What’s the Spirit of the Bayonet?

Well, it’s not part of basic training anymore.

When a US Army general made the decision recently to remove bayonet assaults from the array of skills soldiers must learn during basic training, it seemed like a no-brainer.

US troops hadn’t launched a bayonet charge since 1951 during the Korean War. And new soldiers preparing for an increasingly violent war in Afghanistan already need to learn far more skills than the 10 weeks of basic training allows, says Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, head of initial entry training and the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command.

So he made a change, substituting skills drill sergeants reported that they wanted to teach new recruits in favor of dropping the time-honored practice of the bayonet charge.

But in the weeks since that decision, Hertling has heard about it. “Bayonet training is pretty fascinating,” he says. “I’ve been slammed by retirees.”

Infantry soldiers still receive bayonet training. Pogues don’t. Of course infantry soldiers haven’t made a bayonet charge since 1951. Pogues haven’t made a bayonet charge since, well, ever. It is pretty easy to make the argument that bayonet training isn’t the highest and best use of basic training time for pogues.

On the other hand, there is a hell of a lot more to bayonet training than preparation for a bayonet charge. For those of you who don’t know, the spirit of the bayonet is “to KILL, KILL, KILL!!!”

Bayonet training is, in short, used to undo socialization – to “basically to try to mitigate or eradicate the reluctance of human beings to kill each other,” Mr. Kohn says. It is one of the challenges in US or Western society “where we have such reverence for the individual, where we socialize our people to believe in the rule of law, and all of that,” he adds. “What you’re doing with young people is trying to get them used to the highly emotional and irrational and adrenaline-filled situations in which they are liable to find themselves whether they are within sight of the enemy or not – and the reluctance to take a life.”

Never is military training so profoundly, terrifyingly, emotionally violent as during bayonet training. When 200 men scream “KILL, KILL, KILL!” and charge plywood targets it feels a bit insane. Rifles are broken as bayonets are pounded through plywood targets. Men literally froth at the mouth. It is ritualistic warrior blood lust. You chant, you charge, you kill. You feel the warrior in you explode. You are with the Scots at Bannockburn. You are with the 20th Maine at Little Round Top. No training so readies you for battle as bayonet training.

Also, there may not have been a formal bayonet charge since 1951, but I guarantee that American have used the bayonet in one on one action in just about every war fought. Including the use by the occasional pogue.

I hate to see it go. Train those troops.

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27 Responses to What’s the Spirit of the Bayonet?

  1. sortahwitte says:

    By all means, train those troops! Bayonet drill is a motivation technique that pulls a squad of fighting men together. Even if they never charge with bayonets, they should know how. Or maybe that is the start of the dis-arming of our forces. First the long knife and then ammunition.

    In the Marines pogey-bait was candy, usually chocolate. If you called someone a pogue it meant they were a candy-ass. Many a barracks brawl started with “pogue”.

    • R.D. Walker says:

      To us, all REMFs were pogues and some grunts were pogues.

      • James says:

        In my short time as a scout in the army it was POG personnel other than grunt and as far as bayonet training it turned us in to animals charging head long up a hill hacking slashing and stabbing our way over under and around obsticals screaming the whole way up. We felt like killers ready to kill the enemy in close combat haha good times

        • Ray Davies says:

          Too bad you guys never got to experience the Bayonet Training with the M-1. We could see ourselves training like our fathers getting ready for the Germans and the Japs. Oh yeah, an interesting time and an interesting way of training, a more elegant age, shall we say. I’m not sure the modern Infantry weapons would survive it.

  2. Uke says:

    Embarrassing.

    Me and every single other guy training out there during bayonet week pondered for a mere split second why we were still in this day training with bayonets. No more than 5 minutes into training, it was obvious to everyone. It’s about the fire, the warrior spirit, the unflinching ability to look a man in the face and know you’re about to do horrible things to him, and that if you don’t, then he will do those horrible things to you.

    It has been necessary for thousands of years, and guess what? It still is. Shall I regale you with tales of how even in this modern age of warfare, that close quarters combat still takes place in cramped caves or urban environments? It is in those places where the “Spirit of the Bayonet” is never more necessary. For EVERY soldier.

    This morning I am profoundly ashamed because of this news.

  3. Downtown says:

    Back in 1968 while going thru basic training at Ft. Knox, KY we were on the bayonet training field screaming at the tops of our lungs “KILL, KILL, KILL !” while thrusting our bayonets into hanging dummies used in the training. A staff car drove by with some General’s wife in the back seat and she heard the chant “kill, kill, kill’ that we were screaming. Next thing we knew several MP’s arrived and informed the Drill Sgts. that they were to stop the “kill, kill, kill” being screamed and to use the word “eliminate” instead. By order of the General who’s wife thought it was just awful that we were screaming “KILL”. “ELIMINATE, ELIMINATE, ELIMINATE” just didn’t have the same effect on arousing the warrior spirit as KILL did. Thank God I never had to use a bayonet to “eliminate” the enemy. I made it a point to keep them out of bayonet range.

  4. R.D. Walker says:

    Downtown: Great story. “Eliminate” didn’t catch on. We were still screaming KIll! KILL! KILL in the 90s.

  5. Uke says:

    Hah, good story Down. Generals’ and Colonels’ wives have always been the bane of any hard training unit as far as I’m concerned.

    Though, if they HAD to change it, maybe we should just do it Dr. Who style:

    EX-TER-MINATE!!
    EX-TER-MINATE!!

  6. L. says:

    “Un foie, deux reins, trois bonnes raisons d’avoir une baïonnette” – France

    (“A liver, two kidneys, three good reasons to have a bayonet”)

    “Konstitisyon se papye, bayonèt se fè” – Haïti

    (“Constitution is made of paper, bayonet is made of steel”)

  7. Paul Flynn says:

    “Pogues”???…Fuck You.

    Only an insecure looser (stupid at that) what use the term is a serious article.

  8. R.D. Walker says:

    I am no looser. I am a tighter.

    So Paul, you are a pogue then, huh?

  9. notamobster says:

    Wow, Paul has absolutely no idea who he’s talking about….

    Hope he sticks around. This should be interesting. (he’s a troll)

  10. R.D. Walker says:

    Everybody has a grievance to peddle these days. Now pogues think they should be given protected status. Coming up next, affirmative action for pogues.

    Don’t even get me started on legs.

    • Sandy Brewer says:

      As all troops with an eagle within their wings know – Airborne troops may jump out of (perfectly good) aircraft, but when they hit the ground, they too are LEGS. Must make them “half legs.” Aviators fly everywherre, all the way.

    • Ray Davies says:

      Yeah, R.D. We had a lot of fun jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. Not only that I got an extra $50. a month for it.

  11. James Nesmith says:

    The article is incorrect in one aspect. In Vietnam, the 1st Cavalry conducted a bayonet charge. My unit fixed bayonets when we repelled a ground attack on our camp in Vietnam.

  12. Dau Tieng 59 says:

    This what happens when you lets non-warriors in to a warrior profession.

  13. LTC Gowan says:

    We should continue to train our Soldiers on bayonet drill. It helps develop a warrior ethos and prepares the mind for the notion that the Soldier may have to kill the enemy in a close fight; the same rationale supports the need for hand-to-hand combat training. When our Soldiers are about to be overrun, our Soldiers will fix bayonets. We train with the carbine, the pistol, the grenade and the bayonet for a reason.

  14. DEL MUNROE says:

    Emblazed in my memory was bayonet training at FT. Lewis WA.
    1968 during infantry training. A parade field of troops, all male. in an “on guard” stance with podiums separated by DI’s with bull horns calling out, “whats the spirit of the bayonet” and our screamed response “to kill” . ” To Kill who gentlemen ?” and we respond “to kill them all.” ” long wide and continuous slashes, gentlemen. Long Wide and Continuous”

  15. James says:

    What’s the spirit of the bayonet? TO KILL TO KILL TO KILL WITHOUT MERCY!
    What makes the grass grow? BLOOD BLOOD BRIGT RED BLOOD!!

  16. jdeleur says:

    Hello R.D. Walker,

    Can you tell me more about the photo at the bottom of the article.
    Where it was made and what type of training rifles they are using?
    Thank you.

  17. Noelle says:

    My thoughts may mean nothing to those that have fought.
    But I remember my bouynet training well
    At FT. Leonardwood, MO.
    I thought of my Pop. Who was 101 BOB WWII.
    The day I had to prove I was the daughter of a true soldier, a warrior…
    And Just today.. After 1995, I asked a Captain, What Makes the Green Grass Grow?
    Anyone who has the heart of a Soldier knows the answer!

  18. Frank says:

    In the Battle for Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam, there was indeed a bayonet charge by the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry. AFTER Korea.

  19. Spec-4. Ferreira says:

    Fort Jackson 1982 Drill sergeants yelling what’s the spirit of bayonet hundreds of motivated young soldiers screaming to kill sergeant to kill . 33 years later I wouldn’t change a thing. B-9-2

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