Veterans Day - A History of Swords in U.S. Military

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This week we celebrate Veterans Day – a time to honor living veterans and to thank them for their service to our country. In that spirit, we would like to take a moment to thank all of the men and women who have given of themselves in service to their country.

Thank you veterans! For your service and for your sacrifice.

The holiday began way back in 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson declared Armistice Day to be a national holiday in order to honor the many people who had served the United States during World War I. Since then it’s evolved into so much more – morphing into a day to appreciate veterans of all wars. Schools are often closed, and federal agencies that aren’t essential (like the mail) shut down. The idea isn’t a day off, but rather to allow veterans to spend time with their families.

History of Swords in the U.S. Military

George Washington with sword

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The sword has a proud history as part of the United States military. Though fencing in particular might be more widely associated with Europe, it’s nonetheless true that swordsmanship has long been an integral part of the United States military. Keep in mind that guns were the weapon of choice by the time America was founded!
George Washington famously used a battle sword when leading troops during the Revolutionary War, which was about three feet long and had a slightly curved blade. You can see it at the National Museum of American History in Washington. Bayonets were very common through the First World War, which are basically swords on the end of guns.



President Roosevelt with sword

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President Teddy Roosevelt famously carried a sabre, charging up hills during his time leading the Rough Riders, before he took the highest office in the land.



Cavalry members were actually issued swords, in fact the sabre was the weapon of choice for soldiers on horseback. It wasn’t until the 1920’s that the United States Cavalry finally decommissioned full sized swords as combat weapons!

Swords in the Military Today

Today the khukuri (a curved short sword) is popular among combat members, though it is more geared to break through physical obstacles than to fight. Though swords are no longer really used in a combat capacity, a wide variety of swords are still very much used in more honorary capacities – everything from the commissioning of officers to weddings. In fact, most officers in the military have ceremonial swords, and training in swords is part of officer training.

Here’s a really cool video of members of the Navy and the Marines training with swords. It’s pretty neat! Certainly very different from fencing, but a lot the same.



The Marine Corps wedding ceremony with swords is really kind of fun – and much more lighthearted than you’d expect from these hard training guys!


Fencing in Context

We so often put our heads down and just fun forward with our training, forgetting that the sport of fencing was developed out of military tradition. Today take a moment and realize that fencing is part of a much wider community, and that we are connected through the blade to the brave men and women of the Armed Forces.

Thank a veteran today!