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View Full Version : Japanese sword, a toy or a destructive device ?



Panzerknacker
05-16-2006, 06:18 PM
Probably many people had seen one of these use as ornamental device but in the close combat arena it was a very usable edged weapon..or not?

The japanese army adopted it in 1937 and used until the end.




http://www.compfused.com/directlink/608/

Panzerknacker
05-20-2006, 08:48 PM
The katana used as propaganda weapon, a gigantic samurai sinking ships in this italian poster celebrating the attack on Pearl Harbour.

Lancer44
05-21-2006, 02:26 AM
Japanes officers swords had also very infamous usage - beheading of allies POWs...
I will send some photos Monday - have them at work.
Swords become very much sought collectibles among allied troops.
Japanese flag - original one - was going for about $100 - quite considerable sum these days. Sword could fetch even $300.

Personally I don't believe that samurai swords had an advantage when confronted with Tomphson SMG or Garand Rifle... :)

Cheers,

Lancer44

Cuts
05-21-2006, 05:20 AM
I don't really understand the point of those videos.
That tempered steel can sometimes deflect a soft copper envelope containing even softer lead ?

They remind me of the schoolboy discussions of which would win in a fight, a shark or a grizzly bear.

Not even a pretence of scientific analysis, the sword vibrates, the M2 was bedded by Action Man - and as for the 9 mm (?) "test" the less said the better.

Now all we need is a swordsman who is slimmer than his wpn and with reactions of a speeding bullet.




Can hardly wait for the test of sunglasses against a fission wpn...
:roll:

Panzerknacker
05-21-2006, 12:46 PM
the purpose of the video ?...dont know but is however is fun :)

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e9/Katana-bois-p1000654.jpg/800px-Katana-bois-p1000654.jpg


Personally I don't believe that samurai swords had an advantage when confronted with Tomphson SMG or Garand Rifle...

I had no chance for sure, but probably it was more useful than a bayonet.

Panzerknacker
05-28-2006, 01:25 PM
A interesting link dealing with the parts and elaborated construction and finishing of te katana sword.

http://www2.memenet.or.jp/kinugawa/english/sword/sword100.htm

http://www2.memenet.or.jp/kinugawa/english/sword/image/ka100.gif

Trooper
05-28-2006, 03:05 PM
It seems that main use of the Japanese sword was chopping the heads off of innocent civilians in the rape of Nanking.

I doubt it ever saw much use in combat.

Panzerknacker
05-29-2006, 04:26 PM
Not only in Nanking but also in other places, yes it was the practice, I have some pictures but I wont post those for matters of good taste.

Probably the only combat it saw was in the last stand "Banzai" infantry attack.

1000ydstare
06-12-2006, 01:34 PM
Unless I am very much mistaken the Japanese officers always carried their swords exposed in attacks, as their soldiers nearly always fitted bayonets even their MGs (in particular the one that looked similar to the Bren) were fitted with bayonets. So I would surmise that the swords did see action. If only close in when the toms had opted for bayonet fighting.

Certainly the jungle warfare that the Japanese were often involved in would have lent itself to the use of a sword as a particularly effective close in weapon.

temujin77
07-03-2006, 08:54 AM
Unless I am very much mistaken the Japanese officers always carried their swords exposed in attacks, as their soldiers nearly always fitted bayonets even their MGs (in particular the one that looked similar to the Bren) were fitted with bayonets. So I would surmise that the swords did see action. If only close in when the toms had opted for bayonet fighting.

Certainly the jungle warfare that the Japanese were often involved in would have lent itself to the use of a sword as a particularly effective close in weapon.

The purpose of the samurai sword is not so much functional. It is rather ceremonial in nature. It is a symbol of the Bushido spirit. A comparable symbolism in the western world is like how American cavalry officers during the American Civil War still wielded rapiers during battle even when muskets were the standard weapons. A more modern example is that when men of the USMC don their dress uniforms, they still carry their ceremonial swords. Swords are symbols of the proud history of a soldier's profession, and to the Japanese the traditiona is not only military but also spiritual.

Panzerknacker
07-04-2006, 08:10 PM
Sure the simbolism was important, even sometimes ackward check this japanese tankist with katana. ¡¡¡¡

http://img239.imageshack.us/img239/3771/espada6rg.jpg

WaistGunner
07-18-2006, 12:55 PM
Somewhat entertaining video but not very practical to decide whether the Katana was effective as a functioal weapon or not. After all the katana wasn't intended to be used as armor of to deflect bullets. You could use similiar video to question the use of a trench knife or K-bar or bayonet. I'm guessing they wouldn't fair much better if mounted in cement with an M-2 unleashed on them. If I was in a fixed bayonet charge I wouldn't want to meet the guy skilled with a Katana. To me the video just proves that some people have no respect for a fine edged weapon. What a waste of Katana. To me a better demonstration would have been to pit a man with a Katana against a man with a rifle and bayonet (practice weapons of course).

Lancer44
07-21-2006, 05:42 PM
http://img488.imageshack.us/img488/1204/beheadingsz9.jpg (http://imageshack.us)

Aitape, New Guinea, 24 October 1943: Sergeant L. G. Siffleet, M Special Unit, tied and blindfolded, about to be beheaded. Sergeant Siffleet, a radio operator, was part of a long-range reconnaissance unit led by Dutchman, Sergeant Staverman, operating behind Japanese lines in New Guinea. The party was betrayed and Staverman killed. Siffleet and two Ambonese companions – Reharin and Pate Wail – were taken to the Japanese base at Aitape where all three were executed by beheading on the order of Vice-Admiral KAMADA, commander of Japanese naval forces at Aitape. According to the original caption to this photograph the name of the Japanese executioner was YASUNO, who died before the end of the war. Siffleet was buried on the beach at Aitape below the tideline and his body was never recovered. The photograph of his execution was taken by a Japanese soldier and found by American forces when they invaded Hollandia in 1944. The photograph of Siffleet’s execution appeared shortly afterwards in American, and subsequently Australian, publications as an illustration of the brutality with which prisoners of the Japanese were treated. For many years in Australia the photo was captioned as if it depicted the execution of Flight Lieutenant Newton VC, Royal Australian Air Force, by the Japanese at Salamaua, New Guinea, on 29 March 1943.

Photograph and caption courtesy of AMW Canberra

Lancer44

Panzerknacker
07-21-2006, 07:37 PM
Well, really sad and brutal situation, some of the Doolitle B-25s mission crews wich were unfortunate enough to land in japanese controlled territory , sufered the same treatment.

Hiddenrug
08-04-2006, 09:55 PM
Being an AUstralian I do not particulary like looking at Aus. POW's. Awful way to die, by the sword.

Nickdfresh
08-20-2006, 08:21 AM
Well, really sad and brutal situation, some of the Doolitle B-25s mission crews wich were unfortunate enough to land in japanese controlled territory , sufered the same treatment.


As did countless Chinese in Manchuria in actual, reported, beheading contests. I believe two Lieutenants competed for the "honor" and both got tennis elbow from the swiping motion. Sick stuff.

Nickdfresh
08-20-2006, 08:23 AM
It's only a "toy" if you have don't have a rifle, I could imagine that a samurai sword would be intimidating in a serious hand-to-hand fight. But then, they often didn't get that close.

Mostly, it'd be like this:

http://www.film.org.pl/prace/indiana/indiana011.jpg

temujin77
08-20-2006, 02:35 PM
Nickdfresh, I believe you're referring to second lieutenants Mukai Toshiaki and Noda Tsuyoshi, thought I didn't know about the "tennis elbow" trivia. They were both tried and executed by the Chinese government in 1948 (I'm not sure by the Communists or Nationalists). I have some info here:

http://ww2db.com/battle_spec.php?battle_id=38

As for your "toy" comment -- I tend to somewhat disagree with that. I don't think we can even compare swords and guns. Japanese officers don't carry necessarily with intention to fight with them as their primary weapon, just as an American Marine don't always attach their bayonet on their rifles and use it as a spear. For the western Marine, the bayonet is a tool/weapon when situation dictates it. Similarly, for the Japanese officer, the sword is a tool when appropriate. For one, leading your troops in battle with a traditionally honorable weapon can raise morale much more effectively than waving your sidearm in the air.

I think the video in the original post completely missed the point. It's amusing, but it's also rather useless. I can take a hammer and smash a rifle to bits. Does that mean modern soldiers should equip themselves with big hammers instead of their assault rifles?

Lancer44
08-20-2006, 06:17 PM
It's only a "toy" if you have don't have a rifle, I could imagine that a samurai sword would be intimidating in a serious hand-to-hand fight. But then, they often didn't get that close.

Mostly, it'd be like this:

http://www.film.org.pl/prace/indiana/indiana011.jpg

This scene from 'Indiana Jones" is the best description of outcome of any competition between sword and gun.

Doug 1956
09-10-2006, 03:23 AM
There was an incident in Burma when a Japanese officer rode (on a horse no less) up to a Grant tank, mounted it and proceeded to kill the tank commander with his sword. He then climbed in, killed or wounded another couple of crew before the 75mm loader (I think) managed to knock him on the head with his pistol butt then put four rounds into him.

FW-190 Pilot
09-16-2006, 12:31 PM
i watch that myth tv series from discovery and they make an experiment, they tried to shoo the sword with machine gun and it can withstand a few shots before it snaps.

Nickdfresh
09-18-2006, 08:54 PM
Nickdfresh, I believe you're referring to second lieutenants Mukai Toshiaki and Noda Tsuyoshi, thought I didn't know about the "tennis elbow" trivia. They were both tried and executed by the Chinese government in 1948 (I'm not sure by the Communists or Nationalists). I have some info here:

http://ww2db.com/battle_spec.php?battle_id=38

Thanks for the background. I read about it in "Flyboys," where the contest was related. I'll check the info sometime, but I believe one of them "won" with over 100 beheadings mainly because they both had minor injuries and had to stop.


As for your "toy" comment -- I tend to somewhat disagree with that.

The toy comment wasn't really mine, I was just quoting and commenting on another preceding post. In fact, I didn't think it was a "toy," I believe that's what I implied anyways. And the swords were highly prized by U.S. servicemen as war trophies.


I don't think we can even compare swords and guns. Japanese officers don't carry necessarily with intention to fight with them as their primary weapon, just as an American Marine don't always attach their bayonet on their rifles and use it as a spear. For the western Marine, the bayonet is a tool/weapon when situation dictates it. Similarly, for the Japanese officer, the sword is a tool when appropriate. For one, leading your troops in battle with a traditionally honorable weapon can raise morale much more effectively than waving your sidearm in the air.

Well, I agree with this to some extent. Certainly, in fact by WWII, a pistol is little better than a sword on a modern battlefield against an industrialized enemy. And I believe Imperial Japanese officers carried both. As for
"raising morale," well that's all relative, I suppose if you hate your commanding officer because he is an *******, then it really doesn't matter what he carries. And as we've seen in "Band of Brothers" with Maj. **** Winters where his troops respected and would follow him anywhere regardless of which weapon he carried, which was the same proletarian weapon his soldiers carried, the M-1 rifle.


I think the video in the original post completely missed the point. It's amusing, but it's also rather useless. I can take a hammer and smash a rifle to bits. Does that mean modern soldiers should equip themselves with big hammers instead of their assault rifles?


I'm not sure about the video since I haven't yet watched it. I'll get back to you, but if it is the American program "Myth Busters," then they're probably just commenting on some urban myth such as "Japanese officers could deflect bullets in WWII with their swords" or something.

Timbo in Oz
09-18-2006, 11:39 PM
they are made by blacksmiths, and since are high carbon,'

They consist several thousand laminations of extremely thin 'forged high carbon spring steel' (very highly sprungGGGGG!!!!! and 'pressured')

The initial small fat rectangular billet is heated to almost white hot and beaten/flattened to twice its length and the initial width, folded back over, reheated in charcoal, etc, etc repeated many times.

So it's 2 to the nth power and at 16 folds I think you'd have 6,500 or so laminations! And I think they go well above that!

Then they forge the blade and tang into 'the shape', which in profile is like a fattened wedge. As swords go it is perhaps the best, not much heavier than a 16th century rapier, it has an immensely strong (well supported) and horrifically sharp edge - which is difficult to blunt on the usual targets of swords, and is immensely resistant to bending away from its straight striking axis.

Further few European, Islamic, or Asian swords have a tang which is as strong as its blade to the katanas extent.

{I've watched one being made, even though it was blacksmiths and VERY NOISY, it was all very Zen.)

So repeated hits from a HMG should eventually trigger a release of the pressure / tension holding the laminations together.

Are there any allied ground force casualty figures due to katana wounds or is it hiding under 'blades'?.

It is possible they may have been quite high early on - when the Japanese regularly succeeded in overruning positions and coming to very close quarters - Wake, HongKong, Malaya, etc. but I doubt any of the dead's CofD ever reached their medical records from the retreat to Singapore.

Or for most of Kokoda too, and only a fraction of the wounded did anyway, they had to be carried across very high mountains / walk, to the Port Moresby bases! Yes, cas-evac got a bit better at the end of the long drive back to Buna. The last 10%? of it.

If you wanted to ge a feel for the Kokoda campaign - google Isurava for during the retreat, and Oivi-Gorari which was the peak battle of the push back to the Northern coast at Buna.

Isurava was hand-to-hand, but not so much at Oivi-Gorari.

Eric Bergerud in his book 'Touched with Fire" for Powell's on the War in the Pacific.

"Japan did not lose the ground war in the South Pacific in any single place. There was no equivalent of waterloo or Stalingrad ........... Yet if I were to pick one place where the war turned irrevocably against the Japanese, it was at Oivi-Gorari ....... The [Australians] inflicted a massive defeat on crack Japanese troops at small cost to themselves'

Timbo in Oz
09-18-2006, 11:49 PM
they are made by blacksmiths, and since are high carbon,'

They consist several thousand laminations of extremely thin 'forged high carbon spring steel' (very highly sprungGGGGG!!!!! and 'pressured')

The initial small fat rectangular billet is heated to almost white hot and beaten/flattened to twice its length and the initial width, folded back over, reheated in charcoal, etc, etc repeated many times.

So it's 2 to the nth power and at 16 folds I think you'd have 6,500 or so laminations! And I think they go well above that!

Then they forge the blade and tang into 'the shape', which in profile is like a fattened wedge. As swords go it is perhaps the best, not much heavier than a 16th century rapier, it has an immensely strong (well supported) and horrifically sharp edge - which is difficult to blunt on the usual targets of swords, and is immensely strong in torsion and tension and thus the most resistant to bending away from its straight striking/cutting axis. It isnt a chopper nor is it a slasher scimitar - it is both!

Further few European, Islamic, or Asian swords have a tang which is as strong as its blade to the katanas extent.

{I've watched one being made, even though it was blacksmiths and VERY NOISY, it was all very Zen.)

So repeated hits from a HMG should eventually trigger a release of the pressure / tension holding the laminations together.


Use in battle.

Are there any allied ground force casualty figures due to katana wounds or is it hiding under 'blades'?.

It is possible they may have been quite high early on - when the Japanese regularly succeeded in overruning positions and coming to very close quarters - Wake, HongKong, Malaya, etc. but I doubt any of the dead's CofD ever reached their medical records from the retreat to Singapore.

Or for most of Kokoda too, and only a fraction of the wounded did anyway, they had to be carried across very high mountains / walk, to the Port Moresby bases! Yes, cas-evac got a bit better at the end of the long drive back to Buna. The last 10%? of it.

If you wanted to ge a feel for the Kokoda campaign - google Isurava for during the retreat, and Oivi-Gorari which was the peak battle of the push back to the Northern coast at Buna.

Isurava was hand-to-hand, but not so much at Oivi-Gorari.

Eric Bergerud in his book 'Touched with Fire" for Powell's on the War in the Pacific.

"Japan did not lose the ground war in the South Pacific in any single place. There was no equivalent of waterloo or Stalingrad ........... Yet if I were to pick one place where the war turned irrevocably against the Japanese, it was at Oivi-Gorari ....... The [Australians] inflicted a massive defeat on crack Japanese troops at small cost to themselves'.

adler
02-09-2007, 12:38 PM
Hi all, new to the forum and thought someone could help. I ran across a sword exactly like this one at a pwan shop. he is asking 300 for it but I think I could get a bit off. It is alum. handle cast, and has numbers just like this on on the blade and scab. I checked on line and unless I am wrong it is worth 500$? it is in the same general condtion as the one in the link I am posting. any info on if I should pick it up would be helpful. thanks


http://www.quanonline.com/military/military_reference/japanese/sword_19.php#

Panzerknacker
03-05-2007, 09:29 PM
Probably worth more if is original.



Katana in the propaganda, a U.S seamen stabed in the back, Pearl harbour.

http://i18.tinypic.com/2qsxte8.jpg

Flammpanzer
03-07-2007, 01:17 PM
well, I think it was not a senseless toy. in close combat actions, it surely would have proved it`s performance in the hands of a trained jap.

I guess that because "sharp beating weapons" like the spades in special very often proved more effective than bayonets in such situations. it is more versatile anyway, because you can hit/cut AND stab with a sword and it not as cumbersome in use as the bayonet.

I have read a lot of reports where the use of the bayonet was judged as not as effective as many in our days think (WWI and WWII german troops often favoured the spade in close combat acions, it was simply better in many hand to hand combat situations) there was always the danger that the bayonet would brake or get stuck and so the attacker could also be killed/wounded easily. the psychological effect indeed was a great one, but the same would be with the katana. beside all this, there were studies at the end of the war, that figured out that by far most situations in close combats were decided with a SHOT and not with any sort of knife or spade etc. so the germans decided not to make a mount for fixing a bayonet on the sturmgewehr 44 as a result.

interesting though, that all modern armies use bayonets.

jens

Panzerknacker
03-24-2007, 01:07 PM
Never hurt to have and spare cutting edge in your gear. I saw some pics of an soldier with a bloody blade knife in some close combat in Irak, I try post those in here.

Flammpanzer
04-03-2007, 08:29 AM
sounds interesting. if someone is really interested in the issue of sharp weapons, bayonets in special, I can recommend this nice book (often found on www.ebay.de or www.egun.de).

allthough it is in german, it has a lot of rare pics and is a must-have for any collector. you will find a lot of information on the tactics in using bayonets.

jens

Panzerknacker
04-03-2007, 06:48 PM
Interesting. By the way the last bayonettte charge I have knowledge was performed by Britische soldiers in the malvinas war.

http://www.aceros-de-hispania.com/image/daisho-gladius-sword/katana-sword.jpg

Cuts
04-04-2007, 06:10 AM
There was quite a well reported one almost three years ago at Danny Boy, a checkpoint about 15 km south of Al Amarah in Iraq.

Led by Cpl Byles of 1PWRR on 14 May 04 (IIRC.)

Panzerknacker
04-04-2007, 08:24 AM
Bayoneting with the SA80 ?

damn...that did not seems a easy work with this short rifle.

Cuts
04-04-2007, 02:45 PM
Agreed, I was a lot happier with a real rifle.

That said, there were bayonets that fitted the STENs and the Uzi too.

Panzerknacker
04-04-2007, 09:21 PM
The SLR for example :rolleyes:


---------------


Edged weapons in Irak:


Cpl. Samuel Toloza of El Salvador's Cuscatlan Battalion displays his bloodstained knife that he used to fend off Iraqi gunmen in Najaf, Iraq, last Saturday.


http://images.washtimes.com/photos/full/20040503-104904-9389.jpg



http://www.washingtontimes.com/world/20040503-115511-7092r.htm

Believe or not the blade is not completely trown away from the battlefield. Even in our days. That fact I guess might work for the katana in ww2.

http://www.antiqueswords.com/images/bq1188-1_small.jpg

Walther
04-10-2007, 02:05 AM
Interesting. By the way the last bayonettte charge I have knowledge was performed by Britische soldiers in the malvinas war.



Nope, there was one by a platoon of Royal Marines about two years ago in Southern Iraq. They found themselves beingoutnumbered and surrounded by Iraqi insurgents and their ammo was getting low, so the Lieutenant ordered bayonets fixed (on the SA-80 of all rifles!) and let them charge. It seems that cold steel has a serious psychological effect, the Iraqis broke and ran.


Years ago in university I dabbled in Kendo, Japanese fencing. During this time I watched a contest between my instructor, the at this time European champion against the at this time German champion (they were using Shinais, bamboo practice swords). In the hands of somebody who knows how to use a Katana, it is a deadly close combat weapon. But to get to any degree of proficiency with it (and I don't mean to use it to execute tied up prisoners), it takes years.

Jan

Panzerknacker
04-10-2007, 06:26 PM
Actually yes...the last one that I have knowledge happen in 1982...I just not being familiar with the sucesses in Irak today since the Argentine military is not involved.

In any case that was refered by Cuts earlier:


There was quite a well reported one almost three years ago at Danny Boy, a checkpoint about 15 km south of Al Amarah in Iraq.

Led by Cpl Byles of 1PWRR on 14 May 04 (IIRC.)

tankgeezer
05-23-2007, 03:11 PM
A interesting link dealing with the parts and elaborated construction and finishing of te katana sword.

http://www2.memenet.or.jp/kinugawa/english/sword/sword100.htm

http://www2.memenet.or.jp/kinugawa/english/sword/image/ka100.gif
Hi Panzerknacker, I have some insights on the Katana, its construction, and use.
the ability to produce large pieces of steel in the middle ages, was unknown. generally, only smaller pieces were possible, and so to make a blade, or any tool requiring steel with higher carbon content, the most part was made of iron, and the edge steel was welded to it in the forge. ( a difficult task for any but the most experienced smith. ) this was used for simple blades, and cutting tools for centuries. this conserved the smaller quantities of tool steel then available.
the Japanese methods for blade making were developed over some space of time, and utilized interleaved pieces of iron and steel,(called a "skelp" which were then fluxed, and hammer welded at forge to ultimately produce a "billet". This was done by repeatedly drawing out the piece lengthwise, to what ever length was best, then notching the piece with a chisel, folding while hot, and welding again. this process when repeated many times, (much like making pasta noodles, ) doubled the number of layers each time the piece was folded, and rewelded.
The main benefit of this treatment was to allow the carbon in the tool steel, to migrate under heating to the nearly no carbon iron, homogenizing the whole of the metal, (nearly)the laminal nature of the billet so made, also imparted great resilience over the entire length of the blade when completed. Great care had to be taken to keep inclusions from entering the piece during the fold/weld process, as these little bits of dirt, and silicate clinker, could weaken the weld between layers.
the billet created by this method would be drawn out, to the desired shape for the blade it would become, and would then be heat treated to relieve stresses from the forging process, and impart the need hardness strength, and toughness required for it to be useful. after further finishing, it would be tempered by means of processes known mostly only to the smiths that made them, (they all had their own secrets about this part, ) using river sand to protect the area of the edge so the spine could heat properly was on way to tell who did the work, they all had their own pattern for applying the sand paste to the edge, (the wavy line near the edge, ) sort of a signature.the final polishing, and testingwould be done, and The tang would be stamped with pertinant information about the maker, the owner, and whatever else they might think important to record. I've seen many tang inscriptions, but I cant read Japanese idiogaphs, so I dont know what they say.
This way of sword making was not used on the WW2 military blades, tho most were hand forged, they were not folded, but made from then available single pieces of tool steel. Tho prehaps some who could afford it may have had blades made in the old way for them. Many, took ancient family hierloom swords to combat, to honor their ancestors, and utilize the spirit of the blade to defeat an enemy.
It was common practise for ancient bladesmiths to sing a chant while creating a blade,they believed this would infuse a spirit into the blade, to make it strong, and successful in battle. (modern folks think the benefit if singing was to establish a good forging rhythm,to make the grainlines flow more evenly through the metal.but I'm not so sure,,, ) Which ever it was, they did a marverlous job making blades that have endured in excellent condition to this day.
The purpose of carrying a sword into modern combat is usually ceremonial, a tool to use to lead a charge, or direct troop movements, since it is easily seen above the heads of the troops. It is also a tool of inspiration, in that the weapon is pointed towards the enemy to signal intent to engage and fight. sort of an "En guarde" signal to the enemy. That they were useful in a battle is not impossible, in close fighting, a trained swordsman can do great harm in a short time. but at any distance, its still "bringing a knife to a gunfight". Now, someone mentioned deflecting bullets or cutting them in two with a Katana, I assume stories of battle, nearly any edged metal will cut a bullet fired at it, thats been a "wild West" show amusment for ages. that a man with a sword could intercept a bullet in flight, is not possible but by merest chance.
last little bit, you can buy blades made in the pattern welded style these days, even Katana blades, which you can build into a sword of your choice, or purchase completed swords with pattern blades, pocket knives too. Though this is not the true Damascus blade, it does look like it, so they are sold with that name. The true Damascus steel is another metal, for another story. - Raspenau -

tankgeezer
05-23-2007, 06:14 PM
Hi all, new to the forum and thought someone could help. I ran across a sword exactly like this one at a pwan shop. he is asking 300 for it but I think I could get a bit off. It is alum. handle cast, and has numbers just like this on on the blade and scab. I checked on line and unless I am wrong it is worth 500$? it is in the same general condtion as the one in the link I am posting. any info on if I should pick it up would be helpful. thanks


http://www.quanonline.com/military/military_reference/japanese/sword_19.php#
That sword is not original. there should be no discoloration on the blade, not sure of the grip either. I owned such a sword, and it had a more traditional hilt on it, not of cast metal. If you like this sword, you might get an outside opinion from a collector, I would encourage you to do so, there are lots of fakes out there these days, Even if it is genuine, the heat colors should not be there at all. I think someone may have straightened a bent blade.

Jenkin
06-04-2007, 11:11 PM
It seems that main use of the Japanese sword was chopping the heads off of innocent civilians in the rape of Nanking.

I doubt it ever saw much use in combat.

the Japanese Katana Sword saw about as much action as the Bayonet saw from evey other country, but the sword goes back to the wars during fuedal japan, and from this the rise in the number of the swords became a required armament that was used and required, mainly by the officers and the higher class soldiers. and the swords diddnt really exist to chop the heads off of the civillians, they were used in exactly the same reason why the bayonet existed. for close combat use

Gutkowski
06-09-2007, 03:23 PM
Here is a officer's sword my Grandfather brought back from Cape Gloucester
http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y67/gutkowski/Gramps%20WWII%20Marine%20Items/IMG_0580.jpg

I can only guess that this is a bullet deflection off the top of the handle

http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y67/gutkowski/Gramps%20WWII%20Marine%20Items/IMG_0586.jpg

http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y67/gutkowski/Gramps%20WWII%20Marine%20Items/DSCF1161.jpg


http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y67/gutkowski/Gramps%20WWII%20Marine%20Items/DSCF1162.jpg

Gutkowski
06-09-2007, 03:24 PM
http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y67/gutkowski/Gramps%20WWII%20Marine%20Items/DSCF1160.jpg

http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y67/gutkowski/Gramps%20WWII%20Marine%20Items/DSCF1159.jpg

Jenkin
06-18-2007, 11:30 PM
Gutkowski, they are some magnificent pictures of the sword, the bullet deflection i would agree with, and it would be a officers sword from the three interlocked rings on the handle, the thing that looks like a boat with the symbols on it would mean that the user was possibly a marine fighter, such as a pilot or a boat marine, and the faded symbol is the officers regimental number. But it looks a treat.

Egorka
09-21-2007, 03:52 AM
Maybe this will be interesdting to someone in here: http://asiaout.blogspot.com/2007/09/blog-post_21.html

Rising Sun*
09-21-2007, 07:47 AM
Maybe this will be interesdting to someone in here: http://asiaout.blogspot.com/2007/09/blog-post_21.html

It'd be a lot more interesting to me in English.

The pix just look like the standard Chinese swords and head loppers.

The Japanese didn't have a monopoly on butchery by sword.

They just made the unforgiveable mistake of doing it to Westerners.

And to Chinese which, strangely given the supposed Western contempt for Asia at the time, raised Western ire and provoked sanctions which led directly to Japan's last war.

Japan's butchery is largely forgotten now, because Westerners made the unforgivebable mistake of nuking the poor bloody Japanese who never did anything nasty to anyone, which has got caught up in a whole lot of Western protest, anti-American, anti-bloody-everything-who's-not-a-dipshit-hippy-with-no-knowledge-of-history movements.

Panzerknacker
09-21-2007, 09:06 AM
Here is a officer's sword my Grandfather brought back from Cape Gloucester


Very nice piece, I am full of envy now. :mrgreen:


The Japanese didn't have a monopoly on butchery by sword.

Maybe not the monopoly but a long full tradition of use the sword for those.

tamaneko
10-22-2007, 11:44 PM
My grandparents, who grew up in the occupied Philippines during the war, would tell us stories of how the Japanese soldiers would just take babies from their mothers, throw them into the air and try to "catch" them with their bayonets just for the fun of it. The officers would be even more dangerous with their swords and their penchant for using them on anyone who crossed them.

Those things have quite a dark history.

tankgeezer
10-23-2007, 02:35 PM
The darkness is not in the sword, but in the arm that wields it.

Jenkin
10-28-2007, 10:33 PM
Both Very True, but this still happened in fuedal Japan, and this style of massicre was only common to the soldiers that grew up around the Boshido training, as this was common to any family lines that either stood against them or opposed their thoughts or thier military advancements. but this is very true with the history of the Japanese and would not really suprise me at all

bwing55543
11-03-2007, 07:19 AM
I don't know if Japanese soldiers were really planning to use their katana in combat. Sure, it may be able to stand up to the power of anything short of a .50 cal Browning machine gun, but I don't think they could deflect bullets Jedi-style either.

Anyway, this is the video showing the standoff between a Colt M1911 and a katana:
http://www.compfused.com/directlink/252/

The description of the link that was with the video with the Browning M2 was wrong in that it said this was a katana vs. 9mm pistol match; it's definitely a .45 ACP.

Uyraell
03-10-2009, 05:54 AM
Not by Japanese values.

What the western world takes no account of is that to the Japanese, execution of a soldier by beheading was actually a sign of respect.
What makes the photo further up the page disturbing to western eyes is that the soldier has his hands tied.
A Japanese facing death in the same manner would not, in usual course of events, have had tied hands.

Though I agree the usual Japanese traditions in such matters were deliberately perverted during WW2, there are cases recorded where those same traditions were as closely adhered to as possible, and certain Japanese officers suffered disciplinary action from their own higher command as a direct result of doing so.

Does this make it less of a "crime" in western eyes? No.
However, I respectfully suggest that western nations have never really evolved past the propangandised differences between the respective cultures and highlighted during the WW2 era.

To give a cultural perspective: to a Japanese officer, and Allied "Special Forces" soldier would be seen as being similar to a "Ninja" (Not a "partisan", but a specialised warrior) from a military perspective. Ninja were, if captured, executed in the same manner as the photo shows.

Now, I agree westerners find the thought distressing and distasteful.
Personally, I have made the effort to research, in order to reach some personal level of understanding such cases. I might not condone them, but I find it hard to condemn each and every case.

Regards, Uyraell.

Rising Sun*
03-10-2009, 07:35 AM
Not by Japanese values.

It may be that here we begin to agree to disagree.

The Japanese military values of WWII, and of the preceding war in China, were derived from but not in any way a natural, direct or proper descendant of classical Japanese warrior values.

They were in fact a complete corruption from their claimed classical base, not least because the military classes and ranks which assumed those values were not from the classes or traditions which established and observed the classical values.

WWII Bushido Code etc had about as much claim on direct descent from and observance of classical Japanese warrior culture as Nazi culture did on its claimed Norse ancestry and mysticism.

The Japanese militarists presented a corrupted version of classical warrior belief (not least total subservience to the Emperor, when the Samurai had a long history of imprisoning and disposing of emperors unacceptable to them) and conduct to imbue their troops with spirit (‘spirit’, being a super version of ‘chi’ and its variants in Asian thought, in the contemporary Japanese military usage encompassing everything that supposedly made ‘mind over matter’ allow the common soldier to triumph over everything in service of the Emperor – not unlike a similar outlook embodied in Leni Riefenstahl’s ‘Triumph of the Will’)


What the western world takes no account of is that to the Japanese, execution of a soldier by beheading was actually a sign of respect.

It could be, in classical times, or it could just be a bit of unbridled savagery.

In WWII it certainly wasn’t a sign of respect in the ways it was carried out in many cases as, for example, for the reasons you mention in your last post. But also because of the NCO ranks which carried it out. It had more to do with blooding the troops, as did bayoneting prisoners with lower ranks, and giving them a bit of a leg up to the honour of using a sword than it did with according any respect to the victim.



However, I respectfully suggest that western nations have never really evolved past the propangandised differences between the respective cultures and highlighted during the WW2 era.

Nor have the Japanese as the subjects of rightist governments since WWII, and even less than the Western nations, in their absurd censorship and misrepresentation of their war in Japanese education and memorials.



To give a cultural perspective: to a Japanese officer, and Allied "Special Forces" soldier would be seen as being similar to a "Ninja" (Not a "partisan", but a specialised warrior) from a military perspective. Ninja were, if captured, executed in the same manner as the photo shows.

In some cases that may be true, but they were probably a very small minority.

There was none of that in the brutality on the Burma Railway, albeit much of it actually perpetrated by Koreans in Japanese service at the bottom of that brutal heap. Not that there was much swordplay there.

The Japanese officers at Harbin, or on the Burma Railway or in the massacres of Chinese in Singapore or the Australian nurses at Banka Island and in countless other incidents, didn’t observe any honourable or even vaguely humane standards. There was undoubted savagery by the Allies against the Japanese, although pretty much on a 'as ye sow, so shall ye reap' basis, but nothing to begin to equate with Japanese war crimes and crimes against humanity in numbers or scale.



Personally, I have made the effort to research, in order to reach some personal level of understanding such cases. I might not condone them, but I find it hard to condemn each and every case.

I have travelled a similar path over many years.

I am able to understand Japanese actions from the Japanese militarist perspective of the time (which was not the same perspective of all Japanese people at the time) but, unlike you, I have no difficulty in condemning them in almost every case because they were devoid of humanity and were, as our General Blamey said in more detail, primitive brutes who engaged in torture and savagery for their own sake. As illustrated by the example to which I have referred elsewhere, of Japanese troops bravely shooting a six year old boy on landing in Papua because he would not stay still long enough to be beheaded after seeing these brave and heroic sons of Nippon behead his civilian father in front of him after executing other civilians.

The sword of Nippon was employed much more in such disgusting, weak, cowardly, inhumane, and brutal acts than in awarding any ‘honour’ to the poor bloody defenceless prisoner.

Uyraell
03-11-2009, 06:23 AM
Rising Sun, I should perhaps have written a little more carefully.
Like you I do condemn the usages of the Katana which belittled it.
I did state that the true values had been deliberately perverted, most notably in WW2 though the process began in the late 1920's.
What I had in mind was to point out that there are several recorded cases where officers deliberately held as closely as possible to the true, ancient values which the Katana represents, and for which actions those same officers suffered, regardless their own ancient lineage.
I mentally separate and draw distinction between the abuse-misuse of the Katana and those occasions (few indeed though they are) where the weapon was used legitimately.
I hope this post clarifies My view for you.

Respectful Regards, Uyraell, Kendoka.

Rising Sun*
03-11-2009, 06:35 AM
What I had in mind was to point out that there are several recorded cases where officers deliberately held as closely as possible to the true, ancient values which the Katana represents, and for which actions those same officers suffered, regardless their own ancient lineage.


I am aware of some incidents involving Australian forces which support your comments about some IJA officers according courageous POWs the honour of beheading, but I'm not aware of any instances where IJA officers suffered for trying to observe classical values. Could you expand on it? Why did that happen? How did it offend the IJA hierarchy?

Uyraell
03-11-2009, 08:41 AM
I am aware of some incidents involving Australian forces which support your comments about some IJA officers according courageous POWs the honour of beheading, but I'm not aware of any instances where IJA officers suffered for trying to observe classical values. Could you expand on it? Why did that happen? How did it offend the IJA hierarchy?

The offence perceived was that only Japanese deserved the honour of a "Japanese" death. This too had happened much to the shock of other Allied officers in World War One, when Japan was an Ally of the western nations.
In World War Two, the perversion of values to which yourself and I have both referred led to a "resurrection" of that view I cite in this paragraph.

There were certain officers of the IJA whom, having spent time in the west, and being of ancient lineage had been deliberately sent to the west to acquire military knowledge, had then, in wartime, reacted with dignity, as regards the view they took of certain Allied prisoners. This is to say, they treated said prisoners with as much dignity as circumstance allowed.

When this became known to higher command in the IJA, certain persons there informed the Kempei Tei, an organisation hardly known for its' staunch support of the values those IJA officers referred above exemplify.

In three cases I recall reading of, the following happened.
One IJA officer of very respectable lineage was recalled to Japan, and there invited to commit seppuku. He did. (It should be noted here: the methodology of the ritual itself can be such as to be a symbolic protest, against wrongs done by superiors, and it was in this means said man died.)

In one of the other cases, the Kempei Tei executed the officer, bullet to back of head, and made his own men eat parts of him.

In the third case, the Kempei Tei arrived, as a group of four, and simply shot the man in his office.

I'd have to go a long, long way back in time to find the books I read this in, I was about 17 at the time, almost some three decades ago. However, I hope this adds a little to the expansion of info you so politely sought.

Respectful Regards, Uyraell.

namvet
03-11-2009, 09:59 AM
http://i205.photobucket.com/albums/bb180/gardenmo/HPIM0719.jpg

http://i205.photobucket.com/albums/bb180/gardenmo/HPIM0718.jpg

this is a replica I got in Japan many years ago. in the 60"s. still in perfect condition. not a speck a rust on it at all. I never had the blade sharpened. but as you can see its big enough to do serious injury.

Uyraell
03-11-2009, 11:20 AM
http://i205.photobucket.com/albums/bb180/gardenmo/HPIM0719.jpg

http://i205.photobucket.com/albums/bb180/gardenmo/HPIM0718.jpg

this is a replica I got in Japan many years ago. in the 60"s. still in perfect condition. not a speck a rust on it at all. I never had the blade sharpened. but as you can see its big enough to do serious injury.

It is a nicely crafted piece.
I'd happily practice with it.
Full tang, or partial, if I may ask?

Regards, Uyraell.

namvet
03-11-2009, 11:24 AM
It is a nicely crafted piece.
I'd happily practice with it.
Full tang, or partial, if I may ask?

Regards, Uyraell.

im not an expert on swords. what is a tang????

tankgeezer
03-11-2009, 04:16 PM
Real Japanese swords are all full tang. Its tapered somewhat,(to hold the hilt snug) and usually bears the information about its maker, and production. There is a pin that holds the hilt in place, remove that, and tap the hilt off, its all underneath. Attached is a picture of different blades.

Uyraell
03-12-2009, 12:57 AM
Real Japanese swords are all full tang. Its tapered somewhat,(to hold the hilt snug) and usually bears the information about its maker, and production. There is a pin that holds the hilt in place, remove that, and tap the hilt off, its all underneath. Attached is a picture of different blades.

Many Thanks TG, Nicely expressed, and accurately.

Kind regards, Uyraell.

Rising Sun*
03-12-2009, 04:33 AM
The offence perceived was that only Japanese deserved the honour of a "Japanese" death. This too had happened much to the shock of other Allied officers in World War One, when Japan was an Ally of the western nations.
In World War Two, the perversion of values to which yourself and I have both referred led to a "resurrection" of that view I cite in this paragraph.

There were certain officers of the IJA whom, having spent time in the west, and being of ancient lineage had been deliberately sent to the west to acquire military knowledge, had then, in wartime, reacted with dignity, as regards the view they took of certain Allied prisoners. This is to say, they treated said prisoners with as much dignity as circumstance allowed.

When this became known to higher command in the IJA, certain persons there informed the Kempei Tei, an organisation hardly known for its' staunch support of the values those IJA officers referred above exemplify.

In three cases I recall reading of, the following happened.
One IJA officer of very respectable lineage was recalled to Japan, and there invited to commit seppuku. He did. (It should be noted here: the methodology of the ritual itself can be such as to be a symbolic protest, against wrongs done by superiors, and it was in this means said man died.)

In one of the other cases, the Kempei Tei executed the officer, bullet to back of head, and made his own men eat parts of him.

In the third case, the Kempei Tei arrived, as a group of four, and simply shot the man in his office.

I'd have to go a long, long way back in time to find the books I read this in, I was about 17 at the time, almost some three decades ago. However, I hope this adds a little to the expansion of info you so politely sought.

Respectful Regards, Uyraell.

Thanks.

Introduces something I hadn't heard of before.

If you ever recall the sources for these incidents, or anything else that might help get more info on them, I'd appreciate you posting it.

Uyraell
03-12-2009, 07:02 AM
Rising Sun, You are indeed most welcome, and I shall add to the info I've given if such re-emerges in recall.

Kind and Respectful Regards, Uyraell.

Deaf Smith
03-13-2009, 08:46 PM
From having practiced with swords for a while I can say they are weapons and in a night enguagement at close quarters they defiantly would have dismembered a few opponents.

But they didn't do so well against a BAR. I would have preferred a .45 and a Bowie, and such as Lt. John George, in his book, "Shots Fired in Anger", wrote that on Guadalcanal they found most of the Japanese had pistols of various kinds. This may have been because the swords were scarce and expensive, or because they had some common sense. In either case, while the sword can be deadly, there are better 'personal' weapons to choose from, far better.

Deaf

Rising Sun*
06-07-2009, 10:06 AM
The japanese sword, in world war two, was the reincarnation of the samurai.

Really?

And I thought that the Samurai were people rather than objects. Most of whom had ceased to exist as an influential class by WWII, due to certain events in Japan in preceding decades about which you might like to inform yourself.


The japanese officer carried the samurai sword to re-emphasize the bushido code.

You think so?

Check out NCOs carrying and using 'Samurai' swords. The only thing these people having swords emphasised was that the IJA had no connection with the Samurai tradition it corrupted for nationalistic and militaristic purposes.


Just like himmler instituted the whole knight's table and SS knight idea. It's all keeping with age old tradition. Just something to think about.

Thinking doesn't appear to be your strong point any more than is knowledge of the topics upon which you so confident opine.

Smoking Frog
07-29-2011, 10:16 AM
I watched an episode of "Stories of the Gun" on Japanese weapons on Military History in the UK this week. They said that one of the most commonly issued rifles for IJA infantrymen would stand 5"5' tall, with bayonet. The average height of the IJA trooper was only 5"3'. This would make the weapon somewhat unweildy in the close quarter combat for which it was designed. Therefore, a sword would be much more preferable, as it would be more appropriate to the physical stature of the user.

Also, forgive me if I don't see any relevance to an ancient bloodline in whether or not a soldier will act with humanity toward a defeated oponent. How did 'nobles' gain their 'nobility' but by prying it from somebody else's cold dead hands at the point of a sword. Throughout history, the 'noble' classes have been the first to support the shedding of (somebody else's) blood.

It is the 'noble' or officer castes who propagandise the supposed differences between nations and cultures. In fact, common peasant soldiers are the same wherever they come from.

Rising Sun*
07-30-2011, 08:04 AM
I watched an episode of "Stories of the Gun" on Japanese weapons on Military History in the UK this week. They said that one of the most commonly issued rifles for IJA infantrymen would stand 5"5' tall, with bayonet. The average height of the IJA trooper was only 5"3'. This would make the weapon somewhat unweildy in the close quarter combat for which it was designed. Therefore, a sword would be much more preferable, as it would be more appropriate to the physical stature of the user.

I think you'll find more instances of the sword being used on captives than in battle.

And maybe not that much different to Japanese use of the bayonet, to blood raw troops or just for the fun of mutilating captives.


Also, forgive me if I don't see any relevance to an ancient bloodline in whether or not a soldier will act with humanity toward a defeated oponent. How did 'nobles' gain their 'nobility' but by prying it from somebody else's cold dead hands at the point of a sword.

'Nobility' was in most cultures awarded by the monarch or equivalent.

As for acting with humanity towards defeated opponents, the medieval European practice was to hold surviving nobles for ransom.



Throughout history, the 'noble' classes have been the first to support the shedding of (somebody else's) blood.

I think you're confusing the past few centuries of Euro-American conduct with the earlier periods where nobles actually went into battle.


It is the 'noble' or officer castes who propagandise the supposed differences between nations and cultures. In fact, common peasant soldiers are the same wherever they come from.

I doubt that you'd find too many peasant soldiers from Russia in WWII who agreed that the Einsatzgruppen were the same as them. The same with farm boys from the US, Britain and Australia who encountered peasant soldiers from Japan in WWII.

Smoking Frog
07-31-2011, 08:41 AM
I do not doubt that there are many examples of brave nobles. However I would say that they are brave in spite of and not because of, their nobility. I am currently reading a book on the Crusades which is full of heroism from nobles and knights. That said, there is heroism from the peasant footsoldiers in equal measure, so often overlooked.

My issue is with the frankly absurd notion that the inhumanity of the Japanese towards civilians and pows was due to them being lead by men raised from the lower orders and not from the traditional nobility. There is as much good and bad in every class surely. So the family tree of the guy in charge is completely irrelevant to how he will behave. Have we not gone beyond such foolish ideas as 'breeding'. It is as idiotic and offensive to assume that one man is better than his fellows on grounds of class as it is on grounds of race.

May I ask, do you feel that a Lord, Earl or Prince is a better man than you or I sir? Are we not all men of learning and deeply held principal? Yet I have no 'breeding'. Perhaps you do?

As for the difference between a Soviet soldier and an Einsatzgruppen soldier, they had just been told different lies by different leaders. Deep down, yes they are the same.

forager
09-03-2011, 10:49 AM
Interesting thread.
Jap swords were a common souvenier around my home and I have owned many.
All seemed to be of the military machine made variety, but they'd take your head off.

I believe primarily they were symbolic in a some what arcane military that was stuck between centuries.

I believe their revival of "Bushido" was corrupt, but so was the original concept.

In maintaining "honor" and all that crap, they enslaved their own population and regarded their own people as less than human-lopping off heads at random. Wonderful system, no wonder it was finally outlawed.

The disdain for prisoners and conquered civilians, etc started at the top and worked its way down.
There was a great deal of brutality in their own ranks.

As I said, The Japs were pretty far behind in the concept of conducting warfare. Too much traditional and archaic practices to be effective.

The sword was a symbol of rank and an officer was supposed to lead rather than actually engage enemy, but at close quarters they had no choice.

I recently went to see a local Marine vet who has a sword.
He is rather famous locally as a state athlete ans football coach.
Well spoken and enjoyed speaking with me as a fellow combat vet.

He manned a machinegun all night during a sustained attack and when the sun came up a considerable pile of dead enemy lay in front of him.
The closest was a young officer with a Nambu in his hand and sword in scabbard.
A bullet passed through the scabbard halfway up and took a big nic out of the blade.
The young man had enough sense to use his pistol, futile as it may have been.

He still has the sword.

WWTanksAndGuns
04-12-2012, 05:19 PM
Katana had more of a spiritual meaning to Japanese people. It had a lot of meaning to them. Also had a big psychological effect on US troops, they were afraid of japanese soldiers charging with swords in hand to hand combat.

JR*
04-13-2012, 06:28 AM
Notions of the so-called Code of Bushido, or of the Samurai, as representing some sort of consistent moral ideal followed in practice by any body of people at any time stand up poorly to historical scrutiny. Much of the later Japanese “nobility” and the class of “samurai” began to evolve over a thousand years ago, in the Heian period. The circumstances were of the slow erosion of the power and wealth of the Court nobility, who became increasingly isolated at the Imperial Court, leaving their estates be managed by estate managers who were, in many cases, members of a minor nobility or “gentry” – not infrequently members of “cast off” branches of the Imperial Family, or of the Fujiwara noble family that dominated the Court in this period. In a country the unity of which was heavily compromised by its problematic geography, it is hardly surprising that over time, the estate manager minor nobility, over time, increasingly appropriated the resources directly under their control, promoting their class to a powerful provincial nobility. In parallel with this development came the development of the class of “bushi” (warriors) or “samurai” (retainers) – military servants generally attached to the new provincial nobility in a relationship not dissimilar to that between pre-feudal North European kings and their personal military retainers. Japanese “feudalism” never seems to have lost this personal, proto-feudal quality, less reliant on contractual relations relating to land than its European equivalent.

These developments, not surprisingly, eventually undermined the Heian system to the point of collapse. The system that followed it was one in which top warlords (usually, but not always, appointed generalissimo – shogun – by the Emperor) more-or-less controlled a country dominated by a powerful provincial nobility, backed up by their respective private armies of “retainers”. “Control” was always relative; and such balance as existed in the system was heavily based on military violence or the threat of it. Conflict between shogun and the nobility, and within the nobility itself, were common. There is quite a bit of evidence that in the context of this system, treachery was common currency, not least within and between noble families, but also on the part of samurai who were quite willing to switch allegiances when circumstances suggested that this might be in their own interests. Use of lethal violence to control the perpetually-downtrodden peasantry was par for the course. The balance of the shogunal system disintegrated altogether between the mid-15th and the beginning of the 17th century, a period characterised by near-constant civil war, endemic double-dealing and large-scale slaughter. At the end of this period, an effective Shogunate was established by Tokugawa Ieyasu – more or less the last warlord standing.

It was under the new Tokugawa Shogunate that the first step in the “reduction” of the samurai took place. Ironically, it was probably presented as the opposite; the samurai were created an exclusive minor nobility, and given a monopoly of carrying arms (excepting the senior nobility, at least). The practical effect, however, seems to have been to convert most samurai into a sort of sword-wielding police bureaucrat, who followed his “Way”, essentially, by eliminating any member of the lower classes who stepped out of line. The second step in the “reduction” came with the modernisation of Japan that followed the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the mid-19th century. The samurai class was, as part of this process, “phased out”, with the holders of this status (along with senior territorial nobles) being paid off in return for the surrender of (in the samurai’s case), their monopoly of arms. This process was supposedly completed in 1876, when samurai who had not already surrendered the right to carry swords were banned from doing so; following on the introduction of conscription to a regular army in 1873, this development effectively extinguished the role of the samurai officially – although resistant samurai staged a final rally in the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877. This rebellion was firmly put down by the new Imperial conscript army, equipped with modern rifles and artillery. Whatever the tradition of the samurai may have represented up to this point, it came to a final full stop in 1877.

So, why are we still talking about the “Code of Bushido” and its application to the 1940s? I think it had a lot to do with the fact that the new, modern Japanese military established a predominant position in the new Japan – perhaps not surprising, given the long tradition of rule by sheer violence, or the threat of it, for many centuries before. It was convenient for the military cliques that controlled the new, “modernised” government to promote archaic and indeed misrepresented versions of the (partly imagined) warrior code to engage the populace in general in their martial, expansionist agenda, something that was, clearly, not at all popular with the people in general in the late-19th century. In this, propagandistic sense, the re-imagined samurai code was highly influential in the Japan of the 1930s and 1940s – but it bore as much connection with the realities of the samurai past as did Wagner’s “Ring” Cycle with the realities of early medieval Europe; perhaps even less. Best regards, JR.

forager
04-14-2012, 05:04 PM
Excellent report and assessment.

Too many get caught up in glorifying and lionizing the outright thuggery and oppressive practises associated with Samurai and Bushido.

They provided a lot of misery to the general populace in maintaining their society.

burp
04-16-2012, 07:07 AM
I totally agree with JR. A good example of the will of destroy Samurai heritage is the film "The Last Samurai". The new Japanase industrial society is build on middle-class, class formed by business men. This new class wiped out Samurai class, because Samurai are tied to an anacronistic social system, based upon nobles landowner.
The calling for Bushido of WWII is totally false. For sure Samurai from western point of view act as wildlings: from Bushido point of view kill an innocent paesant to test if Katana works well is a normal act. So the atrocity committed by Japanese for a Samurai are not crimes, in part at least. But this is the only point of contact between Samurai and WWII Japanese soldier, for example think about the use of torture. For Bushido point of view to be subjected to torture is a severe dishonour and Samurai must do seppuku, also named hara-kiri by western culture, to prevent the possibility to be tortured. So the same officials that considered themselves as "Samurai" so followers the Bushido are the first ones that don't follow it, because they let the use of torture.

To answer to the topic, the Katana is a destructive device. The superiority of Katana to western and chinese sword is something that is amazing. Use of Katana leads to a develop of only light armour while in Western culture the personal armor tend to became heavier and heavier. The Katana are so flexible and at the same time so sharp edged that can pierce through heavy armor "easily", so the Samurai with heavy armor is vulnerable quite as the Samurai with light armor but it is slower. So the Katana in close combat is a destructive device, because it is more long than bayonet and cut better. Anyway in trench warfare, where the spaces are cramped, a Katana may be too much long and bayonet be more useful.

JR*
04-19-2012, 10:21 AM
Getting back to the subject of the katana itself, it was certainly a destructive device, and had particular advantages over other types of sword. It was, primarily, an infantry sword, but not unsuitable for cavalry use. Its particular virtues were in chopping and – very importantly – in slashing/slicing. By comparison, the Western medieval sword was as much a crushing as a cutting weapon. This, to some extent, explains the increasing weight of Western armour as swords increased in length and weight – but I am not sure that heavy armour would not have been useful against the katana. I think the persistence of infantry tactics in Japan (they arrived late in medieval Europe) resulted in a different pattern of development in armour, in which heavy metal shells never attained a prominent part because of the consequences for mobility.

One particular contrast of interest is that between the katana and the Mongol sabre. The latter was a large, single-edged curved weapon, weighted at the point. This design evolved from the use of the weapon as a cavalry weapon in a particular context; horse archers were the principal means by which the Mongols reduced their opponents, and swords were used in the main to chop down broken and retreating enemy infantry with a downward, “polo player” swing. This characteristic proved unfortunate for the Mongols in their two attempted invasions of Japan. Mongol swords were definitely inferior to the katana when it came to fighting on the level; the heavy-headed Mongol sabre was clumsy and difficult to use as an infantry weapon, leaving its users vulnerable to katana users in infantry fighting and in the context of ship-board raids. Certainly, the katana was no toy. However, faced with modern rifles and machine-guns, it is not, perhaps, the weapon one would prefer to have in one’s hand in an attack. Best regards, JR.

pdf27
04-19-2012, 02:29 PM
To answer to the topic, the Katana is a destructive device. The superiority of Katana to western and chinese sword is something that is amazing. Use of Katana leads to a develop of only light armour while in Western culture the personal armor tend to became heavier and heavier. The Katana are so flexible and at the same time so sharp edged that can pierce through heavy armor "easily", so the Samurai with heavy armor is vulnerable quite as the Samurai with light armor but it is slower.
Ummm....
1) Japanese armour was roughly the same in weight as western armour of the same period. Indeed, some Samurai actually wore imported European plate armour into battle.
2) Sharpness hasn't got a great deal to do with going through armour. In any case, the steel in Japanese and European swords was pretty similar (the Damascus steel used in the best European swords was almost certainly superior to the best the Japanese could do) as were the manufacturing techniques.

See http://www.thearma.org/essays/knightvs.htm for a very good essay on the subject.

JR*
04-20-2012, 09:42 AM
pdf27 - Thanks for the link to the ARMA website – fascinating. Mainstream history, for a long time, tended to overlook the more specific, technical aspects of military history. It is good to see such a positive project engaged in the recent and ongoing revival of military historical studies. The importance of military technique and technology in arriving at historical understanding is still often underestimated or misunderstood. Having been trained in Medieval English legal history, I should know.

As to the particular article linked – again, fascinating. I would suggest that, while the author does acknowledge the difficulty arising from the relative dynamism of European (as compared to Japanese) military technique over time, he does fall into a bit of a trap in generalisation as to what being a “knight” involved; it really was very different in the 15th century as compared to the 11th. Also, the sociological assumptions that seem to inform the article are (despite the author’s best efforts) still influenced to an extent by the somewhat romantic view of “chivalry” and all that. Revisionism is a vital part of the historical sciences, certainly. But it would be a mistake to forget that, in reality, an 11th century “knight” was, usually, an illiterate but highly trained barbarian heavy on a large, mean horse; or that his 15th century equivalent was often not very different, just with better armour and a bigger sword. Also, it is certainly true that 15th century swordsmanship cannot simply be dismissed as a simple matter of chop crush and batter. That having been said, it does appear, as far as we can determine, that 11th century swordsmanship was a bit like that, and this influenced the development of arms and armour for centuries afterward.

Anyway, most interesting topic. Thanks again, JR.

pdf27
04-20-2012, 02:33 PM
Those essays are a bit of a missed opportunity - he goes out of his way to avoid coming to a conclusion. The information in them is fascinating though, and throws up several things that don't normally get thought about.

Laconia
04-20-2012, 08:28 PM
Being an AUstralian I do not particulary like looking at Aus. POW's. Awful way to die, by the sword.

Not to change the topic, but why do you say such a thing that it was such an "awful way to die"? Seems to me it's probably pretty quick. A quick slice and off comes the head. With the brain severed from the body so quickly there probably was no time to feel any pain. Those Japanese officers were probably pretty good in weilding their blades.

As for an awful death, I'd say the Chinese "death of a thousand cuts" would be pretty bad. From what I've read it took awhile and the person was given herbs to heighten the pain. If I had a choice, I'd go for the head lopping.

forager
04-21-2012, 04:53 PM
Friend of mine, a Marine with a lot of Pacific time has a sword and Nambu from a deceased young officer who got closest to him in a night assault.
He had a Nambu in his hand and the sword was sheathed. There is a bullet hole through the sheath and a big matching chip in the blade.
The guy had enough sense to bring a gun to a gunfight.
I doubt most sword wounds were clean head cuts. More like big bloody slashes with spilled guts.