Myths of the Samurai Sword v.s. the M1 rifle in WWII?

Discussion in 'Weapons' started by slipthejab, Jul 24, 2005.

  1. The Kestrel

    The Kestrel Valued Member

    So, its clear that a Katana would not cut a rifle in halves.
    However, what about a Zhanmadao? As far as i know is the only sword that can cut throught plate armour, due to its size and weight.
    Its an stupid question, i know, but still i'm curious..
  2. akitaka

    akitaka Valued Member

    robots can make anything happen.

    But another factor is how I doubt that a soldier could hold a rifle steady enough to denote a clean cut, being in some motion when mr. samurai menaces near enough.
    That, with the hardness of the rifle, would make it near-impossible to cause enough damage to render the firearm useless. It would be like having a knife fight against some dude with a pipe*; too much motion, too little leverage.

    *speaking hypothetically
  3. slipthejab

    slipthejab Hark, a vagrant! Supporter

    hmmm... I am still doubting it. But then again I'm not very familiar with the Zhanmadao... though I managed to find a nice picture of one! :D
    Where did you find the references to it being able to cut through plate armour? And you have any info on it's weight relative to a Japanese Katana?

    I guess the thing I always wondered was the Japanese guy brings his sword down in a vertical strike... the GI brings up his rifle (this sounds like total Hollywood combatics!:D) to block and the Japanese soldier just has to let his blade glance down the barrel of the rifle, summarily taking off all the fingers of the GI. End of story.

    Of course until I find some actual hard evidence (if there is any) it will always be hpyothetical at best. Showing up to a gun fight, especially the type they had in the Pacific theatre - with a sword... doesn't seem to promising.:D

    I like your analogy of the knife v.s. the pipe.
  4. Anomandaris

    Anomandaris New Member

    an important thing to remember though is that the wooden stock would grip the katana as it cut, thus slowing the motion of the blade considertably and also preventing it from being quickly recovered, why do you think that shields were often made of wood when metal was easily available? Because it prevented the recovery fo a blade and made it far harder to defend against the shield bearers counter.

    The Zhanmado is a nice weapon but remmeber full plate armour(fully articulated gothic plate no less!) was essentially immune to cutting of any sort, its shape for one made getting a solid cut alsmost immpossible as the curved fluting directed it away, the obvious efficacy of the armour is demonstrated by the shift in western weapons of war being straight and designed for thrusting.

    Even big two handed weapons(still only weighing in at about 5-6lbs) were not designed to cut through the armour despite being used in broad arcing cuts against cavalrymen, the weight of the blade would knock a man off his feet and then the soldier would grasp the large ricasso and use the point for the coup de grace(or coup de groin for fun...)
  5. slipthejab

    slipthejab Hark, a vagrant! Supporter

    Again does anyone have references to it ever cutting through armour? I would doubt there are any credible references available.

    If one considers the translation and transliteration of the Chinese name of this particular Chinese sword (note these are traditional Chinese characters not the current script in use in China which is the simplified form):

    斬馬刀 (zhǎn mǎ dāo or zhanmadao)

    Then it appears that the name is more descriptive of it's actual usage in battle and in war. The second character is mǎ ( 馬 ) being the Chinese word for horse and the third and last character is dāo ( 刀 ) being the word for sword or blade.

    Anyhow - thought that may interest some of you.

    Attached Files:

  6. The Damned

    The Damned New Member

    WW2 gunto's were as 'soon' said, mass produced and forged. The balance wasn't great, but they were heavy, and not in the same build class as a traditional nihonto.
    Master smiths's who produced katana would test cut them on bodies and could often slice through 2 skulls at a time (this was known as 'splitting the pear'). Also, given certain conditions, ie. correct cutting arc, grain direction of wood, humidity of wood etc, they could cut through a good few inches of block. But a rifle? nah!

    And folding blade 10 times CAN result in thousands of folds.
  7. Anomandaris

    Anomandaris New Member

    no it can't.

    it can result in thousands of LAYERS, not the same.

    1 fold = 2 layers
    2 folds = 4 layers
    3 folds = 8 layers
    4 folds = 16 layers
    5 folds = 32 layers
    6 folds = 64 layers
    7 folds = 128 layers
    8 folds = 256 layers
    9 folds = 512 layers
    10 folds = 1024 layers
  8. Dave Humm

    Dave Humm Serving Queen and Country

    Okis... Just thought I would chime in.

    1... "Samurai Swords” Lets get THAT Fallacy done and dusted. They are generically called JAPANESE Swords not SAMURAI Swords (unless of course the person owning was in fact of samurai stock - Which most during WWII were not)

    2... Any half wit grunt that allowed himself to be in CQB range of an Officer or NCO with his sword drawn without rounds to SHOOT with; deserved to get cut (and that comes from a person with over a decade of [modern] military service)

    3... Most if not all of the people carrying the swords had little actual skill with them. There were military schools which provided basic instruction in the use of the Gunto, but most users were not that experienced with Nihonto. Another old wife’s tale that all Officer's and NCO's were "experts" There are many tales of newly fledged officers and NCO's seeking POW's to 'test cut' their equally newly presented Gunto.. Many of them BENDING their blades in the process.

    4... NO a Japanese Sword would not cut through a steel rifle barrel.

  9. slipthejab

    slipthejab Hark, a vagrant! Supporter

    Good point. On one hand it makes little difference... as the story as it's originally told the word and the common perception is that they were using 'samurai' swords. On the other hand.... it makes sense that we should get the terminology correct if were gonna go over it in any depth. Thanks for pointing that out. Much appreciated.

    lol. Lighten up Colonel. Sir. :D
    Come on... it might have happened. What makes you so sure that it didn't?
    You have to remember you talkin to civies here.:D

    I've often wondered as much. Interesting.Though you'd have to wonder how many people could survive an incident where they used their body to bend a Gunto.:eek: Have you got any references on that one?

    Thank you for the definitive NO. lol. One of the main reasons for the post was I'd heard this story in several versions over the years. Surely I am not the only one... so it's good to get a range of ideas on the topic and learn something about the swords involved and the factors involved in the process.
  10. Slindsay

    Slindsay All violence is necessary

    I dont think the Japanese sword could cut through the metal of a gun barrel but what about the stock? The image of the rifle above shos there is a very narrow part between the stock and the actuall barrel, if the sword hit there then possibly it could split the gun in a similar way to an axe?
  11. Dave Humm

    Dave Humm Serving Queen and Country

    Ok yep you have me there (lol).

    I first learned about the POW test cutting when watching a 'first hand' documentary on the Japanese river Kwai rail system. One of the officers responsible for part of that development spoke kandidly about "young" officers and NCO's joining the ranks, who were "eager" to "try out" their swords on POW's, some of those cutting poorly (seriously injuring the victim) thus bending the low quality blades.

    I later also found an article written by a British POW survivor who mentioned the same behaviour.

    Last edited: Jul 29, 2005
  12. slipthejab

    slipthejab Hark, a vagrant! Supporter

    Interesting. I was just recently at the memorial and gravesite built for the POW's of the Bridge over the River Kwai. A sad, sad thing indeed. Even all these years later it's still not very hard to understand just how brutal an end so many of them must have met. It's worth stopping off to see it if one is ever in Thailand... not that there's much to see really I guess... but a good place to say a word of thanks.

    I'd read stories of the soliders and higher ranking officers killing enemies using their Japanese swords. Primarily though the areas that I'd read about had been in the Philipines. One of the latest books that I'd read was :

    Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission
    by Hampton Sides

    A good read, fast paced read for anyone interested in the Pacific theater of WWII. An interesting account that touches on little talked about subjects such as the Philipino resistance and the Hukbalahap. It also goes into some detail about the tragic end that so many POW's met at the hands of the POW and the sense of urgency in rescuing them as Japan started to lose control of the Pacific.

    Attached Files:

  13. Mitsurigi

    Mitsurigi New Member

    first of all they are commonly known as Samurai swords, due to the fact that originally in Japan they were only carried by the Samurai themselves no other (if a non samurai wore a sword they would have been killed).

    Although i agree with the fact that most of the Japanese troops were unskilled with the weapon as well as the low grade of most of the swords and therefore doubting any of them succeding in the cut through a rifle. i find the above remark an insult to those involved in WWII.

    and even for your military experience you obviously lack any knowledge on exactly what terrain's and location's this war was fought. as well as the combat experience the Japanese had at the time. Why do you think the Allied forces made the japanese government hand over the family swords and stop the teaching of military and martial schools for a time.

    i am sorry if this seems rude or disrespectful but i would have thought for your military experience you would not insult those involved in such a horrific war.. :cry:
  14. Dave Humm

    Dave Humm Serving Queen and Country

    So then.. EVERY Naval/Army/Airforce Officer and NCO during WWII was of samurai stock ? I think not.

    Let me clarify your CONFUSION.

    The swords in the topic of this debate are known by two general names.

    Shin Gunto and Kai Gunto - Neither of which were "samurai" in nature, unless of course an old family blade was mounted in the gunto furniture.

    Perhaps you should spend a little time researching the history of blades manufactured of use in the Second World War - Showa period. I think you'll find the vast majority were very low quality, machine made; far removed from the Gendaito one would be excused for referring to as a "samurai" sword.

    As for my specific military service, you are correct I know very little about the physical conflict and the ground fought on however, my comment was somewhat rhetorical (something you obviously missed) in respect of the possibility of a sword blade cleaving a rifle barrel in two.

    So lighten up. I bare no malice toward the Japanese as a nation despite the history.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2005
  15. TheCount

    TheCount Happiness is a mindset

    A sword vs a rifle 300 m away = guy gets shot. Hard to accept but samurais couldn't dodge bullets
  16. Cudgel

    Cudgel The name says it all

    But wait cant teh samurai just simply use his uber leet skills and cut the bullets in half with his samurai sword? I mean there is footagew of a samurai sword cuttign a bullet in half. :love: :love:

    Seriously. Anything outside of the sword range versus any firearm that is already out and the guy with the sword is toast. :woo: :woo:
  17. Matt_Bernius

    Matt_Bernius a student and a teacher

    That quite simply was an emasculation of Japan's war culture. It had nothing to do with military efficay and far more to do with reducing a sense of militaristic nationalism that had been integreated in most aspects of Japanese life for a generation or more.

    - Matt
  18. TheCount

    TheCount Happiness is a mindset

    You see having fired a rifle at a foot square target at 200m... hitting a sword weilding maniac wouldn't be THAT difficult lol
  19. dtrip

    dtrip New Member

    Ive seen a misconception brought up many times in this thread:

    It is constantly implied that the Japanese fought with "swords against
    the rifles". I doubt that, read on.

    Its also assumed that taking out swordsmen with a rifle is easy, but think again:

    1. A 1-foot still target at 200 m with a rifle: easy I agree, even at 300m if your
    eyesight is good.

    2. MOVING target that dogdes, hides between rocks, and running zig-zag zig-zag:
    much much much more difficult to hit, even at 50m.

    3. Hundreds of moving targets running up your hill from every direction, while there s only 20 - 30 of you to defend : you re in deep beep.
    What they did then, is save the bullets until the enemy comes near, then use them up, then head-to-head combat began, because THERE WASNT TIME TO RELOAD and
    the enemy knows this and once they get close enough there is an organized big wave
    in which EVERYBODY attacks simultaneously. Its a massacre, everybody kills
    everybody, with bullets, knifes, bayonets, etc. Why do you think armies have
    bayonets even today ?

    So, dont easily assume that "rifle vs sword = I kill him easily before I can even
    see the white in his eyes", its not like this at all.

    C ya

    EDIT: I dont mean they attacked with swords, they just used them when
    bullets ran out, just as the GIs used the rifles.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 3, 2005
  20. Dave Humm

    Dave Humm Serving Queen and Country

    Ok, this thread is rapidly moving away from the subject.

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