The Museum of Veterans and Military in Vilonia, this week, received donations of two bayonets. One was a sentimental piece passed down in a family. The other was a find in a house being cleaned. The history is known regarding one but lost on the other one.
The first bayonet was presented to the museum by Faulkner County Judge Jim Baker. The weapon originally belonged to Jim Baker’s dad, the late Robert "Bob" Baker. The elder Mr. Baker took the sword off of a Japanese soldier in the South Pacific in the fall of 1943. The elder Mr. Baker was a Marine from Glenwood, Pike County, Arkansas. He enlisted to do his part to keep Japan from invading the U.S. and to keep them "away from his mother and sisters," Jim Baker said.
The second bayonet is a World War I bayonet. It was donated by a man from Atkins. He didn’t know the story behind it. It was discovered, he said, during a house cleaning. It’s a shame the history behind this bayonet will be lost.
Both have wear and tear. If only the bayonets could talk. Both are on display and the stories, as we have been told, will be shared with visitors.
As in most subjects, there is different versions of how the bayonet originated. Some sources say it most likely originated as a hunting dagger and was in use for some time, before it was married with the musket to become what we know as the "bayonet." The latter part of the 16th century is believed to be when the "bayonne dagger" likely emerged by some. The town of Bayonne, between France and Spain, was a center of cutlery manufacturing. Although there is no real evidence linking Bayonne and the word "bayonnette," the inference that the bayonet originated in the area around Bayonne seems reasonable. The earliest bayonets were described as having a straight, double-edged blade a foot long with a tapering wooden handle, of equal length, that could be inserted into the muzzle of a musket.
From its earliest days as a military weapon, the bayonet’s primary role has been to protect infantry from cavalry charges. Consequently, the combined length of rifle and bayonet had to be sufficient for a foot soldier of average height to use the bayonet to take a charging cavalryman off his horse.
The bayonet has stood the test of time. It has changed far less than other firearms and its use has hardly changed at all since the mid—1600’s. Despite the introduction of the machine-gun, the tank, jet aircraft, and computers to modern-day battlefields, the bayonet still serves a purpose.
The U.S. Army M9 and U.S. Marine Corps OKC-3S bayonets are perfect examples of advanced, state-of-the-art bayonets fielded today. The AKM bayonet is the most commonly encountered bayonet of the Iraq War, according to documentation.
Located at 53 N. Mt. Olive in Vilonia, the museum hours are 9 to 4 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays. Also, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., on the first Sunday of the month. Group tours are available by appointment. No charge to tour. For information, call 501-796-8181.