Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

Why did the Japanese love bayonets so much?

Discussion in 'Small Arms and Edged Weapons' started by Zefer, Sep 2, 2009.

  1. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2008
    Messages:
    8,504
    Likes Received:
    1,399
    Location:
    Baton Rouge, Louisiana
    Hanz, you better run while you can....
     
  2. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2008
    Messages:
    1,599
    Likes Received:
    230
    Hanz... the Japanese treatment of civilians was extremely brutal. They did what the Red Army did to Berlin to every city they occupied. The Red Army troops however came from the villages that the German army wiped out during the retreats of 1943-44 and saw what they did as vengeance. But Japan did it in an unprovoked war of aggression starting from their invasion of China in 1937. No one ever invaded a Japanese home island until Okiawa.

    An Canadian/NATO officer put it better than I ever could. The difference between the Axis atrocities and Allied strategic bombing was that the Axis could make it stop by making the unconditional surrender. Surrender was not an option given to the Jews or the Chinese citizens in Beijing.
     
  3. Centurion-Cato

    Centurion-Cato Member

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    49
    Likes Received:
    1
    I think that it was because they were more effective than their guns. With a bayonet, the Japanese could engage a soldier in single combat, where tank support, air superiority etc etc would not count. Only the skill and reactions of a soldier would count.

    The used them in the charges so that they would be feared. The more they fear what they could do with those those bayonets, the greater the chance the enemy would run away (at least that is what I think they thought).
     
  4. FhnuZoag

    FhnuZoag Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2009
    Messages:
    78
    Likes Received:
    13
    No, that's a false moral equivalence. Allied strategic bombing was essentially based on the logic of degrading industrial production, and so directly impacting the enemy war effort. (With the exception of the a-bomb raids, sure, but numerically they actually weren't that large, and there was a reasonable expectation that they would end the war and prevent bloodshed, which things like the Rape of Nanking didn't.) Japanese and German attacks on civilians were not directed at a strategic target, but were terror attacks designed to demoralise the civilian population, or indeed to exterminate them to make room for their own colonists. Plus the scale of the atrocities are usually orders of magnitude greater.

    If the allies returned the atrocities that the axis committed, the entirity of the German and Japanese population would have been wiped out. Even with the Soviets, they didn't end up doing to Berlin what the Germans planned on doing to Leningrad, say, and there was no russian Unit 731.

    That said, saying the Japanese were poor shots was pretty much just a random slur without anything to support it. I'm not really sure that bayonets were really effective weapons, though I guess the thing with a bayonet on a bolt action rifle is that it gives you something to use that is faster than trying to work the bolt at very close range while the tommy is pointing his tommy gun or garand at you. I'd much rather actually be the guy with the tommy gun or garand though!
     
    Slipdigit likes this.
  5. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    Messages:
    2,194
    Likes Received:
    346
    This is pretty close to the truth.

    The Japanese fancied themselves superior to other armies at hand-to-hand fighting and emphasized the use of the bayonet to make themselves even more fearsome. In addition, Japanese Army leaders understood that they could not match a modern army in artillery, so getting in close and mixing it up with weapons like bayonets, negated much of the advantage of armies heavy with artillery since they couldn't use it without killing their own troops.

    In WW II, bayonet charges against poorly trained or led troops proved effective, but, as the Japanese discovered against formations like the US Marines, they weren't superior at hand-to-hand fighting, and bayonet charges were pretty suicidal against troops with large numbers of automatic weapons.
     
  6. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    Messages:
    2,194
    Likes Received:
    346
    That's not accurate. There is evidence to support the idea that the average Japanese conscript was a poor shot compared to say, the average US Marine.

    The theory is that, as adolescents, US boys in the 1920-30's era typically learned to hunt with rifle and shotgun at a fairly early age and these men were at least familiar with firearms and marksmanship before they entered the military. Of course, not all US teenagers lived where that was possible, but a significant number still had access to rural areas where they could practice with their .22's. Japanese adolescents had no similar experience, since guns in civilian hands were universally banned in Japan at that time. Most military instructors agree that early experience with firearms is a priceless advantage in training conscripts.

    Moreover, the Japanese Army does not seem to have emphasized marksmanship training of conscripts to the same extent as other armies. The US Marines, especially, spent a great deal of time on individual rifle marksmanship training, taking the attitude that every Marine is first and foremost a rifleman. There were, of course, some superb marksmen among Japanese ranks in WW II, but these men were the rare exception compared to US troops.
     
  7. FhnuZoag

    FhnuZoag Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2009
    Messages:
    78
    Likes Received:
    13
    Well, I suppose so. But well, I'd take issue with people using as evidence...

    ... because there's quite plainly an ulterior motive here in telling US soldiers not to fear their foe. No doubt similar contemporary documents can be found speaking of the superiority of US tank technology to the Germans, etc. Things like this have to be taken with an enormous grain of salt.

    I guess it's possible that the japanese riflemen were inaccurate, though it can be argued that actual accuracy under battle conditions is also influenced by things like morale and will to fight/kill, which it seems similar concievable that the japanese with their particular battle doctrines would have an advantage in. I just don't think there's strong direct evidence one way or the other.

    That said, *if* the japanese were inaccurate, bayonets would be dumb way to solve the problem. The IJA would have done better to look at what the soviets did, and replaced the standard armaments for their conscripts with submachine guns, instead of giving their men a knife to stick on the end of their gun and tell them to charge forward under fire. Unless their ammunition supply problems were large, I guess.

    Bayonet attachments on SMGs is just stupid design, though.
     
  8. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    Messages:
    2,194
    Likes Received:
    346
    Well, by November, 1944, there were enough battle-hardened veterans of combat with the Japanese in the PTO to give the lie to obvious attempts to propagandize new recruits about the accuracy of Japanese riflemen. So I seriously doubt it was simply an attempt to calm the fears of edgy green troops. What would be gained by convincing a novice trooper that he had nothing to fear from Japanese infantrymen, only to have him get killed or wounded as a result? If anything, my impression is that, by that point in the war, the Army manuals were urging soldiers to err on the side of caution. Personally, I think opinions such as expressed in the quoted statement reflected actual combat experience and were honestly held by at least some experienced soldiers.

    In any case, we do have vets on this board who served against Japanese troops in the Pacific; perhaps a few of them can weigh in with their opinion on this matter?

    Whether or not the average Japanese soldier was a poor marksmen compared to soldiers in other armies, the Japanese military leadership did not view the matter as one of compensating for deficient marksmanship, but as a matter of encouraging an aggressive spirit in the troops. The bayonet was seen as a symbol of the willingness of the individual soldier to close with, and engage in close quarters combat with the enemy. Japanese officers seriously believed that the Japanese soldier had a superior "fighting spirit" and that such spirit and determination could be exploited to overcome the serious material deficiencies that they expected to encounter when in combat with troops of the Western powers. The use of the bayonet encouraged Japanese soldiers to become accustomed to close quarters fighting, which negated the effectiveness of long range artillery and air power because the enemy then could not use these weapons without killing their own men. It didn't turn out that way, but the tradition and training of the Japanese using bayonets had been instilled for generations and was a difficult attitude to overcome.

    And no, it was not dumb, considering that the Japanese tended to fight their wars on a shoestring, so to speak. Bayonets were much cheaper than SMG's and the required large amounts of ammo, and the logistical necessities of keeping troops armed with such weapons, well supplied. Remember that the Japanese also believed (incorrectly) that they were superior in hand-to-hand fighting which meshed well with the doctrine of the bayonet.
     
  9. Devilsadvocate

    Devilsadvocate Ace

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    Messages:
    2,194
    Likes Received:
    346
    OOPs!

    Maybe I should be more diligent in reading ALL the posts on a thread before throwing in my $.02 worth.

    The Vet I had in mind has already weighed in with his opinion and it does not accord with mine. I still believe that the average Japanese soldier was not as well trained in marksmanship as the average US Marine, but in reality, one would be a fool to bet one's life on that. Besides, one could never be sure that it would be an "average" Japanese soldier who would be doing the shooting!

    However, there is a great deal of documentation as to the Japanese rationale for putting so much emphasis on the bayonet and bayonet training, and I generally stand by my comments on that aspect of the issue.
     
  10. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2008
    Messages:
    5,625
    Likes Received:
    1,000
    There is nobody as well trained in marksmanship as the average U.S. Marine........:p
     
  11. I♥Shermans

    I♥Shermans Member

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2009
    Messages:
    64
    Likes Received:
    2
    To save ammo, during the "Rape of China" new recruits were taught never to stab the heart to make the prisoner last longer.
     
  12. Seadog

    Seadog Member

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2006
    Messages:
    355
    Likes Received:
    11
    IMHO, there were several factors involved with this argument. First, there was an obvious lack of combat training for Japanese troops. The attitude of their superiors was based on the total lack of any true opposition in their early combat. Markmanship was not a emphasis and rarely required. Also the social attitude of the average Japanese combat troop was to treat most enemies as lower creatures and not worthy of wasting a bullet on.

    Secong, the type 38 was an old design with an inadequate round. It was suppose to be replaced by the type 99, but was not fully replaced. Compared to what the opposition had, it was a lot longer, especially with the requisite bayonet, and very unwieldy in most combat conditions. The type 99, was an improvement on the type 38, but still retained many of the issues of the type 38. None of these weapons were in the same league as the standard weapons issued to allied troops.

    It is easy to say that the average Japanese soldier was not as good a shooter as any of the opposition, but it is more an issue of attitudes about training and equipment than racial. Also, combat training for US troops developed tactics to improve the concentration of firepower in combat. The mass onslaught practiced by the Japanese army, was just establishing a death zone. In many cultures that do not value the lives of soldiers, this is still a tactic employed. With the huge numbers of wasted deaths during the trench warfare of WW1, Eurocentric nations turned away from mass attacks.
     

Share This Page