Dig dig.

Nicholson: I heard your remarks just now sir. I can assure you, my men will carry on in the way one expects of the British soldier. And naturally, my officers and I will be responsible for their conduct. Now sir, you may have overlooked the fact that the use of officers for manual labor is expressly forbidden by the Geneva Convention.
Saito: Is that so?
Nicholson: I happen to have a copy of the Convention with me and would be glad to let you glance through it if you wish.
Saito: That will not be necessary.

Shears: Oh, I'd say the odds against a successful escape are about 100 to 1...But may I add another word, Colonel...The odds against survival in this camp are even worse. You've seen the graveyard. There you realize. You give up hope of escape. To even stop thinking about it is like accepting a death sentence.
Nicholson: Why haven't you tried to escape, Commander?
Shears: Oh, I've been biding my time, waiting for the right moment, the right company.
Nicholson: I understand how you feel. Of course, it's normally the duty of a captured soldier to attempt escape. But my men and I are involved in a curious legal point of which you are unaware. In Singapore, we were ordered to surrender by Command Headquarters, ordered, mind you. Therefore, in our case, escape might well be an infraction of military law. Interesting?
Dr. Clipton: Yes, interesting point.
Shears: I'm sorry sir. I didn't quite follow you. You mean you intend to uphold the letter of the law, no matter what it costs.
Nicholson: Without law, Commander, there is no civilization.
Shears: Well see, that's my point. Here, there is no civilization.
Nicholson: Then, we have the opportunity to introduce it. I suggest that we drop the subject of escape.

Nicholson: I want everything to go off without a hitch starting first thing tomorrow morning. And remember this: our men must always feel they are still commanded by us and not by the Japanese. So long as they have that idea to cling to, they'll be soldiers and not slaves.
Shears: I hope they can remain soldiers, Colonel. As for me, I'm just a slave, a living slave.

Saito: You speak to me of code. What code? The coward's code. What do you know of the soldier's code? Of bushido? Nothing. You are unworthy of command.
Nicholson: Since you refuse to abide by the laws of the civilized world, we must consider ourselves absolved from our duty to obey you. My officers will not do manual labor.
Saito: We shall see. All English present prisoners to work!

Saito: Enlisted prisoners sabotaged the work. I have seen it. I could have them all shot.
Clipton: Then, who would build your bridge? Besides, are you sure it is sabotage? Perhaps the men don't work well without their own officers to direct them.
Saito: My officers will direct them. Your officers will work beside them.
Clipton: That's for Colonel Nicholson to decide. As he pointed out, it's against the rules.
Saito: Do not speak to me of rules. This is war. This is not a game of cricket. He's mad, your Colonel. Quite mad.

Nicholson: That man's [Saito] the worst commanding officer I've ever come across. Actually, I think he's mad...Blackmail...
Clipton: I know, sir. He means it. I'm sure he does. It's a question of face, pure and simple. He can't give in.
Nicholson: It's still blackmail.
Clipton: Sir, you can't stand much more of this. And wouldn't the officers be better off working than suffocating in that hole? The men are doing a wonderful job. They're going as slow as they dare. But Saito has cut their food rations. And if he makes the sick men work, well, they're going to die. That's all there is to it.
Nicholson: Yes Clipton, I understand, truly. But don't you see. It's a matter of principle. If we give in now, there'll be no end to it. No...I'm adamant. I will not have an officer from my battalion working as a coolie!

Saito: I do not think you quite realize my position. I must carry out my orders...My orders are to complete the bridge by the twelfth day of May. Time is short. I only have twelve weeks more...Therefore, I am compelled to use all available personnel.
Nicholson: But no officers, except in an administrative capacity.
Saito: But officers ARE working along the entire railway. You know it. I know it.
Nicholson: I'm not responsible for the actions of other commanding officers. Personally, I'm appalled.
Saito: Let's not get excited. Would you have a cigar?
Nicholson: No, thank you.
Saito: When I said: 'All officers must work,' naturally I never meant you - the commanding officer. My orders were only intended for officers below...
Nicholson: None of my officers will do manual labor!
Saito: PLEASE. I was about to say, I've been thinking the matter over and have decided to put majors and above in administrative duties, leaving only the duty officers to lend a hand.
Nicholson: I'm afraid not. The Convention's quite clear on that point.
Saito: Do you know what will happen to me if the bridge is not built on time?
Nicholson: I haven't the foggiest.
Saito: I'll have to kill myself. What would you do if you were me?
Nicholson: I suppose if I were you, I'd have to kill myself. Cheers! [He drinks the glass of Scotch]
Saito: I warn you, colonel. If I am to die, others will die before me. Do you understand that?
Nicholson: Major Clipton did mention something to that effect...That won't solve your problem. I'm sure we can arrive at the proper solution. Please sit down. Now, tell me, uh, Colonel. Do you or do you not agree that the first job of an officer is command?
Saito: Of course.
Nicholson: [standing and assuming superiority] This bridge of yours, it's quite an enormous undertaking, and to be frank, I have grave doubts whether your Lieutenant, what's his name?...Miura, is capable of tackling a job of such importance. On the other hand, I have officers, Reeves and Hughes for instance, who've built bridges all over India. The men respect them. It's essential for an officer to have that respect, I'm sure you agree. (If) he loses it, he ceases to command and what happens then? Demoralization and chaos. A pretty poor commander I would be if I allowed that to happen to my men.
Saito: Perhaps you are not aware that the bridge is now under my personal command.
Nicholson: Really? May I ask: 'Are you satisfied with the work?'
Saito: I AM NOT!
Nicholson: Proves my point.
Saito: [as he plunges the dinner knife into the tabletop] I hate the British. You are defeated, but you have no shame. You are stubborn, but have no pride. You endure, but you have no courage. Leave this place!
Nicholson: It's pointless going on like this.