“I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm’s way.” (John Paul Jones – later adopted by the U.S. Navy’s Special Boat Units)
In 1778, American Navy Captain John Paul Jones went to France, hoping to persuade the French government to give him a ship to use in the American colonies’ rebellion against the British.
Toward that end, he wrote a letter to Monsieur Le Ray de Chaumont, dated November 16, 1778. In it, he said, “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm’s way.” His phrase “in harm’s way” has since become a common figure of speech, meaning “in the path of danger.”
Not long after Jones wrote his letter to Chaumont, the French government gave him a frigate that he named the Bonhomme Richard. On September 23, 1779, Jones and the crew of the Bonhomme Richard fought their famous battle off the coast of England against the British war ship Serapis. At one point, the Bonhomme Richard seemed to be sinking so the captain of the Serapis asked Jones if he would surrender. That’s when Jones supposedly gave his legendary reply “I have not yet begun to fight!”
After lashing the Bonhomme Richard to the Serapis and fighting ferociously, the Americans won the battle and the crew of the Serapis surrendered to them.