Horses and bayonets.
Those words weren’t on anyone’s debate bingo card Monday night.
For anyone who missed it, President Obama turned to his rival and said, “you mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed.”
What we want to know for Tuesday’s Geo Quiz is: where were bayonets first invented, at least according to legend?
“Nothing is definitively documented”, says Chris Woolf, The World’s News Editor and resident history geek, “but the French city of Bayonne claims it; they had a big armaments industry in early 17th century when bayonets were first invented.”
And Bayonne, France, is the answer to today’s Geo Quiz.
And just what is a bayonet?
“I’m a Revolutionary War re-enactor, and this is a British triangular bayonet from the classic age of horse and musket, says Woolf. “It was, and is, primarily a psychological weapon, and a weapon of last resort.”
They’re not as obsolete as President Obama implies.
“In an age of cruise missiles and drones they don’t get much use,” says Woolf. “But just last month a young fellow in my old regiment, was decorated with Britain’s second highest gallantry medal, the Military Cross, for a bayonet charge in Helmand province, Afghanistan, almost exactly a year ago.”
Woolf served in the British Territorial Army in the 1980s.
“Corporal Sean Jones was leading a patrol which became pinned down in a ditch.” With half his men providing covering fire, Jones led the others in a bayonet charge across 80 yards of open ground, to successfully drive away the enemy.
“Even today, if you’re cornered and in a ditch, it seems like a useful thing to have,” says Woolf.
The US Marine Corps still issues bayonets and trains with them.
The US army halted bayonet training in 2010, but they may still be issued.
“Doorkickers still like them,” says Woolf, referring to the soldiers involved in direct operations to clear houses and so on.
“Horses are a lot more obsolete, but they’re not totally out of the picture,” Woolf says.
US Special Forces mounted three teams during the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
Also mules — half-horse — were re-introduced by US Marines in 2009 for carrying kit over terrain impassable to vehicles.