Bayonets, and the Importance of Original Research

Just a short blog post. You may ask what bayonets have to do with the general theme of this blog. Maybe a bit more than you think. I’ve just published an article  called America’s First Patents. It is a study of the actual patents issued between 1790-1839. Not a study of what other people said about them, or guessed about them, or inferred.  We actually read the patents. Sometimes you have to do the work.

Which brings me to the topic of bayonets. The blogosphere and standard media is ablaze with criticism of President Obama’s remark that we have fewer bayonets today. After all,we still use bayonets! 500,000 of them! And we only had 100,000 soldiers in 1916, so of course we had fewer bayonets!

Except no one actually looked, and it wasn’t that hard.

This report on 1917-1918 Ordnance makes clear that the US government ordered nearly 2,000,000 bayonets in 1917-1918, and even that was 500,000 less than the number of rifles available for bayonets.

The common point is that when it comes to history you have to do the work. you can’t rely on guesses, because they are often wrong. My patent study took several people many months to complete. It took me about half an hour to find an actual document that could have answered the question (a silly one at that) on which so much virtual ink has been spilled.

5 thoughts on “Bayonets, and the Importance of Original Research

  1. US involvement in WW1 did not start until 1917 and ended in 1918, so using acquisition orders from those years and extrapolating them to represent numbers in 1916 is a stretch at best.

    The selective service act of 1917 drafted over 2.8 million people into the military. Using the numbers from of soldiers from 17-18 and comparing them with the number of bayonets will give you a .714 Bayonet to Soldier ratio.

    In order to make the assumption that in 1916 there were that many bayonets, you would have to assume that in 1916 there were about 28 times more bayonets per soldier than in 1917-18.

  2. What’s your point? – Obama said 1916. Of course we had more in 1917 – we were at war. We had more in 1942 than 1918, we were in a bigger war. We had less in 2012 than 1942 and 1918, but more than 1916. Technology explains some, but not all of that difference. Obama was wrong on bayonets, Romeny is right on defense ;-)

  3. Kudos for your effort at finding the truth.

    Unfortunately, very few people care about the truth. Especially the bogosphere, which runs on attention, attention, ATTENTION – not truth :-(.

  4. Yeah, I’ve heard the “well, it wasn’t 1916.” But consider: a) we are at war now! and b) Romney has said the Navy is the smallest since WWI, so it makes sense to compare to WWI, whatever Obama said.

    But I’m not going to nitpick the dates, because they are irrelevant to the mostly irrelevant uproar to this (false) argument about Navy size (turns out the Navy was smaller under Bush in 2007 – the horror!).

    The point of the comment is that the way we fight wars has changed since WWI, and so we use different tools. If we get into a trench war that requires 3 million soldiers, God forbid, I am certain that we will, once again, buy a lot more bayonets.

  5. Somebody pointed out that the USA had 11% of the world’s naval power in 1916, and 50% or more today.

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