Topic: Cold Steel
Hand to Hand Encounters
…but battle is a great leveler of distinctions, racial and other, and all men who will fight to the death are much alike when they get into action.
Yukon World, 22 September 1904
Among the surprises of the war in the east is the frequency with which the opposing forces come to close combat and kill each other with cold steel. It was generally thought by the military experts that the enormously increased range and accuracy of modern firearms had rendered such struggles almost or quite impossible, on account of the terribly numerous fatalities that would result from a charge of the old-fashioned kind upon any considerable number of intrenched troops, and it has been comfortably predicted that the bayonet would soon be, if it was not already, as useless as the sword. The Japanese, however, have repeatedly demonstrated that, in their hands at least, the bayonet need not yet be degraded to the humble purposes of the shovel—always. Again and again they have rushed through a zone of withering fire, and enough of them have reached the Russian trenches to engage in desperate fights with individual foes, sometimes successfully. And, of course, these attacks by the Japanese had to be met in the same way by the Russians so that the accounts of the battles have often read much as do those of the Franco-Prussian war, the American civil war and even of Napoleon's time. The peculiar qualities of the men now in conflict, with utterly reckless disregard for life on one side, and stolid valor of an antiquated type on the other, may account in part for the employment of a weapon especially suited to each, but battle is a great leveler of distinctions, racial and other, and all men who will fight to the death are much alike when they get into action. So it seems probable that the day of the bayonet is not so near its end as was supposed, and that for some time to come there will be hand-to-hand encounters as well as those in which the contestants use telescopes in aiming high-power guns at each other.