Carter Rila's

Carter's Cutlery Commentaries

Dec 2005


USMC Hospital Corps Knife


The myth: "There is a big knife designated as a USMC Medical Corps bolo."

Hack writers persist in describing this and similar fantasies. Yes, there was a big knife issued by the Marine Corps during WW I and II originally designed for issue to field medics serving with the Marines. But that above is not its name.

The official designation of this item is the USMC Hospital Corps Knife. One, this knife is not a bolo functionally but a cleaver, so why call it a bolo. Second, there is no such organization as the Marine Corps Medical Corps. Medical personnel who serve in the field with the USMC are Naval persons detailed to the Marines.

The overall organization is the U.S. Navy Medical Department. Among its components are the Medical Corps, in which commissioned physicians serve, and the Hospital Corps, in which enlisted persons serve. Officers were not issued this knife so it cannot be a Medical Corps knife. Try scalpels!

The Hospital Corps knife was adopted in 1915 for issue by the USMC to Naval Hospital Corpsmen enlisted personnel serving as field first aid men with the Marines. It was then issued on a very limited basis until 1942 when it was produced in quantities sufficient to equip each squad with one for general use as an intrenching tool. Thus the large quantities remaining which were surplused circa 1960.


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