Soldiers at Tacoma Army Camp Learning How to Bayonet Huns

From Trench and Camp, published by the Tacoma Tribune for Camp Lewis, Washington, December 2, 1917, page 1

Journal of Non-lethal Combatives, December 1999

No branch of the training of the soldiers at the Tacoma army camp who are soon to be sent across the Atlantic to face the Huns is being given more careful attention than that of bayonet work.

It is no sort of 'gentleman's parley' that is being taught, moreover, but the 'down to business,' 'get 'em' sort of bayonet offensive that does not stop until the steel point has found a vital spot.

It is the English system that the war department has adopted. It has been found that the German is afraid of nothing quite so much as the Tommy's bayonet charge. [FN1] There is said to be nothing quite so demoralizing in its effect on a line of Huns, their concrete machine gun emplacements blown to bits, their trenches levelled, and they forced to fight hand-to-hand, than to see a crew of roaring Tommies charging down upon them with bayonets set and flashing.

The Tommy's method of using the long steel blade on the end of his gun has been found decidedly nasty, from the German standpoint. But let the Germans see that a hand-to-hand struggle with the bayonet is imminent, and up go their hands, and cries of 'Kamerad,' 'Kamerad,' resound, the allies have found.

It is for this reason that the United States is seeing that each of its soldiers knows how to use the bayonet, English fashion. There is no mincing of words in the explanations as to just how to 'get' your man. Sometimes it turns a raw recruit a little sick at his stomach during his first few lessons, but he is told that it is a 'get him before he gets you' game and that it is up to him to learn the trick.

Preliminary training in bayonet practice is being given every man at Camp Lewis. But the fine points of the game he is to learn a little later, when sufficient instructors for each company have been trained by the officers detailed for special bayonet instruction. Chosen men from each company, men who can be relied upon to grasp all the 'punch' that the officer instructors put into the work, are first being given the bayonet lessons in squads or classes up on the hills of the south side of the cantonment, where dummy Huns have been set up and an elaborate set of model trenches dug before them.

Out 'over the top' of these trenches the students are taught to charge. Now they meet a wounded Hun at bay. Past him they come to the man who is ready to meet their steel. It is straight forward, first to last -- straight for the spots where a knife thrust means death and where the bayonet can be pulled out quickly to meet another foe.

Footnotes (hit your back button to return to the text)

FN1. During the spring of 1917 the French Army, trained in the spirit of the bayonet, mutinied, and only some minor victories owed in part to the introduction of tanks prevented a similar problem in the British Army. Meanwhile, in Russia, the Germans introduced a new method of assault that emphasized concentrating artillery fire on known enemy strong points while infantry armed with flame throwers and light machine guns simultaneously surrounded them. Known as sturmtruppen or Hutier tactics, these new methods formed the basis of the vaunted Blitzkrieg tactics of World War II.

JNC Dec 1999.