Lewis Army Museum

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Artifact of the Week

Here we will be sharing a new feature, the Artifact of the Week. Each week we’ll chose an artifact or group of artifacts that is not currently on exhibit and share it here, on our Facebook page and in our museum lobby. This gives us a chance to share artifacts that you may not have seen in our museum and offer more information about the history of Camp Lewis, Fort Lewis and Joint Base Lewis McChord Soldiers and their contributions to history.

Bayonet to Bayonet

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Bayonets have been around for centuries. The first bayonets were known as plug bayonets, they were used to turn the musket into a makeshift pike, to be employed against cavalry and other infantry.  The bayonets on display here were standard issue by the US from pre-Civil War to today.  Though not quite as old as the firearm, bayonets have played an extremely important role on the battlefield, developing and evolving along with the weapons that they are paired with.

M1855 Socket Bayonet

The socket bayonet was the typical model of bayonet used with muskets and early rifles. By adding fitting around the end of the barrel, these bayonets allowed the musket to be fired, as opposed to the plug bayonet, which sealed the barrel. The tri-point was excellent for stabbing, and the wounds they caused were notoriously difficult to close. The triangular socket gave way to the knife-type bayonet in the late 19th century, as European ways of war and the Industrial Revolution began morphing the battlefield into a close-quarter slough-fest.

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M1892 Krag Bayonet

The adoption of the M1892 Krag Repeating Rifle by the US Army Ordnance Department meant that the US now had a rifle with an internal magazine and ready to fire cartridges; a massive improvement over the early rifles and rifle-muskets of the Civil War 30 years prior.  The new bayonet was 11 and 13/16 inches long and of a Swiss design. It also featured a ring that fit around the muzzle.

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Model 1905 Bayonet

10 years after adopting the M1892 Krag, the Army Ordnance Department upgraded to the US Magazine Rifle, Model 1903 as its standard issue rifle. The Model 1905 Bayonet was created to fit the M1903. The blade, 16 inches long, was designed to compensate for the shorter M1903 rifle. Ordnance Department officers with experience in the Philippines chose the knife-type bayonet over the ramrod (spike), sword, and bolo bayonets for utilitarian functions that were noted in theater.

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M1905E1 / Bayonet, M1

With a new war comes new weapons with which to wage it. Or, in the case of the M1 Bayonet, a modified weapon. The M1 Garand was issued along with the M1905 Bayonet. However, due to airborne operations and transport with vehicles, the 16 inch long M1905 was too cumbersome for suitability in WWII.  The Ordnance Department, still issuing M1905 Bayonets while the country prepared new weapons for total war, began to modify its existing stock of bayonets, grinding them down to a 10 inch blade.  The M1905E1 on display is a modified M1905. Note where the fuller (blood channel) stops at the tip of the blade, and its unusual proportion compared to the other fullered bayonets. After 1943, the Ordnance Department stopped modifying its old stock, and began making a new 10 inch bayonet, dubbed the M1 Bayonet.

Model 1917 Bayonet

World War I saw a United States inadequately prepared for war. But thanks to its geographical isolation from the European Theater, the US was able to develop its war production capabilities in relative peace. The Model 1917 Bayonet was designed to be used with the Model 1917 Rifle, as well as a number of trench guns (shotguns) that were favored in trench warfare. Its blade is a hefty 17 and ⅛ inches long.

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Bayonet, M4

Next to the M1 Garand, the M1 Carbine is one of the most famous American weapons of WWII. It was lighter, shorter, and more suited to light infantry operations than the Garand.  Its bayonet matched its weapon.  The M4 Bayonet was 0.56-0.61lbs lighter than the M1, and was also shorter. The grips gradually changed to plastic from leather, which was prone to deteriorating in the tropical climate of the Pacific Theater.

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Bayonet, M5

The M5 Bayonet was another reissue for the M1 Garand, which continued to see use in the Korean War. The M5 only fits the Garand (the M1 was nearly identical to the M1905E1, issued for the M1903 Rifle). It also features a quick lock and release mechanism, specially designed for use with gloved hands. Gloves were extremely important on the Korean Peninsula, where temperatures dove well below 0 degrees.

 

Bayonet, M6

The adoption of the M14 meant that a new bayonet was required. The M14 was specifically designed to be compatible with NATO standards. As such, previous bayonets, which were designed around a .30 caliber weapon, no longer fit around the barrel of the new NATO-compliant M14. The M6 showcased a release catch on the underside of the bayonet, but the overall design of the bayonet was extremely similar to the M-series bayonets that came before it.

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Bayonet, M7

The M7 was paired with the M16 Rifle upon its adoption as the Army standard service weapon. The M7 has a smaller bore ring to fit the 5.56mm M16.  However, the plastic diamondback grip, blade with false edge, and the overall design of the M6 carried over.

Bayonet, M9

The M9 Phrobis III was adopted in 1986, and features as a utilitarian weapon as opposed to a knife or bayonet.  The M9 is able to double as a wire cutter (likely adopted from the AK series bayonets). The blade features a true edge and a serrated edge capable of sawing through vegetation. The M9 Bayonet can be used on the M16, M4, and Mossberg 590 Shotgun.

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M1917 Trench Knife

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Here we have the M1917 Trench Knife. The knife consists of a triangle shaped blade with a spiked hand-guard. The triangle blade tapers to a point on all three sides, as shown in the last picture.

This knife, issued and used during WWI, was intended for stabbing rather than slashing, as one would do with a single or double edged blade. Stabbing was the preferred technique, as the triangle blade was better able to puncture the thick and heavy clothing typical of the WWI era.

A puncture wound from a triangle blade is very difficult to close, and the expanded volume that the knife takes up not only makes healing more difficult, it means there is a higher chance of irreparable damage to a major organ.

The trench knife fell out of favor and use after WWI as the US Army Ordnance Department concluded that a knife or bayonet with utility was more appropriate for use in combat.

Contrary to the myth, triangle blades such as these are not banned by the Hague or Geneva Conventions. An additional protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 bans the use of “bayonets with a serrated edge,” but does not mention knives or triangle blades. Confusion about the knife’s legality likely stems from a combination of the protocols against unnecessary injury or suffering and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ interpretation of previous assault weapon bans.

 

 

US Army Rations

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Army rations must stand up to long storage periods and be easily distributed when needed. The current U.S. Army ration is the Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE). Take a look back at Army rations and how they have changed over time.

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Hardtack

The mixture of flour and water to make loaves, wafers and rolls has been around for at least 10,000 years. Hard biscuits were issued to Roman armies as part of their rations. Hardtack is a simple mixture of the above ingredients, sometimes with salt added, that is baked until hard. As long as it stays dry, hard tack can last for years. During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate troops subsisted off hardtack. In order to soften in it up, and therefore make it more edible, soldiers would soak the hardtack in water, coffee, stew or whiskey. Sometimes they would drop it into the fire first to cook out the insects that had nested during storage.

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Meal, Combat, Individual (MCI)

The Meal, Combat, Individual (MCI) replaced the WWII-Korean War era C-Rations in 1958 and was replaced by the Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) in 1980. Although notably different in packaging and content from earlier field provisions, Soldiers continued to refer to the MCI as the C-Ration.

The MCI consisted of three units:

M-Unit – meat

B-Unit – bread and candy

D-Unit – dessert

To prepare the meal, cans could be converted into miniature stoves using the P-38 can opener and trioxene fuel tablet. However, some adventurous Soldiers discovered that C-4 plastic explosives burned just as well as the fuel tablet and that the cans could also fit into vehicle exhaust pipes and readily be heated up by the vehicle exhaust.

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K-Ration

The K-ration, or survival ration, was created for U.S Forces to subsist on when other types of meals were not available. The rations came in three boxes, one each for breakfast, dinner and supper. The menus in the three boxes are follows.

Breakfast

Meat and eggs

Assorted biscuits

Coffee

Fruit bar

Sugar

Chewing gum

Cigarettes

 

Dinner

Meat

Cheese

Assorted biscuits

Lemonade or orangeade

Sugar

Chewing gum

Cigarettes

Candy

Supper

Meat

Biscuits

Bullion

Candy

Cigarettes

Chewing gum

 

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Meal, Ready-to-Eat

The Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) replaced the MCI in 1981, and is still in use today. It comes in plastic wrapping and includes the following:

Main course

Side

Dessert or snack

Crackers or bread

Jelly, peanut butter, cheese

Beverage mix

Flameless ration heater

Utensils

Beverage bag

Chewing gum

Matchbook

Napkins

Moist towelette

Seasonings

Coffee powder

GERMAN ARMY LUGER

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The historic Luger semiautomatic pistol is one of the most famous firearms of the 20th century. It’s distinctive toggle lock and sleek lines make it very recognizable. This pistol was a standard sidearm of the German, Swiss, and other armies for a period spanning nearly a half century, and produced in large quantities.  The Luger has tight manufacturing tolerances, excellent grip angle and shape, good trigger pull, and the fact that the barrel stays in a fixed position relative to the rest of the pistol except in the front-back dimension. These reasons contribute to it being well known for accuracy.

George Luger who was an employee of Loewe & Co., took the Borchardt pistol of 1893, as a starting point for designing the first pistols resembling what we would call a “Luger.” The changes he made included development of a new cartridge, the 7.65 Parabellum or 7.65×23 cartridge (also called .30 Luger in USA), a slightly shorter version of the Borchardt cartridge with a different powder charge. In addition to the new cartridge, Luger also redesigned the complex mechanism behind the grip. He retained the toggle-locking action of the Borchardt, but replaced the Borchardt’s unusual mainspring and the large housing it necessitated with a leaf spring in the grip, improving the balance of the pistol. He also angled the grip for better pointa-bility. A grip safety was added to the rear of the frame by 1904. The first patent was in 1898.

After making these changes, Loewe sought military contracts for production of the pistol. The first major success came in Switzerland, which adopted the Luger as its service pistol in 1900 in 7.65 caliber.  A number of other countries evaluated the Luger, including the United States, for which Loewe & Co. manufactured a number of Lugers in caliber .45ACP. The Luger was defeated in trials by the Colt-Browning pistol that later became the model 1911.  The Luger was sold commercially, but was never a big seller due to its high cost.

The Luger was the standard German sidearm throughout World War I. Luger production continued on and off during the post-war period, in part due to restrictions on German arms manufacture imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. The allies permitted official production to begin in 1925 at Simson and company. Simson, however, was Jewish-owned, and the company was liquidated when the Nazis came into power. The Luger manufacturing machinery was purchased by Krieghoff. Mauser purchased DWM’s Luger manufacturing machinery in 1929, and produced Lugers until the later part of World War II. The Luger was officially replaced for German military use in 1940 by the Walther P38 double-action 9mm Parabellum pistol, but certainly Lugers remained in service throughout the war.

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German Army motorcycle helmet, helmet, Luger and garrison cap.

OPERATION JUST CAUSE ARTIFACTS

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This week we bring you a small display in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the beginning of Operation Just Cause—the United States contingency mission in Panama against Manuel Noriega.

After launching an invasion of Panama in December 1989, US Forces captured Noriega at the Vatican Embassy in Panama City. Noriega was then tried in the US, France and Panama for a series of crimes related to drug trafficking and abuses of power. Noriega remained imprisoned until he died of complications from a brain hemorrhage in May of 2017.

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TEC-9

The TEC-9 is a 9mm semiautomatic pistol. This TEC-9 was recovered during operations at one of Noriega’s compounds. The top of the pistol and the magazine are inscribed with the name “Lius del Sid” a colonel in the Panamanian Defense Force and Noriega’s deputy.

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ZPU-1

The ZPU-1 is an anti-aircraft machine gun made in the former Soviet Union. This type of weapon would normally be mounted on a chassis alone, or with up to three other ZPUs.

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Service Shirt

The service shirt was reportedly taken after a raid on one of Noriega’s compounds. Decorating the shirt are a Jungle Warfare School patch and Parachutists badge.

“TET” OFFENSIVE ARTIFACTS

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Viet Cong shirt and combat equipment. The equipment belonged to one of the Viet Cong commandos who attacked the American embassy in Saigon, January 31st, 1968, and was donated by a former U.S. Army Military Police officer involved in the fight to take back the American embassy that day.

Launched in the early morning hours of January 31st, 1968, the “Tet” Offensive signified a turning point in the war in Vietnam.  Simultaneous and coordinated attacks launched by communist forces throughout the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) were ultimately defeated by rapid and decisive action. American and other allied forces, in concert with the South Vietnamese military, counterattacked, inflicting heavy Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army casualties.

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View of the American embassy in Saigon as seen through one of the holes blown in the embassy’s outer wall by Viet Cong commandos on January 31st, 1968.

Along with the attack on the ancient Vietnamese city of Hue, the most iconic action occurred when a team of Viet Cong commandos stormed and occupied the American embassy in Saigon.

The attack commenced at 3 a.m. and lasted six hours.  After a brutal fight U.S. and South Vietnamese forces killed or captured all the Viet Cong attackers and reoccupied the embassy.

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A Viet Cong commando is led away from the American embassy in Saigon by U.S. Army Military Policemen, January 31st, 1968