Master of the Bayonet

By Robert H. Myers

A most unusual man is Colonel A. J. Drexel Biddle, US-MCR. lie is noted for heing kind, thoughtful, generous and gracious. He is also noted for his ability to snap a man's neck, break an opponent's arm or otherwise render him painfully useless in a matter of split seconds.

Thousands of United States Marines, old and new in the service, have met the colorful colonel. Many more will have the good fortune to meet him and see him in action as the months roll on. They will find him kindly, helpful and understanding.

And ten minutes later they may find themselves flat on their backs with the colonel's knee jammed in their stomachs.

"Mow here's another hold," Colonel Biddle will say, permitting the pupil to get to his feet. "Straighten your hand like this." He will stiffen his hand into what he calls "the Japanese list." "Now bring it down like this . . ." The colonel's hand will lie brought down in a sharp, blade-like maimer on the student's collar bone. "You can break a man's collar bone with that one blow\" the colonel will explain.

The student will have no difficulty understanding the feat, nor will he doubt its effectiveness. Colonel Biddle leaves no room for doubt. That's why he is recognized as one of die greatest experts in the world in the art of hand-to-hand combat, •i science to which he has devoted, not the leisure hours of a hobby, but the full years of a busy, productive life. Today this man with the broad heavy shoulders and firm jaw executes every movement of his art with confidence, accuracy and incredible »peed. lie has learned thoroughly how to use the tools of hi> trade, ihe tools being the naked bayonet, the knife and hi.- two bare hands.

The career of Colonel Biddle, novel and varied, excites the imagination and challenges the adjective. Rich man. sportsman, society figure, teacher, preacher, boxer, publisher, adventurer: a man who tore down convention and built a reputation—that has been the life of Colonel Biddle for lo. these many years. He kept a box at the opera and a ringside seat at the fights; he shook hands with the intellectuals one night, and traded jabs with pugilists the next. Debutantes of the upper crust and the "dese and dose" guys of the streets knew him affectionately as "Tony" Biddle. and Tony Biddle could lead a cotillon or with his left with equal efficiency. He had the happy knack of keeping one foot firmly on the social ladder and the other in the sports ring.

You have heard of the Cabots and the Lodges of Back Bay Boston who spoke to no one except the Cabots and the Lodges and God. Well, the Biddies — the Main Line Biddies of old Philadelphia—had the same distinction, but Tony Biddle doesn't operate that way. He speaks to everyone, and everyone loves it.

Physical and spiritual development soon became Colonel Bid-die's mission in life. That was why he declined lo remain on the retired roll when World War II came along; that is why today he carries on a vigorous day-in and day-out schedule that would exhaust the energy and enthusiasm of a man much younger than himself. Teaching the secrets of his knowledge to young Americans in general and Marines in particular is Colonel Biddle's life.

He showed me a lot of holds and movements, his enthusiasm mounting. There was the strangle hold and the way it can be broken. After you break il you indulge in a little play of your own, such as gouging out your opponent's eyes or jamming his nose in the general direction of his forehead.

"Dirty fighting?" He laughed. "Call it that if you want to. but the dirtiest fighting in the world is jiu-jitsu.'" This struck a significant chord. "Dirty fighting" is usually associated with gouging, kicking a foe in the groin, yanking off an ear. Some pantywaists abhor "dirty fighting," even in a war against admittedly dirty fighters such as the Japs and Nazis. But jiu-jitsu, they reason, not knowing a thing about it. is a clean, honorable combat science. Colonel Biddle agrees that it is a highly developed science, but it isn't clean.

1 looked at his two index fingers. The left one was bent, but ihe right one looked like nothing except a cork-screw. "Clean, scientific" Japs were responsible for the breaks.

Colonel Biddle held the right one out and told its story.

"I got that in a match with a Jap. We were using rifles and bayonets.

"I disarmed him and his rifle fell on the ground. Quick as a flash he had the finger, gave it a twist and broke it." Biddle wrestled his opponent to the ground but the Jap judges called the match a draw.

jiu-jitsu, he explained, is 4,000 years old. and the Japs have carried it on as a national pastime. Universities are operated to teach the science exclusively, and young Nips get the fundamentals at about the same time they get a diaper.

But Colonel Biddle is very positive about one point: the Japs are not as good as newly taught Yanks in the art. For one thing, he declared, the Jap simply doesn't think as fast as we do. "That's been proven time and again on the battlefield and in the air."' he observed, adding diat fast thinking is imperative in hand-to-hand combat such as this.

Then he told another story which was a distinct surprise. Contrary to general belief, jiu-jitsu was a dead sport or science in Japan for several hundred years until, of all people, an Irish-American named O'Brien revived it some 40 or 50 years ago. O'Brien was a seafaring man who ran across the science when he met an old Samurai warrior in Nagasaki. The Japs, whose ancestors bad reveled in the sport, readopted it.

O'Brien became quite a figure in Nagasaki, but later came back to this country. Colonel Biddle met him in Philadelphia and promptly engaged him as an instructor in the mid-twenties. He studied under O'Brien for a year and a half, and w ith his previously mastered training in the foil, bayonet, boxing and knife fighting, soon became a master of Jiu-Jitsu. Mrs. Biddle. incidentally, studied for six months and knows some fine points of die sport herself.

"American boys take to this stuff like ducks to water. They love it." The colonel beamed as he said this. He beams every time mention is made of these things.

Anecdotes and information well from the colonel. His love of contact sports dates back to the years when he won numerous amateur boxing titles, fighting as a heavyweight. He was a personal friend of Bob Fitzsimmons.

"What a master of science he was." He paused to remove a wrist watch, a present from Gene Tunney at the time diis ex-Marine was training for the first Dempsey fight. "I'll show you the famed solar-plexus punch Fitzsimmons used."

Perhaps you'd like to try it 011, say, a Jap. Here's how it was worked, and Colonel Biddle should know. He boxed with Ruby Robert enough times to learn it. He showed it to me. but luckily lie pulled his punches. He throws a right that is almost a hook. If it lands, well and good. If it doesn't—follow on through, your right foot stepping forward and somewhat behind your opponent's left leg, virtually pinning it momentarily. Your left hand, meanwhile, held close to the body, is well down, almost to the floor. Come up quickly, your right elbow barely missing your opponent's face and your left—a terrific punch following the momentum of die shoulder movement—lands in the solar plexus. This ought to drop your opponent dead as a sack of cement, but if you lower your left and come up again quickly, you can smash him on die point of the jaw as his body falls toward you.

"This drives the jaw bones into the brain and you can kill a man," die colonel explained lightly.

It was Gene Tunney, incidentally, who once declared, "Colonel Biddle would have been a world champion if he had gone into the game as a professional." The colonel, returning the compliment, termed Tunney "the best boxing fighter in the history of the ring."

The colonel should know. He boxed with the best in the world over a period of 51 years before retiring from public appearances at the age of 60. His most notable appearances were

Mccoy Jaw And Dies

against Fitzsimmons, Philadelphia Jack O'Brien, rugged Peter Maher, Jack Johnson, Kid McCoy, Lightweight Champion Frank Erne and Georges Carpentier.

Interesting it is that the Frenchman, Carpentier, made but three public appearances in the ring in this country. One was against Jack Dempsey, another against Gene Tunney and the third, prior to the others, was against Biddle. Many years later Champion Tunney told Biddle that it was as he watched his match with Carpentier that he planned his own fighting campaign if he should ever subsequently meet Carpentier in the ring.

Of his match with the clever Johnson, Colonel Biddle remarked, "That was a tough bout. It took me a week to get over it."

The colonel named James J. Corbett as the greatest boxer in the game, Fitzsimmons the greatest fighter, and Tunney the greatest boxing-fighter. You can see the distinctions.

Of course, one of the smartest men was Philadelphia Jack O'Brien, an intimate friend of Colonel Biddle. They boxed in public exhibitions more than 100 times, and attracted a sell-out crowd one time in Cincinnati. Colonel Biddle was a sparring partner for O'Brien for all his professional matches, and O'Brien helped him train over a 35-year period for his amateur engagements.

The colonel became interested in active sports long before he became an intimate of the great names of sport—famous figures dating from the turn of the century on down through the Golden Era of the '20's. It seems that at the age of 10 he had to learn knife fighting.

"We lived on the Portuguese island of Madeira and knife fighting was a popular pastime, such as boxing is to boys in tills country. By gum, we had some fights in those days." One of the colonel's strongest phrases is "By gum!"

It was only natural that years later he became proficient in other types of knife work; types known as the Spanish Knife .nitl the Bowie Knife. He considers the latter, and teaches it to Marines, the highest form of knife fighting. He even went west, at the suggestion of his friend, the late Colonel C. J. Miller, I'SMC, to study the technique of stoccata, in-quartata and pas-ato sotto with the Bowie Knife.

The career of Colonel Biddle embraces so many phases and in lc In s over so many years it is dilficult to correlate them. Nor did we try to during die day I spent with him. People and incidents crowd the years. For instance, he showed me a sunken plncc in his chest. He got it "sparring" with a 245-pound friend during a bout in die garage of the Biddle mansion. (He "neglected" to see a physician about die broken ribs, which • mi rd the sunken condition.)

Knife wounds? Plenty of them. Bayonet wounds? Well, two \> ii ago an FBI agent got to him with a bayonet. "It just mi' i d tnv intestines by one-seventeenth of an inch, if you can him;',iiir that distance.

"W hat was worse, though—it was a rusty blade." The colour! laughed. They figured the wound would put him 011 the «idclini " for six or seven weeks. "I was up and around in a • I. Thereafter, however, it was suggested that Colonel Bid-dlc vw ar a mask and protector when instructing pupils.

I It- figures he has schooled within the past several years, some I . >0,000 men in combat work. Most of them worked with bare blade-: the colonel with a scabbarded blade. It's a wonder he due m'i have more bayonet and knife scars.

lb 11.1 his selections for the best bayonet, jiu-jitsu and Judo men he has trained. He named them as Lieutenant Colonel Alan Shapley, Captain Stephen Stavers, Captain Edward L. Katzen-bach, Jr., Sergeant Tommy Loughran, the retired undefeated light-heavyweight boxing champion, Sergeants C. E. Zimmer, Thierbach, Quigley, and First Sergeant Bill Crystal.

How does Colonel Biddle keep up the pace? Enthusiasm!

Eight years ago his doctor told him he would have to give up this strenuous schedule, or at least cut down on it. Biddle disagreed strongly.

"I love this work. I have made it my life's work. It is recreation for me. It is my life. I told him I wouldn't want to live another day if I couldn't continue."

So the doctor placed the colonel on a strict vegetable diet. "I cannot have any fattening vegetables, such as potatoes, and I haven't had a drink of liquor in eight years." He smiled and commented, "I never was a heavy drinker. I didn't get drunk. But I took a drink whenever I wanted it." Today his only vice is cigar smoking. He keeps one going most of the day. "Funny that they don't seem to hurt me, isn't it?" he asked.

Do the Marines get "Black Deadi" schooling? Yes. Plentv of it. And it might be added that his beloved Marines can get anything Colonel Biddle has, including his life, if they want it. He is profoundly proud to be a Marine. He drums into every listener the greatness of the Corps. His activities are multiple, and when the Marines aren't calling, he is and has been for many years individual combat instructor at the schools of J. Edgar Hoover's G-Men. teaching them his art; he does the same for die National Police, whose members undergo three-month training periods under FBI sponsorship at Washington. Major General Hoyle had him train his entire Ninth Army Division in Individual Combat and concluded with a parade of the Divi sion in his honor. He has for years taught the police of Philadelphia. To all groups he invariably makes such observations as, "The Marines have perfected this mediod. . . ." It would be hard to beat the old boy for loyalty and pride in die Corps. He even took time off to tell a waiter in Washington's Carlton Hotel dining room how fine the food was with the Marines up on the front line trenches in World War I. He wasn't critical of anything—he merely saw an opportunity to sound off about his beloved outfit.

His trophy room at home must be fdled with cups and medals won in his many fields of activity, and his memory book must be overflowing with honors bestowed upon him in tliis country and in Europe.

II is proudest possession, however, is a letter. "It is the greater honor I have ever received," he said. "You may read it."

"Beginning with die first World War and continuing almost unbrokenly to the present time, you have contributed in an outstanding degree to the training of Marine Corps personnel in hand-to-hand comhat. This was made possible, first through die perfection in that art which you yourself attained through years of constant study and application; second, an unusual ability to imparl to others the benefit of your expert knowledge and experience; and third, a most generous giving of your time and enei gics, without expense to the government, and without regard lo llie personal sacrifices and the long hours of intensive physical exertion involved.

"Even since your transfer to the Honorary Retired List in I'>38, on reaching die statutory retiring age of 64 years, you have performed active duty for extended periods, at your own iei|uesi and without pay or allowances, as combat instructor to officer» and men of the Marine Corps, also without remunera tion to you. The efficiency of your training and instruction has, I feel, been a definite contribution to the brilliant record of the Corps during the present war.

"It is a pleasure to commend you for this exceptionally meritorious service, and to place on record the department's recognition of its unusual character and effectiveness. A copy of this letter will be made a part of your official record."

The letter is signed by Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox.

Bayonet Fencing


Fig. 1. Rifle stock should not be used to make the parry.

BAYONET fencing is a refinement in the use of the bayonet, more scientific and effective than bayonet fighting. The bayonet fencer does not look upon his piece as a combination pike and mace, but as a "blade" of which the bayonet is the point. For this reason the bayonet fencer carefully guards his rifle against possible injury; he rarely uses his butt, relying habitually on his skill with the point. There are only four butt strokes that should ever be used: one is from the "Square Guard" position and another is the up stroke at the groin, directly following "Left parry" as in the following command, "Left parry, butt strike, cut down, pass by." The "cross-coun-tci" "kick" of the rille heel at the jaw is made by a straight arm blow; so is the butt stroke at the chest directly delivered with the heel of the piece. None of these four butt strokes imperil the rifle's good condition. The rifle head guard against clubbed rifle is eschewed. Such a guard tends to reduce one's rifle to kindling wood as it is the assault of the clubbed rifle which is swung from the barrel, the stock thus becoming the striking weapon. The bayonet fencer should meet such an attack by slashing at the opponent's throat. Thus it will be seen that the bayonet fencer is more definitely instructed in marksmanship thar the bayonet fighter. The bayonet fencer is instructed to keep his rifle clean and in perfect condition for shooting at all times. He should come through a bayonet charge with blood on the blade but with the rifle unsullied and unharmed. He should parry with his bayonet, and not with his rifle (Figure 1), and slash his point into his opponent as the counter against a swinging or clubbed rifle attack.

Biddle Bayonet

Fig. 2. First step in bayonet attack is parry; use blade only, close to stock

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