Damn the torpedoes

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Damn the torpedoes is an idiom that can be traced to one source. We will examine the meaning of the common saying damn the torpedoes, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Damn the torpedoes is an idiom that means to go ahead heedless of risk, to continue regardless of danger. The expression damn the torpedoes is the first half of a longer idiom, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. The idiom is derived from a quotation attributed to American Union Admiral David Farragut during the Civil War. When faced with Confederate mines in Mobile Bay, the admiral pressed on irrespective of the danger, declaring, “Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.” The word “speed” has replaced the word “steam” in the quotation, but both iterations are still found. The expression damn the torpedoes has been in use since the American Civil War; however, the phrase rose in popularity significantly during World War II.


Although the crisis hasn’t reached that point, it was relatively easy to transform Scenic into a venue for mass vaccinations — once the “damn the torpedoes; full-speed ahead” decision was made. (Modesto Bee)

The voice of President Roosevelt sets out the high stakes: “Our American merchant ships must be free to carry our American goods into the harbours of our friends … the goods will be delivered by this nation whose Navy believes in the tradition of ‘damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead’”. (Sydney Morning Herald)

With all he does, a constant in Lake’s persona and tone is his damn-the-torpedoes, full-steam-ahead bravado. (Rochester City Newspaper)