Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling opted to discontinue bayonet training for Army recruits. After all, the last US bayonet charge was in 1951. But in the weeks since that decision, Hertling has had some pushback.
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.”
The objections to ending the training are occasionally practical.
In 2004, with ammunition running low, a British unit launched a bayonet charge toward a trench outside of Basra, Iraq, where some 100 members of the Mahdi Army militia were staging an attack. The British soldiers later said that though some of the insurgents were wounded in the bayonet charge itself, others were simply terrified into surrender.
Instilling such terror is at the heart of the philosophical argument for keeping bayonet training, historians say.