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"If your bayonet breaks, strike with the stock; if the stock gives way, hit with your fists; if your fists are hurt, bite with your teeth."
- - Gen. Mikhail Dragomirov

"Close combat, man to man, is plainly to be regarded as the real basis of combat."

- - Carl Von Clausewitz


When two disciplined dismounted infantry units clash, the war becomes a one-on-one fight between soldiers at close range.

Lesson Learned

Hand-to-hand fighting skills provide a means of self protection.

WW II: The 6th ID in the Philippines

During the Philippines campaign of 1945, the 6th Infantry Division faced dug-in Japanese positions along the Simbu line 12 miles northeast of Manila. Attacks on the line led to many instances of close combat. Leading a five man patrol near Mt. Matoba, PFC Tilford Cantrell of the 63rd Infantry was unexpectedly rushed by a Japanese Captain wielding a bayonet. Cantrell sidestepped the charge, used a textbook butt stroke to stun the officer and then shot him, pointblank, with his M-1. Three more Japanese jumped the patrol at that point but Cantrell quickly shot each of them down within a few feet of his location. One of them even got close enough to put a bayonet through his jacket, but Cantrell was left unhurt. Quick reactions and the courage to fight it out "close and personal" paid dividends for Cantrell and his buddies. [1]

Lesson Learned

A disciplined defender in a well prepared fighting position will have to be driven out by a direct assault of a more determined foe.

KOREA: 1st Bn 5th Cav

An account of the attacks on Hill 312 in January 1951 by the 1st Bn 5th Cavalry gives a clear example of the intensity of close combat during the Korean War.

"It [Hill 312] was taken only after a desperate hand-to-hand struggle between men of the 5th Cavalry's 1st Battalion and the strongly dug-in Reds. . . Dug in on the crest, the enemy delivered small arms fire and hurled grenades down on the advancing troopers, who hurled the grenades aside or attempted to throw them back. Finally the assault platoon reached the crest and covering fire was lifted. Most of the Chinese had remained in their holes during the heaviest fire and emerged to fight with rifles, and bayonets and spades. For a time, the battle hung in the balance; then the 3rd Platoon of A Company was committed and came charging up the hill with fixed bayonets. The enemy positions were overwhelmed, although small hand-to-hand engagements took place for some time."

The "Garry Owens" Charge Up Hill 314

In a similar incident, the 3rd Bn 7th Cavalry ("Garry Owens") attacked up Hill 314 along the Naktong River line near Taegu in the face of 700 enemy. They fixed bayonets and drove the North Koreans from their holes. The fury of the attackers broke the enemy defenses as they threw down their weapons and ran. The shock action of a bayonet charge exhilarated the attackers and demoralized the defenders. This action earned the "Garry Owens" a distinguished unit citation. [2]

Lesson Learned

Even in modern combat, soldiers will have to rely upon basic combat skills such as bayonet and hand-to-hand fighting to accomplish the mission.

WW II: The 10th in Italy

During WW II in the Italian theater, the 10th Infantry (Mountain) Division decided to use the bayonet as the "weapon of choice" during a daring attack on German positions on Mt. Belvedere which dominated the approaches to the Po River Valley. Two regiments (the 85th and 87th) of the 10th Division set out to assault this well-protected hill on the night of 19 February 1945. The only hope for success lay in achieving surprise, so the men unloaded their weapons and fixed their bayonets. No accidental discharge would occur to imperil the surprise attack. The men moved up the hill, achieved surprise and, by the use of cold steel, took the German positions. The Germans threw all of their remaining artillery against them along with seven ferocious ground counter attacks, but the 10th held firm. [3]

KOREA: TROPIC LIGHTNING and Bayonets on Hill 180

Early in February 1951, the Eighth Army was counter-attacking the Chinese forces south of the Han River in an attempt to retake Seoul. Easy Company, 27th Infantry (Wolfhounds) of the 25th Infantry Division, had to take dug-in enemy positions on Hill 180. Between CPT Lewis Millet's Easy Company and the enemy lay a large dike, a deep ditch, and a flat expanse of frozen rice paddies. The 3rd Platoon laid down a base of fire and CPT Millett led the 1st Platoon up the hill to their left. Millett shouted, "Get ready to move! We're going to assault the hill. Fix bayonets! Charge! Everybody goes with me!" At a trot, the men followed CPT Millet over the rice paddies and up the hill despite withering enemy fire. Using grenades and BAR support, the 1st Platoon made it up the hill and was shortly followed by the 2nd Platoon. The 3rd Platoon, slipping and sliding down and then up the ice-covered slopes of the hills, raced 200 yards over open terrain in a frontal assault. Meanwhile, CPT Millett led his men up the left of the hill and began systematically to clean out the enemy holes with bayonet and grenade. The men, screaming "like Apaches" lunged at the startled Chinese with their bayonets, plunging their weapons into the Chinese necks, chests and backs as the enemy tried to run. The hill was cleared. Of the approximately 200 Chinese and North Korean defenders, 47 were killed, 18 of them by the bayonet. In the words of noted observer S.L.A. Marshall, "Easy Company's use of cold steel was not marked by any parade ground finesse. . . It had not been a perfect show: there is none such where men fight. But together they had staged the most complete bayonet charge by American troops since Cold Harbor." [4]

Lesson Learned

You don't win the battle until you drive the enemy out of his hole and kill him.


The Scots Guards faced a well-trained Argentine Marine battalion as they launched a ground attack on Tumbledown Mountain in the Falklands. The Argentines were heavily dug into a series of intricate bunkers. The Scots Guards had to assault each position with grenades and bayonets. In one particular incident, a Scot's Guards' Major was charging toward an Argentine bunker when he suddenly came face to face with an Argentine soldier. Attempting to fire his rifle, the officer discovered that his magazine was empty. The Major, reacting on instinct, took the only course of action he had and killed the Argentine soldier with his bayonet. As Major John Kizzely of the Scots Guards said: "We did fix bayonets because I believe bayonets kill people and are useful. . . It certainly saved my life." [5]

Major Chris Keeble, who assumed command of 2 Para after LTC Jones' death, said this about close combat in the Falklands, or "gutter fighting" as he called it. "You have got to kill the enemy, you have got to destroy the machine gun, before he destroys you. Every trench you attack, you destroy it. You jump in the trench and rake it with fire, and if you see an Argie, it's either him or you." [6]


FM 21-150, Combatives, Dec 1971, provides bayonet and hand-to-hand techniques and procedures on how to train soldiers.

Bottom Line

Bayonet and hand-to-hand combat training build a spirit of aggressiveness, develop confidence, and instill the will to win.

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Anti-tank Weapons vs Bunkers

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