As far as fascinating gear goes, bayonets gotta be near the top. Americans fought the British armed with rifles and bayonets. Ever since then, the United States military has fielded bayonets in some fashion or another. Bayonet charges were quite common when your rifle’s fire rate was two rounds per minute and cavalry on horseback could rout a troop.
These rifle-mounted blades in battle were quite common up to the end of Korea. Millet’s charge in Korea is one of the most famous. Marines wielding bayonets charged across an open field to take an airfield on Peleliu during World War 2. Heck, Vietnam saw some bayo use, but around that time, the bayonet had begun to see its decline. To do this day, various rifle-mounted knives remain issued to troops, and they’ve even been used a time or two during the Global War on Terror.
Keep in mind the Global War on Terror has lasted twenty years now. In those twenty years, we’ve seen two real bayo uses.
In 2004, the Brits dismounted vehicles in Iraq and charged towards the enemy in trenches. After four hours, they killed 30 insurgents and suffered no major casualties.
A lesser-known event had Marines mounting bayonets during Operation Phantom Fury. Phantom Fury saw Marines fighting in extremely close-quarters situations. A knife at the end of your rifle makes it tough to take. However, beyond those two events, bayonets are basically dead.
Why Bayonets Stick Around
Way back in the times of black powder rifles, a bayonet was essentially a long spear tip. It wasn’t used for anything but bayoneting an enemy. Modern bayonets, however, are more than a pointy spear tip. They’ve become multipurpose tools that can be used for lots of things beyond bayoneting the bad guys.
Today, Marines wield the OKC-3S bayonets that are essentially KA-BARs with bayonet rings and locks. The Army’s M9 works as a large knife as well. As knives, they can be multipurpose tools for cutting, chopping, and even digging. A good knife goes a long way, even if it’s just opening MREs and breaking down cardboard boxes.
In the realm of crowd control, a bayonet can be a force multiplier and useful tool; however, modern tactics and less-lethal weapons have largely eliminated the pointy stick from that role.
Heck, I carried an M9 pistol and M240 machine gun and still had one issued to me. I couldn’t attach it to either weapon, but I still carried it. Like almost all Marines, Soldiers, and Sailors, I never mounted a bayonet for anything beyond training purposes. If you removed 100% of them from my battalion, nothing would have changed.
In fact, I’m betting bayonets could be removed entirely, and the difference would be marginal. Warfare changes, and it seems to get faster and faster. As wars sped up, the bayonet became less and less usable. Even in the wars of old, bayonets were never used all that much. In World War 1, they accounted for 2% of combat casualties, and that was considered high.
What Purpose Do They Serve Now?
Why has the bayonet stuck around for so dang long? Well, way back in the good ole days, I sat in a recruiter’s office and saw a somewhat famous picture of a Marine mounting his bayo to his rifle during Phantom Fury.
It was a printed ‘meme’ that said something regarding the Army, Navy, and Airforce offering bonuses, travel, and post-military career opportunities. The stinger at the end was what the Marine Corps offered, and what the Marine Corps offered was that Marine attaching his bayonet.
Bayonets imply aggression and aggression in close quarter’s fighting is remarkably important. Aggression and anger allow you to overcome fear and panic. Attaching bayos and running the USMC’s bayonet course unlocks a degree of aggression many may have never tapped into prior to training.
Shooting something can often be surgical and emotionally removed. When you have D.I.’s screaming at you, and you have to sink a 7-inch blade into a tire, you have to tap into aggression and emotion.
Pointy Scary Things
Bayonets might still act as knives and be somewhat useful, but their biggest use comes from unlocking that aggression. They instill a warrior spirit and release something in people they may not have been aware they had. I’ll end it here with a quote from the U.S. Army’s FM 23-25.
The will to meet and destroy the enemy in hand-to-hand combat is the spirit of the bayonet. It springs from the fighter’s confidence, courage, and grim determination, and is the result of vigorous training. Through training, the fighting instinct of the individual soldier is developed to the highest point. The will to use the bayonet first appears in the trainee when he begins to handle it with facility, and increases as his confidence grows. The full development of his physical prowess and complete confidence in his weapon culminates in the final expression of the spirit of the bayonet — fierce and relentless destruction of the enemy.
Vladimir Gutkouskiy says
I am Vlad Gutkowski, fencing instructor with many years of experience.
I hope you enjoy our program of sports bayonet and knife fighting.
Here is the tool
What’s the spirit of the bayonet? Kill! Kill! Cold blue steel! What makes the grass grow green? Blood, Drill Sergeant, blood makes the grass grow green! Whirl!
Dan in Ohio says
Our military service rifle should always have a bayonet lug on it. It weighs next to nothing.
I think the USMC has the very best bayonet, as the article said, it’s basically a Ka-bar fighting knife with ability to mount on the rifle. A fighting knife is an excellent piece of gear, the ability to just snap it on the end of the rifle is a major plus.
When both sides in a battle run out of ammo, they don’t shrug their shoulders and go home. Out come the bayonets and entrenching tools. Brutal, but proven over and over again.
Bayonets will never be obsolete.
I know someone who among other things was stabbed in the leg with a bayonet, he has a bullet crease in his skull and a partially mangled hand… 3 or 4 Purple Hearts, a tough guy when he’s awake but he screams in his sleep… blood curdling hair raising screams almost all night long. Don’t underestimate the physiological power of a blade. The VA drugs and the alcohol didn’t help for long then they turned on him. In his 70’s now and the long drawn out Psy impact has ravaged his body. Bayonets do the job, it’s often a last resort weapon but it doesn’t run out of ammo. Bayonet saved his life.
“What is the spirit of the bayonet company?…To kill without mercy drill sergeant!” Fort Ord basic trng. 1969. In Vietnam I carried an air force survival knife the medic I replaced had on his pistol bet. How he acquired it I have no idea. It was handy for a lot of things.
On Ashley Babbitt – when you are outnumbered and they are breaking through the Capital’s windows, you kill one or two to get the crowds attention.
In 1962 it was “The spirit of the Bayonet is to KILL, KILL!”
Too bad the cops in the capitol on Jan 6th didn’t have bayonets!
Jim S says
They could have, but they knew it was staged and had orders not to do anything so as to achieve maximum media effect. If that isn’t so, then why didn’t they seize any guns from the “insurrectionists”? Not one single weapon, not even a Swiss Army knife, was seized during that whole business.
Phil Divver says
You are referring to the “Capitol Tour Guides,” of course.
Only a cowardly punk loser like you would talk big in considering the use of a bayonet on unarmed Amercan Citizens. You make me wretch…I would find you cowering under a rock in the fetal position sucking your thumb crying for Mama…
Too bad you aren’t at the end of one. Shame on you.
WALTER A ADAMS says
A bayonet on an M-14…………… “Long thrust and hold!!!”
Try that for 3 or 4 minutes.
Someone one said: “You can do anything with bayonets except sit on them.”
Wesley Allen says
I still remember my bayonet training from 1976. The DS would yell out ‘what is the spirit of the bayonet?’ We’d respond simply screaming out ‘cold blooded murder’.
Ya, we thought we were badass, but all that went south real quick when the first bullet snap by you.
Well… I was a breacher. I informed my team leader I wanted a small bayonet for my 12. Just in case. His reply, “No you don’t. Meet me in the armory in ten min. I was given a tool called the Pumpkin puncher. It was basically a breaching standoff with 4 sharpened metal prongs, perfect for digging into door frames and CQB alike. While not a bayonet, it was definitely bayonet inspired and cross bred with a breaching standoff. I still have it. Wish I could upload pic
What makes the grass grow?????
The Way I remember it is:
What makes the green grass grow?
Blood Drill Sergeant, blood makes the grass grow!!! US Army 1993.
For the same reason modern fighter jets still have guns. Because no matter how fancy your weapon or how badass you are, you can always end up in a dogfight.
In WW1 the Army used Trench Sweepers; pump shotguns that fired with each pump if the trigger was held pulled. They also had long bayonets attached. Very effective. The use of them scared the German Army so much they complained about their use and demanded they be outlawed. When you run out of ammo a spear is a useful tool.
I don’t know any other way to kill an MRE effectively.
Well, a U.S. soldier in Iraq, Bellavia, used his K-Bar bayonet to stab a mooj to death when his magazines were all dry.
Christopher R. says
Ka-Bar doesn’t make bayonets. David Bellavia used a Gerber folding knife during the action where he was awarded the MoH.
They now make a bayonet
Actually he used the Gerber Applegate-Fairbairn Combat Folder for that.
Old 11B says
Because, despite decades of protest to the contrary, close-in hand-to-hand combat is not dead. Warfare is a HUMAN enterprise. It will never become just a videogame or a pushbutton contest. You don’t really own a piece of ground unless you can walk onto it and that requires you to clear the opposition off it. Cold Steel is still the weapon of last resort in trench clearing, tunnels, confined rooms and plenty of other situations. When a baddie jumps out at your muzzle-point it is quicker to stick-em. Plus they never run out of ammo.
ELLIS T. says
For civilian use in riot/crowd control, a bayonet is very effective. Of course, merely pointing it at someone would probably result in an assault charge, not to mention the pointing of the rifle.
Nothing is more intimidating than a bayonet on the end of your rifle when dealing with crowd control… ask any National Guardsman
Dick Trimble says
I bought a bayonet for my A2 version AR-15. I’d rather have it and never need it than need it and not have it. And bayonet training in boot camp was FUN!
Patrick Slowey says
As we use to say at the Benning School for Boys “What’s the spirit of the bayonet?” – “TO KILL”.
So, dump the bayonet and what will you use for a big knife? A friend who spent time on a fire base in Viet Nam said he used his bayonet a lot, but never on his rifle and never to kill people. He said it was camping out as a way of life, and when one is camping a large fixed blade knife gets used numerous times a day. What’s wrong with having the option to attach your knife to your rifle?
Well said and correct. Thanks for calling attention to second (and third) affects/uses
Taking a M9 from its sheath and affixing it to my rifle was the first time I really felt like a soldier. Everything else was just war games, now I had a weapon that demanded respect from me and a responsibility to use it properly.
Brad Mueller says
Ya never know. Sometime you just might need to stab something.
There are a number of things I can think of which could use a good poke with a bayonet
Whirl !! What makes the grass grow? What is the spirit of the bayonet? To Kill !
William Kelly says
Zombies. Gotta have a bayonet for zombies. And Ashley Babbitt.
That’s right murder the unarmed chicks.
The unarmed chick that would have led a mob into an area a few short meters from every elected public official in the building. She ignored several warnings beforehand and started climbing into an obviously secured area that had a standing guard with a weapon drawn, it’s unfortunate but they had to show they were not playing around. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.