Of Horses and Bayonets

Last night, the topic of “horses and bayonets” lit up Twitter and the blogosphere after Barack Obama mentioned the phrase in the debate against Mitt Romney. Today, Bloomberg has a piece ascertaining the decline of horses but the (relative) stability of bayonets:

The U.S. Marines, though, remain fixed on bayonets.

In 2004, the Marines ordered some 90,000 OKS-3S new model bayonets from the Ontario Knife Co. in Franklinville, New York, a unit of Servotronics Inc. (SVT) of Elma, New York. According to a report on the Marine Corps website, the new “multi-purpose knife” is more durable than the old M-7 bayonet and also doubles as a combat knife.

Some elements of combat, however, never change. The 2004 article quotes Marine Major Allen L. Schweizer of the Marine Corps Systems Command as saying: “The Multi-Purpose Bayonet is best used on the enemy, and it causes physiological as well as physical damage.

And as for horses?

As for horses, although a few reappeared in the opening days of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the special operations forces who rode them were carrying laser pointers to direct air strikes rather than sabers and lances to carve up the enemy.

While Obama was correct that the U.S. Army has fewer horses and bayonets than it did in 1916, as anyone who has seen the movie or play “War Horse” knows, the days of the cavalry charge and fixed bayonets were already waning in World War I. They were victims of machine guns and artillery.

While the U.S. Army still used horses for transport and supply duty, the last of them were traded in for trucks and Jeeps at the end of World War II.

Horses and bayonets became a meme very quickly indeed.

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