Carter Rila's

Carter's Cutlery Commentaries

May 2005

Military Myths and Misconceptions # 2

The Myth;
"Air Force issue little machetes are V-44 knives."

It is now known that the so-called "v-44" Survival Knife is not the Collins No. 18 pattern and its clones by Western, Kinfolks, Case, and various Australian makers. The designation "V-44" was the production control number assigned by Case to the Navy issue rigid machete-knife copied from the pattern of the Army Air Force folding machete. This is covered in detail in D.E. Henry's article in Knives 85.

The original AAF folding machete was included in, first, the B2 Jungle ESK (back type), and second, the B4 Universal ESK (seat type), of 1942 and 1943. Though the AAF folding machete proved in use to be a poor design, and later in 1947 was quite thoroughly redesigned, it had one virtue, it was short and compact and fit in the standard kits so thus was likely to be at hand when needed.

The Navy's first Emergency Back Pad Kit adopted in early 1943 had lacked any cutting tools at all. The redesigned kit manufactured under BuAer specification M-592 included a utility knife or machete based on the then current AAF pattern. But in line with what had been a Navy trait in other situations, the superfluous folding feature and the elaborate handle were eliminated and the design became a simple three piece one. Of course the original inefficient concave blade shape and poor balance remained.

The easiest way to trace the short career of the Navy machete-knife is to quote the various sources in which it does or does not appear.

Air Sea Rescue Bulletin, No. 3, Aug 1944

Original Back Pad Kit (Kidney Shaped)

Stock No.R83-K-520100

No specifications. Deliveries made under contract N2885-10807, dated 6 April 1943, for 20,000 units, (p 24)

(Note that there was not a machete-knife in this kit.)

Standard Back Pad Kit

Stock No.R83-K-520100

Specification M-592, Drawing No. 8802

Ordered under contract number:
N2885-23689. quantity 15,000, 
N2885-23690, quantity 30,000. (p 27)

(Thus there were a total of 45,000 of the utility knives made.)

U.S. Navy, Bureau of Aeronautics

Technical Order No. 9-45, Pararaft and Equipment Container " Case-Model A.

1. A study of survival reports and comments from service indicate that the present back pad kit. Stock Number R83-K-520100, NAVAER Specification M-592, is uncomfortable and places the pilot too far from the protective armor plate. In order to eliminate these conditions, BuAer has developed and initiated procurement of a case which will combine the contents of the backpack kit and the one-man parachute type life raft. Stock Number R83-R-15650, ANA specification AN-R-2. This container will be cataloged as CASE, Pararaft and Equipment Container, Model A, Stock Number R83-C-8670. (p 1)

6. Twenty thousand of these Model A Pararaft and Equipment Container Cases have been procured by BuAer under Contract N0a(s) 4932.It is expected that initial deliveries will commence about 10 January and will be completed by 15 February 1945.... (p 3)

Thus the short and useless career came to an end for this interim case did not provide room for the utility knife-machete.

As with so many things adopted in haste, the Navy machete-knife was obsolete within a one-year period from its adoption. It was not put into a limited standard status to be issued until exhausted, as were so many other items. As soon as its relative uselessness became apparent, out it went. Having had one of these since 1951 and carried it for Scouting use, I can testify that it is thoroughly outclassed by a good sheath knife for small work and a good hand ax for chopping. And as a machete it is too small and in fact is not functionally a machete at all! But it is useful for pruning small trees!

Due to its short service life, one might think the Navy machete-knives would be hard to find, but they were made in such relatively large quantities and the kits they were made to fit were obsoleted and broken up so quickly, that they are relatively easier to find than the M3 Trench Knives, which though made in millions, were made early in the war, thus were mostly all used up, and in most cases the survivors were souviniered and often still repose proudly in many a veteran's keepsakes. I hardly think that the Navy machete-knife will ever be so venerated and revered.

Here are some more relevant quotes.

Air-Sea Rescue Equipment Guide

Machete Stock Number R74-K-200

A jungle utility knife equipped with a 10 l/4 inch blade designed for general use is contained in each back pad kit. BuAer Drawing No. 8662. (p 7)

Nonfolding machete C.F.E. BuAer Dwg No. 8662 C.F.E (P 20)


US Navy Specification No. 76-43 12 Nov 43 
Fig 6 Machete


US Navy T.O. No. 9-45 13 Jan 45 
Standard kit Knife Utility BuAer Drawing 8662 (p 1)


Air-Sea Rescue Bulletin, No. 3, August 1944 
Machete: A jungle utility knife equipped with a 10 1/4" blade designed for general use is contained in each Back Pad Kit Drawing No. BuAer 8662. (p 6)

Non Folding Machete Stock No. C.F.E. Specification No. BuAer Drawing 8662 Class No. C.F.E. (p26)


Return to Carter's Index

Return to Main Index Page

Copyright 2005 Carter Rila