Re: Tom bayonets......a response

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Posted by Bill Rooks on December 31, 1997 at 20:43:19:

In Reply to: Re: Tom bayonets......a response posted by Tom Kilbane on December 31, 1997 at 19:09:55:


Yup! You know your stuff. It is pleasant to debate with someone who is well versed. As I said, poorly probably, we don't really differ on the overall issues of troops and tactics....mainly on that single facet of the hand to hand skirmish/melee.

Marine, eh? Oorah! Hardened tip of the spear so to speak. And it is hard to speak of the single issue of in close, without considering the greater issues of training, conventional and irregular, homefront etc. It all kind of is one big interaction.

I apologize for my habit of intuitively circling around a point and coming in on it. For the way my mind jumbles with lots of related issues because I believe no one thing is paramount in and of itself. All things are related.

I agree adding the bayonet to the musket changed warfare. But probably not in the way you do. It took great skill to become a good swordsman rather than just a cut and slasher. But really, with the advent of gunpowder leading to cannon and weapons which could pierce armor and kill at distance.....that changed the face or warfare. Until gunpowder, massed armies generally were composed of relatively untrained troops called upon when the need arose....who used rather plebian weapons. Battle was for the most part a wild melee. Sure, the elite (before gunpowder the mounted horse) could be a deciding factor if used properly. But pikes, axes, spears clubs etc were the arms of the common soldier. Then came gunpowder. Without the bayonet I agree with you....pikes or suport troops were needed when the enemy closed with swords etc. The musketeers fell back. And with the addition of the bayonet....the musket men could then serve dual purpose as pikemen. Protect themselves more ably. But the musket as only a defensive weapon without the addition of the bayonet? I can't agree with that. And the implied statement that given two sides in close combat of equal weight but one with bayonets and one without it will be the side with the bayonets who will win....given both sides are disciplined and determined to win? I have to again disagree. But it is a difference of opinion is all. It is just easier to be swinging around something short and handy when in close quarters than something long and pointy. Too easy to get in under the long and pointy,
or deflect it, or have it hang up on something.

Why do the armies teach bayonet drill and not tomahawk and knife?
Well, it kind of depends on what kind of army or troop in that army you are I guess. The real reason is that you don't WANT the
enemy closing in....with rapid fire weapons the object is to keep them AWAY, in the killing zone where rapid fire weapons are most effective. That is not always possible. A determined enemy can and will the armies teach bayonet drill. But really...the bayonet drill taught is fine one on one. But one on many? People bumping up against you friend and foe? Jammed in tight?

You were a marine. I could be wrong....but in the attack were you not taught to CLOSE with the enemy? Get in amongst them as soon as possible. Mix it up? In other words....get OUT of the kill zone and into their midst so rapid fire weapons were no longer effective? Caught in an ambush, were you not taught to immediately react and charge the ambush? Again, get OUT of the killing zone and amongst them?

Well, to answer the question....the real reason our troops are taught to use the bayonet is to give them a sense of defense and comfort when thinking about the real eventuality of the enemy closing into their midst. Otherwise, they would cut and run if they weren't taught SOMETHING to keep them in place. But is it truly effective as a determinator? Maybe yes and maybe no. I only know that generally in the actual fact those nice standard bayonet moves were lost in the shuffle and it became a real brawl. Butt stocks used, entrenching tools used, knives used. Rocks used. Whatever.

But then, a lot of my training was as shock troop and unconventional warfare. So yes, we WERE taught to use the knife very well. For that matter, we were taught to use whatever was at hand and to be vicious. Our whole reason to be was to be force multipliers, drop in behind the main armies, contact resistence movements, train irregulars, and disrupt communications - supply lines - reinforcements - make the enemy divert troops from the front to protect their rear and their supply lines.

But to answer your question....let's face it. Of course no army teaches how to use the tomahawk or the knife. Bayonet drill is in fact pretty rudimentary. With rapid fire weapons, artillery,
air support, armor support....all that....every modern army trains its troops to kill the enemy BEFORE they get in amongst their lines. Because NONE of that is any good once they have.

Bayonet training today is a placebo for the nice next door 18 year old kid who sits behind the wire waiting......better to teach him to be ruthless, berserker, and to use whatever at hand he must. IF they get through the wire.

My team could use a knife, throw a knife, were taught in fact to use axes and hatchets....and throw them. To use helmets, entrenching tools whatever it took. We practiced it all. But then, I am a little crazy.

Good discussion. Thanks.

Bill R.

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