The Spatha

The spatha, a three foot (30 and 39 in) long sword, was used throughout the Roman Empire between the First and Sixth Centuries AD. The spatha was introduced by Celtic cavalry auxiliaries serving the Empire. By the Third Century, it had replaced the gladius as Rome’s standard infantry weapon.

The spatha later evolved into the Viking sword, which was used in Western Europe from 793 AD to 1066 AD. This design then influenced the European long sword, which was used by European knights during the 12th Century. It is also the weapon of choice in most Hollywood fantasy films.

T-26 Light Tank

The Soviet T-26 tank is the signature light tank of the interwar period. Originally a British design, the T-26 proved versatile, and in some countries, remained in service until 1961. The Red Army developed 53 variants, including flame-throwing tanks and self-propelled guns. From when it entered service in 1932 until when production ceased in 1941, around 11,000 T-26 tanks had been built.

The T-26 was exported to the Spanish Republican government, and saw extensive service during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). There, the T-26 proved superior to the German Panzer I and the Italian CV-33 tankette. Russia also exported T-26s to China and Turkey. Captured T-26s were repaired and used against the Russians. For example, Finland captured and re-purposed seventy T-26 tanks.

When Germany invaded the USSR in 1941, the T-26 made up 39 percent of the Soviet Union’s total tank strength. The T-26 was comparable to early German light tanks, such as the Panzer I and Panzer II, but was seriously outclassed by the Panzer III and Panzer IV. Despite disadvantages in armor, mobility, and gun caliber, T-26 units participated in nearly every major Soviet tank engagement throughout the war. The T-26 last saw action in Manchuria against Japanese forces in August 1945.

Type 94 Nambu Pistol

The Nambu pistol was a sidearm used by Imperial Japanese forces. Variations of the 8mm semi-automatic handgun saw service in every Japanese conflict from the Russo-Japanese War up until the conclusion of World War II. Westerners are most familiar with the Type 94 Nambu, which was used extensively by Japanese forces in the Pacific.

Designed in 1925, the Type 94 Nambu was adopted by the Japanese Army in 1927. A release button on the pistol’s left side allowed for quick magazine extraction. The magazine held eight 8mm rounds. The 8mm cartridge is one of the Nambu’s major drawbacks. When compared to cartridges such as the American .45 ACP or the British .455 Webley, the Nambu lacks stopping power.

Another problem with the Type 94 is an exposed sear. The sear which is basically a bar that rests in a notch of the hammer. This bar holds back the hammer, which keeps the weapon from firing. When the trigger is pulled, the sear slides out of a notch in the hammer. The released hammer strikes the round, allowing the weapon to fire. This creates a situation where pressing or striking the side of the weapon can cause an unintentional discharge.

Considered inferior during its production run, the Nambu Type 94 remains an interesting piece of Japanese military history.

The Roman Gladius

Introduced by the Spaniards. the gladius short sword became the primary weapon used by Roman foot soldiers. Based on an early Celtic design, the gladius dates to BC 500. In BC 361, the Roman historian Livy writes of consul Titus Manlius Torquatus using a gladius in single combat. Despite being smaller than the Gallic soldier he faced, Titus Manlius took advantage of the sword’s short blade to strike multiple blows to the stomach and groin.

The gladius had a 27-inch blade with a v-shaped tip, making it ideal for stabbing. Stabbing wounds, especially when inflicted in the abdominal area, usually prove fatal. The sharpened blade also made it an excellent weapon for slashing and hacking. When combined with the scutum (large shield), the small sized gladius, created a lethal combination. The scutum provided defense (to block and parry attacks), freeing the gladius to stab and hack.

Roman infantry practiced in large phalanx type elements, but soldiers knew combat would soon degenerate into close quarter one-on-one combat. The gladius, an ideal stabbing and thrusting weapon, proved ideal for closed rank infantry fighting. The attacker usually led with a body-slam, using the shield to knock opponents off-balance. The attacker then followed up with quick thrusts to the abdominal area.

Despite minor changes, the gladius remained Rome’s primary weapon until the third century. Changes in tactics favored a more open quarters form of warfare, which rendered the gladius obsolete. By the 7th Century the longer spatha replaced the gladius as the primary European infantry weapon. The spatha evolved into the Viking long sword used until the 10th Century. The design again changed, eventually becoming the medieval sword associated with 10th and 11th Century knights.

Jan Petersen in De Norske Vikingsverd (“The Norwegian Viking Swords”, 1919)