Note: This is part of a series. Read part one here.

At the onset World War I, there was very little in the way of hand-to-hand training, or special operations forces for that matter. The only notable guerrilla forces during the war were led by T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and the German, Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, and both of them commanded indigenous forces whose only hand-to-hand skills were those they acquired in their indigenous cultures. From the outset, the only hand-to-hand training given to most soldiers on both sides of the trenches involved the bayonet and the trench knife. Industrialized warfare promised to deliver us from the need for hand-to-hand combat.

As the war wore on, the U.S. Army began training some of its three million recruits in hand-to-hand fighting in the U.S., especially those heading over to France as part of the AEF. But that training was heavily reliant on boxing, one of the most popular sports of that time, making it very impractical for the battlefield. Some units were taught some judo throws and joint locks to disarm an enemy. But these could only be taught if the unit had cadres or practitioners who could act as instructors. And thus, such training was on a unit-by-unit basis and not at all standardized. In other words, there was no FM or training manual.

There never was a more intense CQB environment than the trenches of World War I. When attacking troops did manage to make it across No Man’s Land, through the hail of machine gun fire, artillery, and gas, and into the enemy’s trenches, fighting became very intimate, very close—a throwback to days long past, when men fought with clubs and short blades. If a bayonet charge made it across No Man’s Land and into the enemy’s trenches, the bayonet became useless and the rifle became a club. Combatants were too close, the trenches too tight.