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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Death of the bayonet charge?

In today's combat environment its hard to see the need for a piece of semi sharp metal on the end of the rifle.  

Light Armoured Vehicles, fast attack jets, Close Combat air support, snipers able to kill over 2.4 kilometers in range, rocket propelled grenades able to penetrate almost all armour, this is the combat of today. 

Due to the US experience in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq the US military has made a choice and that is the end of the bayonet charge.  
Unfortunately war does not take sides and the death toll of the bayonet may be a tad premature.

British Forces in Helmamd province awaiting the order to go over the top...
Canadians Training with bayonet in Wainwright, Alberta

In May of 2004 in Southern Iraq a group of 20 soldiers from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were ambushed in their Land-Rovers.  The two vehicles were attacked by a group of militia believed to be part of al-Sadhrs army.  They escaped but then were attacked a second time, this ambush had much larger forces (possibly up to 100 fighters) and included heavy weapons as well as machine guns.  The Scottish troops used classic infantry tactics and routed the enemy as well as killing 20 or more fighters in combat that lasted over 3 hours and with only 3 UK soldiers being wounded.
Lt James Adamson, 5th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (awarded the Military Cross for the action)

I always had my men fix bayonets,” he said. “I never forgot the Canadian training. We didn’t do much bayonet drill in those days, but I gotta say, those Chinese didn’t know what hit them when we charged.” Captan Millet Sr (eventual Colonel)

"Now the bayonet, one of the oldest weapons in the Army's arsenal, has been rendered redundant by the onset of modern technology. With the adoption of powerful new machine- guns and grenade launchers it is often impossible to use the bayonet in 21st century combat. One Army officer explained: "It's fair to say that the bayonet is unlikely to see much service in future wars.  "You have to be realistic. The bayonet was designed for muskets because you could fire only one round before undergoing a complex reloading procedure.  "The bayonet gave the infantryman another weapon. Now you have 30 rounds in a magazine so things have moved on."
In July 2008 military history repeated itself this time in Afghanistan and a second British soldier made the fateful decision to use his bayonet.

Lt Adamson, who is from the Isle of Man, said: “The Taliban kept on probing us, sending in fighters to attack, first in twos, then in fours.  “There was a gap between the two sections and the Taliban realised this and were sending in men to get between the two groups so they could split us up and isolate us.  “Myself and Corporal Fraser “Hammy” Hamilton were wading nipple deep down a river. ’Hammy was ahead when the Taliban fighter with the PKM appeared from a maize field. There was an exchange of fire and Hammy fired off his ammunition, then the weight of fire coming from the Taliban forced him under the water. “ The machine-gunner had also gone to ground but was still firing in our direction.  “I had just caught up when Hammy came up out of the water like a monster of the deep. Then another Taliban man came through the maize carrying an AK47. He was only a few feet away. I immediately shot him with a burst from my rifle, which was already set on automatic. He went down straight away and I knew I had hit him.”  Hammy said I shouted, “Have some of that,” as I shot him but I can’t remember that. I fired another burst at the PKM gunner, then that was me out of ammunition as well.  That was when I decided to use the bayonet on him."   http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8252974.stm

The two Canadian soldiers listed in the citation below; used grenades to hold off the enemy fire when they ran out of ammo, the next step would have be to fix bayonets and defend their position.  

Its only a matter of time before the Canadians experience matches the British forces in the use of the bayonet charge.  
The US forces continue to see close combat as the experience of Spc Salvatore Giunta and his team used a similar tactic in their combat in October 2007.  
This and his other actions awarded him the US militarys highest honour, Military Medal of Honor.

Warrant Officer Crane and Corporal Myroniuk,
Awarded  Military Medal of Valour
"On August 4, 2008, insurgent forces surrounded an Afghan National Army company in a complex ambush in the Panjwayi district of Afghanistan. Warrant Officer Crane and Corporal Myroniuk selflessly remained in the danger zone to extract an Afghan casualty and support another Canadian soldier who was caught in the open. Together, they stood against over 30 insurgents using small arms fire and, when their ammunition was depleted, resorted to hand grenades to hold off the enemy. The courage of Warrant Officer Crane and Corporal Myroniuk saved Canadian and Afghan lives and prevented the company from being outflanked."   

Spc. Salvatore Giunta, (now Staff Sgt)
Awarded the Medal of Honour for his and his teams actions 
Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, Oct. 25, 2007
"At the initial barrage of enemy fire, Spc. Giunta sought cover and brought his team online to begin returning fire. At some point in the battle, Spc. Giunta left cover to assist Staff Sgt. Gallardo back to their cover position. While exposed, the enemy shot Spc. Giunta multiple times but the rounds were all stopped by his body armor. After numerous grenade volleys, Spc. Giunta, Staff Sgt. GallardoSpc. Eckrode. Spc. Giunta continued on toward Sgt. Brennan's last-known position. Upon reaching the position, Spc. Giunta, identitfied the injured Sgt. Brennan being carried away by two insurgents. Spc. Giunta, engaged the insurgents, killing one and wounding the other, which enabled him to retrieve Sgt. Brennan and began medical treatment to his multiple wounds."

History also tells us of the need for the need for the bayonet.  

The last major bayonet charge was in Korea on hill 180.  He joined the United Sates Army Air Corps in 1940 and realizing that the US would not join the fight against Germany Millet joined the Canadian Army and was sent to London.  When the US joined after Pearl Harbour he transferred to the US and served with distinction in WW2, Korea and Vietnam.

Captan Millet Sr (eventual Colonel)
Awarded the Medal of Honour for his and his teams actions
Hill 180 Korea 
"While personally leading his company in an attack against a strongly held position he noted that the 1st Platoon was pinned down by small-arms, automatic, and antitank fire. Capt. Millett ordered the 3d Platoon forward, placed himself at the head of the 2 platoons, and, with fixed bayonet, led the assault up the fire-swept hill. In the fierce charge Capt. Millett bayoneted 2 enemy soldiers and boldly continued on, throwing grenades, clubbing and bayoneting the enemy, while urging his men forward by shouting encouragement. Despite vicious opposing fire, the whirlwind hand-to-hand assault carried to the crest of the hill. His dauntless leadership and personal courage so inspired his men that they stormed into the hostile position and used their bayonets with such lethal effect that the enemy fled in wild disorder. During this fierce onslaught Capt. Millett was wounded by grenade fragments but refused evacuation until the objective was taken and firmly secured. The superb leadership, conspicuous courage, and consummate devotion to duty demonstrated by Capt. Millett were directly responsible for the successful accomplishment of a hazardous mission and reflect the highest credit on himself and the heroic traditions of the military service."

"In the fierce charge Capt. Millett bayoneted 2 enemy soldiers and boldly continued on, throwing grenades, clubbing and bayoneting the enemy, while urging his men forward by shouting encouragement.  Despite vicious opposing fire, the whirlwind hand-to-hand assault carried to the crest of the hill."

I have heard from a few sources that several Canadian units (1 PPCLI during op Medusa) and (2 PPCLI in Roto 6) were told to fix bayonets when on patrol in Panjawai.  Several American soldiers have also fixed bayonets while in TIC (Troops in Contact) in a place called FoB Kalagush.

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