What America Looked Like: Bayonet Practice During WWI

bayonett practice-body.jpg

National Archives

The soldier on the right isn't exactly making this hand-to-hand combat exercise hard, leaning in to greet the blade approaching his sternum. 


The year is 1917, and these soldiers are in Camp Dick, an aviation training facility near Dallas, Texas. The man on the left, an English sergeant major, is preparing his U.S. allies for battle in World War I. But the Americans are likely also training to protect the still-young border with Mexico. Between 1910 and 1919, the U.S. had a series of skirmishes with its southern neighbor, the most notable being Pancho Villa's 1916 attack on Columbus, New Mexico. During the raid, Villa, along with 500 cavalry, burned and looted homes in the dead of the night. But U.S. army troops garrisoned in the town were quick to respond, and chased Villa back to Mexico. The U.S. captured him a year later. 

The New York Times reported in 1919 that Camp Dick had trained more than 25,000 aviators, though not necessarily in flight:
The Dallas camp, while neither a ground school nor a flying school, was the neck of the bottle through which practically all aviators who have entered the service since its establishment, Jan. 30, 18, have passed. It was designed as a place in which the morale of the aviators could be maintained while the men were in transition from one stage of development to another.

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Brian Resnick is a staff correspondent at National Journal and a former producer of The Atlantic's National channel.

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