This Thanksgiving I found myself at a table with my uncle and my cousin’s grandfather, veterans of Vietnam and World War II respectively. We talked about normal family things, but at some point the conversation turned to war. With great interest I listened to them exchange stories about the forests of Alsace Lorraine and the jungles surrounding Saigon. It was at this point that my uncle began talking about Vietnam and his experiences there as an 18 year old Marine. It’s not hard to feel lazy and sheltered when you’re listening to someone recall their days during wartime as a kid, when at that same age I was buying Kurt Cobain posters for my dorm room, but it is what it is.
It was at this point I heard something that intrigued me. My uncle said that while engaged in firefights in Vietnam, the scariest two words he could have heard were “Fix bayonets!” I asked him to elaborate, and he said that if it had come to that point, it would mean the enemy was rushing upon you, and chances of survival would drop exponentially. Luckily that situation never arose, but I honestly never realized that bayonets were still in use as recently as Vietnam. I guess I always imagined they were simply relics of a bygone era, and that underslung grips or M320 grenade launchers had replaced them. Hell, I didn’t even realize M16s could equip bayonets in the first place.
In fact, the last time bayonets were used by American forces was on February 7th, 1951 during the Korean War. Captain Lewis Millett was commanding a platoon that was engaged in heavy fighting in an attempt to take an enemy position atop a hill. When another platoon became pinned down by enemy fire, Captain Millett ordered that bayonets be fixed and rushed the hill. He shouted encouragement to his fellow soldiers as they engaged in hand-to-hand combat, throwing hand grenades all the while, and he was successful in taking the hill that had previously been infested with enemy machine gunners. It has been described as the “most complete bayonet charge by American troops since Cold Harbor”, a major battle during the Civil War. For these actions, he received the Medal of Honor, and died only recently in 2009. During the fight he was wounded in the shins, but continued fighting rather than be evacuated.
This is not to say that bayonets aren’t still widely in use in modern times. The British army has engaged in bayonet fighting in Afghanistan, and there is an exceptional story of a Scottish Infantryman using it successfully. After running out of ammunition fighting the Taliban, he resorted to rushing the enemy and killing them with his gun-turned-spear, inflicting not only casualties but also the tremendous psychological effect that a bayonet charge can have. I wish I could be that tough, instead of complaining when I can’t find a good parking place and claiming the day is ruined. Really puts it all in perspective.
But it also got me thinking. Obviously bayonets are used in wars today. Yet in all of our “modern” shooters, namely BF3 and MW3, the bayonet is conspicuously absent. This really came to my mind when I downloaded the free Battlefield 1943 game DICE gave us last month. In it, you’re fighting in the Pacific Theater in WWII. Despite last generation’s graphics, the game is actually a pretty fun alternative to BF3, and you can even play on the Back to Karkand map Wake Island, a personal favorite. But one of the coolest aspects of the game is that in melee you can either have a sword (if you are Japanese) or a bayonet (if you are American). And both of these are extremely cool ways to melee, especially the bayonet, with which you can just lunge into the opponents for an easy kill.
Now, I’ve written about CoD’s knifing problem before. It is a bit ludicrous to be able to take 5 bullets to the chest, keep running towards the guy, and limp-wristedly swipe a knife to get the kill, and the rage it induces has no counterpart. It honestly kills the realism and the ease of which this one-hit kill can be accomplished is cheap in my opinion. A better way, I believe, would be to have a bayonet option for the guns, which would allow for the easy melee kill, while balancing it out a bit by reducing other gun options. A hand-knife option could still be there, but it could be reduced in effectiveness by adding in the difficulty that BF3 requires in order to knife.
In the same vein, Battlefield 3 could make use of the bayonet in much the same way, allowing for a longer-ranged melee option while retaining the knifing as well. Some may disagree and argue that a game’s delicate balance could be affected by the addition of the bayonet, but I think CoD especially needs to have the melee tweaked in order to improve gameplay. Because this weapon is still being used currently, I don’t see why it isn’t an option in our current slew of “modern” shooters. Gears of War has shown us that a bayonet option, in GoW’s twisted way, can be an incredibly fun addition to an already awesome game. I think BF3 and MW3 could take a page out of Gears’ book on this one. And not only that, but modern guns look incredibly intimidating with a giant knife affixed to the end.
Those are just my two cents, but what do you think? Let me know in the comments below!