More Bayonets, Fewer Horses – UPDATED

Not that any of you were wondering, but the WSJ‘s Julian Barnes reports that the U.S. military has over 600,000 bayonets and plans to acquire nearly 200,000 more. Even though bayonets are not a primary weapon in the contemporary military, this number is almost certainly greater than in 1916. Horses? Not so much. Apparently there are fewer than 200 horses in the military’s inventory. Given the military still had mounted cavalry forces in 1916, there were probably more horses in military use back then. What does this have to do with ships or the proper size of the navy? Beats me, but I thought it was interesting.

[Note: Typo fixed.]

UPDATE: Well, 600,000 bayonets may sound like a lot, but Villanova’s Michael Risch points out that in 1917-1918 the U.S. military ordered many more bayonets than that. According to this 1919 report, the military ordered nearly three million bayonets in 1917-18 and obtained nearly two million by the end of World War I. Does this settle the matter? Not necessarily. The U.S. military expanded dramatically in 1917 and 1918 due to World War I. The book Risch cites refers to the munitions needs of increasing the military from 100,000 to three million men and discusses how this increases the military’s needs (see, e.g., pages 27-30). But the President’s original reference was to 1916 (and Romney’s to 1917, presumably before the U.S. entered WWI). So there may not have been more bayonets in the military in 1916, but there were many more by 1918. [Note: Sentences cleaned up to clarify President referenced 1916 but Romney referenced 1917.]

Again, however, I don’t think any matters of national importance hinge on this number. I don’t expect a President to know how many of what the military had one hundred years ago and don’t know whether the U.S. Navy is too large or too small (though I suspect there is ample room to cut the military budget).

SECOND UPDATE: FWIW, Romney’s wrong on the Navy. According to this story, there were only 245 ships in the Navy in 1916, but 342 in 1917. Today there are 285, but there were only 278 in 2007. (Data here.)

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