Article's Done for the O.K.C.A. in 1996
The need for a suitable knife to be used by the individual soldier in the field has long been recognized. This need for such a knife was not adequately met by the M7 bayonet. The bayonet is still retained in inventory as a standard item although itís tactical value is questionable and a formal bayonet training program no longer exists. The bayonet was retained only because of tradition and itís possible use in civil disturbance actions.
U.S. FIGHTING KNIVES OF
WORLD WAR II
PART III IN THE SERIES
Our third knife to be featured here is also the first fighting knife to be designed and made in the U.S. during W.W.II. As we learned during our last two articles, fighting knives were almost non-existent at the start of the war. This was quickly changed as the production might of the U.S. geared up for the long struggle. Several men in uniform had been trained and, at one time or another fought, with our Allied nations. Out of much of this came a deep respect for the Fairburn/Sykes style of fighting knife. The F/S design was known as a strict killing knife, it really had no utilitarian purposes as it was much too weak for any type of rough prying or such. It's main attributes were, light weight, low cost, ease of manufacture and deadly design. Our third knife was patterned after this. Enter the U.S.M.C. Raider Stiletto. The Marine Raiders were established in February 1942 in the Pacific to take the fight to the Japanese. These units were to be like the highly successful British Commandos in their tactics. Hit and run raids, that could be landed from submarines anywhere behind enemy lines. Their equipment would also have to be different from the usual Marine. Lightly armed for fast movement in and out was essential.
The Raider Stiletto was the first knife designed by a Marine Corps officer and officially issued to a Marine Corps unit in the history of the Marine Corps. The knife itself was designed by Lt. Col. Clifford H. Shuey in 1942. The Camillus Cutlery Company of Camillus N.Y. was the only manufacture of this knife. I have seen paperwork from 1943 were it was also mentioned that W.R.Case was approached, but no knives were made by them for unknown reasons. The total number of Stilettos made by Camillus was quite small, 5000 in the first production run and 9370 in the second and final run for a total of 14,370. Out of this total a small amount were finished in black Parkerizing for the Canadian Airborne. I have yet to find this production amount. Of the parkerized stilettos, two I have observed did have the U.S.M.C. scroll under the black which would lead me to believe that the knives were finished products that were later parkerized before shipment to Canada. Camillus did have two production numbers for the different styles. The official Camillus description for the bright version was #5677 L 99 While the parkerized version was the #5677 L 19. Both were described as"7" polished blade, zinc die cast handle with etching on blade" which further confirms my suspicions.
The Stiletto used a process of die casting a new aluminum zinc alloy for the handle. This new alloy allowed sharp casting edges, a much lower cost then the lathe turned handle and reduced the need for the strategic alloy brass used in the F/S handle. Unfortunately over the past 50 years many of these alloy handles have exhibited zinc ion leaching making the handles very fragile and susceptible to cracking. This coupled with the already low numbers produced make the Raider Stiletto one of the most collectable and expensive knives of World War II. Many Stiletto's have been observed with replacement guard sections and or piece's missing. This is a natural state and as time marches on we will lose all the Raider Stiletto's to this process. Hopefully someone can find a way to stop this leaching before too many are lost for all time.
The blade on the Raider Stiletto was stamped from a piece of sheet steel then finish machined to the familiar diamond cross section as opposed to the F/S being forged. This was essential to keeping the price low and to speed the manufacturing process, time was of the essence in these early days of the war. The blade is also slightly shorter and thinner than the F/S knife. This was at first believed to save money but looking back it was probably due to the material Camillus had on hand to start production immediately. Many of the Stiletto's found today have had the tip reground as they were very thin and prone to breakage from minimal use. On a mint example one of the first things to catch your eye is the etching on the blade. In the center of the blade in a swept scroll design was U.S.M.C. surrounded by 12 laurel leaves totaling 1 3/4" in length. On the shoulder up near the grip was the makers name Camillus Cutlery Co. / Camillus, N.Y. . This etching was very thin and shallow. Many of the Stilettos found today have had this etching "cleaned" or worn away over the years.
The sheath for the Stiletto was another first of its type. The design was copied for the later V-42 stiletto and the M3 fighting knife. It was a simple leather affair with metal hooks to fit into a cartridge belt and two slits in the back so it could also be used with a normal belt. The sheath had four distinctive styles in it's short Raider career. These are with and without metal staples at the throat and with and without metal plates on the tip. The staples or more accurately, clips for holding leather machinery drive belts together, were to prevent the sharp knife edges from slicing the throat of the sheath when the knife was withdrawn or replaced. The metal tip plates were to protect the wearer from accidental puncture if he were to fall on it when diving for cover. Different styles of rivets have been observed on many sheaths. At the bottom of the sheath a brass thong hole was provided with a leather thong as a leg tie down. This sheath was supplied by the Mosser Leather Company with the thong provided by the Williams Company.
This knife has been reproduced as a commemorative in the past few years as the original versions are extremely rare. Please be certain if you are to buy one that it really is what the seller states it is. Be wary of the mint piece that has no ion leaching. The Stiletto was also reproduced by Seabees and other engineer units during W.W.II. This would be a collectable item but it should be represented as such and priced as such. Most of these are easy to tell as the sand casted handle is a dead give away.
The Marine Raiders were disbanded before the end of World War II and most were reassigned to the 4th Marine Regiment. At that time the Ka-bar became the standard issue item. It's interesting to note that 14,370 Stiletto's were made and only approximately 6,000 men were ever Marine Raiders. There is no record I have found of this knife ever being issued to any other units. Where did they all go ?
U.S. FIGHTING KNIVES OF
WORLD WAR II
PART IV IN THE SERIES
In the spring of 1942 a memo was sent out to all American and Canadian troops for volunteers to take part in what would be called "The most unusual fighting force in World War II". What was most unusual about them was that they would be combined in the same unit! The mission stated that special equipment would be designed and issued to them on a top priority basis. As usual they were in need of a good fighting knife. This is where the fourth knife in our series begins, The Case V-42 Stiletto.
The Case V-42 Stiletto was first envisioned in a sketch by Col. Robert T. Frederick, Commanding Officer of the new unit, The First Special Service Force. Col. Frederick, later to become Major General Frederick, was quite an unusual fellow himself. He has had books written about him, has been portrayed in several movies and had been described by Churchill himself as " the greatest fighting general of all time. If we would have had more like him we would have smashed Hitler in 1942". Some of the "volunteers" sent by the Army were men who chose not to "conform" to military life. The recruiting policy in the movie "The Dirty Dozen" should give you an idea where Frederick "hand picked" some of the Force's finest men. Fredericks own bodyguard was on bread and water doing 30 years at hard labor when he was "liberated" to have one of the most hazardous jobs in Europe. The knife envisioned by Frederick was actually a collaboration among his staff of the perfect fighting knife. The close combat instructor of the Force was Pat O'Neill, a former Sergeant in the Shanghai Municipal Police Force who served with Fairbairn and Sykes, suggested the blade profile. Col. Orval J. Baldwin, Supply Officer of the Force is credited with the skull crusher pommel idea. This rough sketch was then sent to three knife companies for bids, Camillus, Cattaraugus and Case. The Case knife was personally selected by Col. Frederick himself, with some improvements on the prototypes they were then forwarded to the Ordnance Department for testing on a priority basis.
The first correspondence on these knives is dated August 1942. Official records from the National Archives show a Quartermaster form dated Nov. 27 1942 as a receiving date of the first batch of 1,750 "Knives, Fighting Commando Type V-42, including Leather Sheath". In a letter from Case in May of 1969 they stated that over 3600 V-42's were produced during the War. In my research I could only find documentation on 3,420 being received by the U.S. Services. The original 1,750 in Nov. 1942, 600 in June 1943, 100 in Oct. 1943, 900 in Nov.1943 and 70 sent to the Brooklyn N.Y. Navy Depot in Feb. 1942 for the total of 3.420. These 70 received by the Navy were the only knives sent to other than the First Special Service Force. This low number produced makes this the rarest "production" (they were all hand made at Case) knife issued to the U.S. Forces.
The blade on the F.S.S.F. Stiletto is 7 5/16" long, blued steel. On the ricasso is a unique "thumbprint" ground in for proper positioning on a thrust. This "thumbprint" was to orientate the blade so the soldier would hold the knife on edge allowing a thinner profile for thrusting between the ribs. The blade was hollow ground allowing for a much sharper edge. Some of these knives were repointed in the field as they were much too sharp and would easily pierce bone, making extraction very difficult. Many blades found today are assumed to be repointed due to a broken tip, this was not always the case. On the ricasso opposite the "thumbprint" CASE is deeply struck. The blade length and the number of grooves in the "thumbprint" are not always the same as these were all hand made and different craftsmen made the patterns slightly different.
The handle was made up of stacked leather washers tightly fitted over the tang and held in place by the pinned on "Skullcrusher" pommel. The leather then had fine serrations ground in using a gimping wheel (sort of a toothed grinding wheel) like that used to cut in the serrations on the blade. The leather washers themselves were about 1/8" thick, the first one against the guard being left full size to act as a cushion during a hard thrust. On the prototypes this had been a thick fiber spacer, but was quickly broken during testing. The cross guard was 2 11/16" long and also blued. The pointed "Skullcrusher" pommel was pinned through the tang and blued. This point was somewhat of a nuisance to many wearers. Clothing was constantly ripped and severe cuts were not uncommon around the rib area. A prototype sheath was tried with a full protective flap covering the pommel but the idea was soon disbanded as it made the knife too slow to draw in an emergency. The most common field modification was to round off the point with a file. The finished overall length of the knife was 12 9/16". It is called by many the most beautiful looking knife produced during W.W.II.
The sheath was in the style of the earlier Camillus Raider Stiletto but much longer. The overall length of the sheath was 20". It is interesting to note that the original mission for the F.S.S.F. was behind the lines in winter warfare. The sheath was made extra long to aid in finding the knife when wearing a heavy winter parka. These sheaths were sewn and had 14 rivets much like the Raider sheath and also had the metal thong eyelet with leather thong to act as a tie down to keep the sheath from flopping around on the wearer. The mouth had eight metal conveyor belt joiners, often called staples, to prevent cutting during inserting or removing the knife. Many of the "Forceman", as they called themselves, had a distinctive way of wearing their knives. Simply wrap the long belt attachment part of the sheath around the belt and use a leather thong to tie it off. This way the sheath resembled a normal length. Many of them tucked this arrangement behind their .45 holster so either could be drawn by the strong hand. It also took up less space on an already overloaded pistol belt. Of the 70 knives delivered to the Navy all were sent with the Raider style short sheath. These sheaths were marked U.S.S. OMAHA and serial numbered. They were for the members of the Ships Landing Force. These knives were issued while off the coast of Florida in 1943. Later in the War the U.S.S. OMAHA stamping was defaced to prevent identification in case they fell into enemy hands. Later in 1945 these knives were ordered to be thrown overboard in Philadelphia Harbor, by some strange miracle some survived and are highly coveted collector items today.
The V-42 lives on to this day, in the U.S. Special Operations community it is the symbol of many great achievements. The U.S. Special Forces use the V-42 in their Distinctive Insignia, their Unit Crest and in their shoulder patch. The White Star Training Teams in Laos used the V-42 in their Beret patches. Operational Detachment Delta in Vietnam had many pocket patches made using the V-42 as a central character. The 7th Special Forces Group in El Salvador used the V-42 in their unofficial pocket patches. This is just to name a few of the patches and crests that use this knife as their symbol of courage. In 1989 the United States Army Special Operations Command was activated at Ft Bragg N.C. Their shoulder insignia is a red arrowhead with the Case V-42 as it's only feature. The V-42 has become a symbol of the elite in the U.S. Military. Quite an accomplishment for a knife.
U.S. FIGHTING KNIVES OF
WORLD WAR II
PART V IN THE SERIES
The knife we will discuss in this part is the knife that started it all for me. This is the knife my father, like many others, brought home from World War II. This is also the hardest article I have ever written as I have hundreds of pages of information on this particular style of knife and trying to put that into one story....... Well on with the show.
The year is 1942, the fighting on a tiny island in the Pacific named Guadalcanal is the fiercest yet encountered. While the Marines are slugging it out, often hand to hand, the subject of a fighting knife is again brought to the forefront. At this time the only general issue edged weapon is the bayonet. Enter Colonel John M. Davis and Major Howard E. America. These two officers were given the task of designing a knife that would "fill all the demands that could be made upon it, while standardizing a common knife for the Navy and the Marine Corps". A pretty tall order considering the knife was needed right now ! So with this order in hand the two met with various leading knife manufacturers to decide on a plan of action. With the need being immediate it was apparent to all that the knife would have to closely resemble what was being produced at the time, i.e. leather handle, carbon steel blade, leather scabbard etc.. The design settled on was the Marbles Ideal blade pattern made in a 7 1/2 " blade with a flat pommel so it could be used for pounding in tent pegs or other utility chores. The companies chosen for this project were Boker, Camillus, Case, Pal, Robeson, and Union Cutlery. Prototypes were quickly made and issued to some officers and men returning from Guadalcanal for evaluation. The knives were universally accepted by all using them and gained a quick approval in November 1942. Contracts were quickly given to Boker, Camillus, Pal, Robeson, and Union for 1,200,000 knives, Case was left off due to other production commitments for the military. The knife was officially called the Mark II by the Navy and the U.S.M.C. Fighting / Utility knife by the Marine Corps. The original contract stated that the makers name, address and branch of service be stamped into the blade. The government changed this in 1944 for ease of manufacture and stocking as both knives were identical. The contracts given are listed below.
1942-3 Boker 0 50,000
Camillus 150,000 331,600
Pal 100,000 75,000
Robeson 10,000 90,000
Union 350,000 60,000
1944 Camillus 150,000
1945 Camillus 175,000
For unknown reasons Boker never produced any Mark II's.
The above list is only a list of contracts given as I have not been able to find any valid production figures or numbers received by the government. I do know that production was halted on the 1945 contract at around 67,000 knives. Allowing for Boker not making any and the production halt in 1945, that gives us 1,533,600 produced in 2 1/2 years. In Cole's Book III he states in a letter from Kabar that they produced around 1,000,000 of these knives. If anyone has any information on production figures I would surely appreciate knowing. Several searches from the National Archives and other sources have produced only contract information.
The knives themselves were produced in many variations, (enough to keep me busy looking for many years) and markings. The major design difference is in the pommel attaching method. The first design as Cole refers to as Type 1 is a thick pommel attached to a threaded tang. The makers used different variations on this theme but none were actually strong enough to do the job. Camillus came up with a simple fix which not only made the knife stronger, it also helped to speed up production. The tank was left rectangular and the pommel was attached by a pin driven through both to hold everything in place. All manufacturers eventually switched to this design at some stage in production. This is referred to as the Type II design. Many different blade stampings were used during production owing more to worn out dies then to production changes. I mid 1944 reports from the field showed blades failing at the handle blade junction and it was thought to be from the stamping on the blade. This was quickly overcome by stamping the knives on the guard and not the blade. (This was later proven false in the post war years and blade stamping resumed.) All the knives had a 7" blade, full steel cross guard, stacked leather washer handles with 5 grooves cut into them and a steel pommel. The early blades from Robeson and Union were deeply blued. All others were parkerized. Pal did produce some knives with smooth handles and aluminum pommels, these are thought to be made up of spare parts at the factory when supplies were short. Handle differences can also be found in placement of thick and thin fiber washers at the guard and pommel ends.
The scabbard for these knives were first made out of leather, stitched and riveted or stapled at various places. These were soon found out to be much too weak for the repeated soakings in saltwater and the humid jungle environment. The first scabbards were produced by A.L.Siegel Co. and the Boyt Harness Co. Boyt was the only manufacturer to stamp their name and date with branch of service in the sheath. The second design was made of hard plastic and heavy canvas duck. These were made by Beckwith Mfg. Co.. This second design was much desired over the earlier leather affair by the men. It's only draw back was it made noise when it struck something hard and could give your position away. These scabbards were still in demand even during the Vietnam period. The leather issued then was treated to resist jungle rot but the plastic scabbard gripped the blade tight and could be worn upside down on the harness.
The marines issued these knives quickly took great affection to them. The term kabar became synonymous with this design regardless of who produced it. Kinda like the word band aid, it doesn't matter who made it, when your cut, you just want one. The name stuck as even today if you refer to a kabar the design is immediately thought of. This design also has the distinct privilege of being the longest "standardized" issue knife in our military history. In the post war years this knife was made by several other companies. First "standardized on January 27, 1943 it is still in the ranks today. Fifty three years old and still going strong. Now that's one hell of a knife.
U.S. FIGHTING KNIVES OF
WORLD WAR II
PART VI IN THE SERIES
In this our sixth episode we will examine a knife that was issued exclusively for clandestine purposes. The O.S.S. Stiletto, perhaps the most secret fighting knife in the U.S. inventory, has little known and much less written about it. The organization responsible for the production and issue of this knife was the Office of Strategic Services, better known as the OSS. First a little background should be discussed.
The National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) was formed by Executive Order of the President in 1940 as events clearly demonstrated the seriousness of changing world situations. The members of the NDRC were instructed to supplement the work of the Army and Navy "in the development of the instruments of war". As the war in Europe marched on the NDRC realized that their British counterparts had extensive knowledge in exotic weaponry. In 1941 President Roosevelt sent the founder of the NDRC to England to establish an NDRC office and to start an exchange of technical information. This relationship was to grow and prosper during the entire war. The British supplied to us the research and experience in exchange for our industrial might of production and supply.
When the United States entered World War II President Roosevelt turned to an old friend, William J. Donovan and asked him to establish an intelligence agency. Donovan, a certified hero, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War I was a lawyer by trade. Donovan was also a master of achieving his goals by any means necessary. In June of 1942 the O.S.S. was established as an operating agency of the U.S. Government. The Research and Development arm of the O.S.S. was linked to the NDRC for strategic development of special weapons. Due to the prominent background of the British experts it is not hard to imagine where the design of the O.S.S. Stiletto came from.
The O.S.S. Stiletto is thought to have been made by Landers, Frary & Clark of New Britain Conn. As many of the O.S.S. records are still restricted to public access and small front company names were used it is almost impossible to research this knife through the normal channels. The most telling features that attribute this knife to L.F.& C. are not found on the knife itself. It is the sheath that gives us the best clues. L.F.& C. was a well known and respected maker of cutlery and kitchen utensils, one of these was the pancake spatula or commonly referred to as a flapper. The sheath uses a belt hanger made from one of these flappers. It is interesting to note that L.F.& C. continued to make pancake flappers during and after the war using these same dies. The dies were eventually sold to a firm named EKCO who continued to make flappers with them for some time. The leather portion of the sheath was made by Smith Worthington. Both the frog and tip chape were painted olive green and the familiar leather retaining strap was replaced by a rubber o-ring.
For many years this knife was thought to have been made in England but there are some subtle differences in the Fairbairn / Sykes knives. The checkering on the handle of the O.S.S. Stiletto extends all the way to the cross guard and is approximately 1/4" shorter. No English patterns of this style exist. The blade is smaller in all dimensions and does not exhibit the familiar "diamond " flat on the spine of the blade. This distinctive flattened triangle where the tang enters the cross guard, is attributed to a clamp used to hold the blade while the knife was being made. Others attribute it to clamping the blade in a vise while installing the handle. Either way the O.S.S. Stiletto does not have this "diamond" as do the English made knives of it*s period. The knife itself is completely parkerized as is befitting a clandestine piece. The blade is 6 & 13/16" in length and the overall length is 11 & 1/4". It is completely sterile of any markings. Overall fit and finish are exceptional for a knife of this period. Perhaps it is best described in the O.S.S. Special Weapons, Devices and Equipment manual issued during the War, often referred to as the spy*s "Sears Catalog". The following is an excerpt of that one time "Restricted" manual:
"DESCRIPTION: The high grade steel blade is diamond shaped in cross section from the hilt to the point. The hilt, handle and knob are made of three separate pieces of brass which are assembled securely onto the blade. The knife is carried in a special scabbard designed so that it may be worn high or low on the belt. By using one upper and one lower slot the scabbard may be angled into any position, fitted snugly to any part of the body, with ready access to either hand.
PURPOSE: The fighting knife is a close combat weapon, excellent for stealthy attack, but is not designed for all purpose use. It may supplement firearms or be used by the operator as his sole means of defense or offense. The knife is double edged and may be used for either penetration or cutting. Length of knife only 11&1/4", weight of knife only 7 oz., length in scabbard 12&3/8", weight in scabbard 10&1/2 oz. packed 6 to a carton, weight of a carton 4 lbs. 10 oz. 32 cartons to a case, the shipping weight is 150 lbs. cubage 4.5 cu. ft."
It*s rather funny thinking back about the pancake spatula, how commercialism or a "sales pitch" was thrown in about the "special scabbard design" .
The number of knives made is often quoted at 5,000. This would certainly make it one of the rarest fighting knives of World War II. However as is often the case it is still an unknown figure. The stiletto was used in both the Asian and European theaters by the O.S.S. The primary use of this weapon was while in uniform not as an undercover backup. Many other smaller weapons were available for that purpose. Many of these knives have shown up recently in mint condition. Some sources say there are still O.S.S. Stilettos in the C.I.A.'s inventory. Many were found during the Bay of Pigs invasion into Cuba, further leading to the C.I.A. inventory story.
This knife was also recently used as the model for the new "wings" issued to the Special Operations Command, Mobile Free Fall parachutists. Used to signify the O.S.S.'s clandestine and heroic background during World War II, these wings are worn proudly by the men who may someday find themselves behind enemy lines clutching their generations special purpose knife. Let's hope it's as good as the O.S.S. Stiletto.
U.S. FIGHTING KNIVES OF
WORLD WAR II
PART VII IN THE SERIESFighting knives were becoming much more common on the front lines as 1943 rolled around. The demand was heard and being met by Americans all over. Donating their hunting knives in droves during the many war drives of the time. Production was up in all the major factories producing quality hunting knives. The fact was the U.S. Army still did not have a standardized fighting knife at the time. But by now the plans were in the place for a new knife.
The M3 Trench Knife. Before determining to adopt the M3 trench knife serious consideration had been given to the knife already in use by the Marine Corps, the U.S.M.C. Fighting / Utility knife. The first factor to consider was in the steel available to produce each knife. The steel was located for both types of knife so that would be of little consequence. The hand was finally tipped in favor of the M3 by the ease of manufacture of the blade. A quick check in Field Services Stores on available 1918 MK-1 trench knives (as we learned in an earlier story the 1918 MK-1 trench knife of World War I fame had been reinstated into service) in January 1943 revealed that the supplies would be exhausted by February 1, 1943. The stage was now set as the Small War Plants Corporation Board had already taken the steps to start production on the official acceptance of the M3. Pal Blade Co. and Utica Cutlery Co. were chosen to start the production in March of 1943. Bayonet production at these two plants was being curtailed so they would have the capacity to begin turning out M3's immediately. After which Camillus Cutlery Co., Imperial Knife Co., Kinfolks Ind., W.R.Case & Sons Co., Aerial Cutlery Mfg., Robeson Shuredge Co, and H.Boker and Sons would all be integrated into production. Production during March 1943 amounted to 3,005 knives. A slow but sure start. The production quantity continued to rise, to a high in November 1943 of 237,525 M3's made. With the M3 trench knife being placed on the "critical item" list in July 1943, every effort was made to have the production facilities meet their schedules and permission was given if they could exceed that number. The total production of M3's from March 1943 until the production came to an end in August 1944 was an amazing 2,590,247 knives. That's two and a half million in 17 months.
The M3 was intended to be issued to any soldier who was not equipped with a bayonet. This included soldiers issued a pistol, submachine gun, BAR, M1 Carbine, and light and heavy machine guns. The intent behind this was to give these soldiers their own edged weapon for fighting. The priority scale was given to fighting units including the Airborne, Rangers, Mountain and Glider infantry troops. After these requirements were met the Army Air Corps were then armed with M3's.
The knife itself was a rather simple affair. Production again was designed around what was the common technique of the day. Carbon steel blade, leather stacked washer handle and flat steel pommel. Finishes were both blued and parkerized with one manufacturer (Case) having both finishes present on the same knife. Blade length was 6 & 3/4" with the handle coming in at 4 & 3/4". Overall length was 11 & 1/2". The handle on the M3 was to have 8 grooves cut into it but many companies choose to ignore this policy. Versions appear with 5, 6, 7 and 8 grooves, some makers started out with 8 and switched to 6 apparently for ease of manufacture. While some have been observed without any grooves cut in, Case made some with as many as 20 grooves. Plastic spacers are another variation in the handle. Used only by Imperial they are both brown and red in color. Blade markings are where the collectors dreams (or nightmares) come into play in a major scale. As very good production records were kept it is easy to tell which makers produced the fewest and therefore the rarest M3's The Blade Marked and 1943 Dated knives always command the highest prices in any variation. The production order is as follows, Blade Marked and Dated, Blade Marked, And finally Guard Marked. Many variations (around 50) of this knife have been observed. It is indeed the lucky and shrewd collector who can claim he has them all. Production figures are as follows:
H. Boker and Sons. 31,300
Robeson Shuredge 36,575
Aerial Cutlery Mfg. 51,784
Pal Blade Co. 121,131
Kinfolks Ind. 135,548
W.R.Case & Sons 300,465
Camillus Cutlery Co. 402,909
Utica Cutlery Co. 656,520
Imperial Knife Co. 854,015
Total Production 2,590,247
Prices on these knives continues to climb far in excess to the amount produced. This can naturally be attributed to the U.S. policy of giving these knives to our Allies in their times of need. The South Koreans and the South Vietnamese were both on the receiving end of large batches of M3 trench knives. Also because of the "substitute standard" rating given these knives in 1944 they were retained in Government arsenal storage and not sold for scrap after their time was up. This adds up to very few of the 2.5 million knives ever hitting the collector market. I can't say I remember when M3's were cheap and plentiful like almost every other military surplus knife. It's enough to bring tears to your eyes when you think about a mint version going for around $750.00 while the Army paid about a buck and a half for it brand new. After the war was over many M3's were returned to U.S. Arsenals for minor rework and storage. If the knife showed any signs of rust on the pommel or guard they were wire wheeled and treated to a coat of flat black paint. This was the authorized refinish, so if your knife has been treated to a fresh coat of paint chances are good it was an arsenal reworked M3. The M3 unlike it's brother the M4 was not given a major overhaul after the war. It was classified as "substitute standard", meaning it was an allowable substitute if the M4 was not available.
The scabbards issued with the M3's also had many variations. The first were the M6 leather scabbards, much the same as the earlier U.S.M.C. Raider scabbard it is were the design came from. Six manufacturers were selected to provide them. Viner Bros Shoe Co., Moose River Shoe Co., Lyon and Coulson, Service Boot and Leggins Co. Inc., Milwaukee Saddlery Co., and Barwood Manufacturing Co.. Production from March 1943 until November 1943 when the contracts were terminated totaled 300,701. At this time production was switched to the new plastic scabbard made by Beckwith Manufacturing Co.. They would produce over 2,500,000 M8 and M8A1 scabbards by wars end.
During it's short but illustrious career it became the favorite of every G.I. as the demand far exceeded the supply for most of the war.
The Vietnam Tomahawk
In the interest of "anything that goes cut", I thought it would be appropriate to stray a little from the military knife for a moment. In this issue we will talk about one of the rarest edged weapons of the Vietnam War. The Vietnam Tomahawk. While the Vietnam era was known for many rare and unusual edged weapons, the tomahawk is not usually one of them. Well we're about to change some of that.
The Vietnam Tomahawk was created for one purpose, close in fighting with the enemy. This 'hawk was never meant to cut wood. It started in the winter of 1965 when an active duty native of Ebensburg Pa., Sergeant Robert H. Fennell, submitted a letter to the Army Incentive Awards Board about a "new" weapon he had been training with. Peter LaGana (the designer of the Vietnam Tomahawk) received a letter from the Army requesting his appearance at the Pentagon with a tomahawk. He was politely denied but otherwise only thought of this as a minor setback. Finally in April of 1966 LaGana arranged to have his special tomahawk made for private issue if need be. Now that they were in production he sent several off to the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center in Ft. Bragg N.C. They were received in September 1966 by Col. A.E. Milloy and forwarded to the Combat Developments Command Special Warfare Agency. No more was heard from the Green Berets. At around this same time the U.S. Marine Corps responded with a letter wanting to know more about these tomahawks. LaGana being an Ex-Marine was thrilled. On October 3rd 1966 Peter put on a demonstration at the Landing Force Development Center at Quantico Va. for the Marine Corps. When he was finished every Marine who witnessed the event bought a tomahawk, 18 in all. Unfortunately this too failed as the Marine Corps also rejected the tomahawk for an issue weapon. One thing this demonstration did bring was National press. Orders began flowing in for the new tomahawk from service personal stationed everywhere, especially Vietnam.
Each LaGana tomahawk was sent with it's own carrying case. The head was made from 1060 drop forged steel and oil quenched. The standard handle was hickory but a fiberglass one could be substituted in it's place. It was later found out the fiberglass handles did not hold up as well. (Most tomahawks were thrown at targets for fun and practice, which caused the handle failures.) The first 500 tomahawks made were left natural and had a light tan to blonde carrying case. Later these features were changed to the tomahawk being painted an olive drab with the case being made in ox-blood for better camouflage in the jungle. They retailed for $9.75. LaGana's advertising was done through Leatherneck magazine which accounted for the bulk of his sales. Throughout the war 3,800 tomahawks were made by the American Tomahawk Company of Ebensburg Pa. making this one of the rarest edged weapons of the period. What's funny about most of this collector thing is that today tomahawks are seen without the carrying case's most of the time. Either they did not stand up to the conditions of Vietnam or they were discarded in favor of sticking the 'hawk through ones belt for easy access. Believe it or not the case is much rarer then the tomahawk! As the war came to a close the production of the Vietnam Tomahawk also came to an end. LaGana refused to make or sell his patent's to anyone wanting to put this piece back into production. He said that these tomahawks were made for the fighting men in Vietnam and that's the end of it!
One unfortunate mishap did occur that would forever ingrain the tomahawk into the minds of that generation though. A field commander with the 82nd Airborne offered a bounty to his men as a way to improve his "body count". A picture was taken of the troopers returning from a patrol with some tomahawks in view along with a couple of Viet Cong heads for proof of the "body count". A letter was issued as a result of the uproar from home that stated any and all tomahawks were outlawed and would be confiscated if seen. Luckily this was the only outfit to press this issue.
The Vietnam Tomahawk went on to become the best friend of many, as the many letters that LaGana received would clearly attest to.
THE JET PILOT'S SURVIVAL KNIFE
The Jet Pilot's Survival knife was developed in 1957 by the Marbles Arms Corporation in cooperation with the navy weapons bureau. It closely followed the "Ideal" model blade profile marbles then sold. The specifications supplied by the Navy were very exact and tough. The knife had to cut through dense underbrush, be able to drive a nail through a 2" board and saw through an airplane or helicopter fuselage. The latter one presented the biggest challenge. The first step was to produce saw teeth capable of cutting aluminum on a production piece. The blade size selected was a 6" model. By trial and error the saw teeth were selected and standardized on. The guard was made oversize to help in the extraction of the knife once stuck through the aluminum to establish a hole and too aid in the sawing process. The first knives made by marbles for issue were all steel including the blade , pommel and guard. All the pieces were deeply blued. The handles were made up of stacked leather washers compressed by the screw on pommel. These knives were supplied in a leather sheath with a sharpening stone in a pocket sewn on the front. Unfortunately the Marbles made pieces were very expensive to make and they lost the navy contract.
Enter Camillus Cutlery Company who was awarded the Navy contract. The Camillus knife, while not as handsomely finished, was just as serviceable. Their first generation knife very closely resembled the Marbles product except all the steel parts were parkerized. Camillus thought the screw on pommel was too much trouble and held the price up by adding extra machining to the manufacture. The solution was to peen the pommel in place, there by eliminating the expensive thread cutting process. The early Camillus screw on pommels are eagerly sought out by collectors as very few were made. This knife was also supplied with a leather sheath with stone pocket on front, but the belt loops were merely cut out as opposed to the early Marbles full belt loop. These knives were produced for approximately 5 years like this before the next change took place.
The year was 1962, and due too overwhelming complaints by pilots who kept jabbing their selves in the ribs, the blade length was shortened to 5 inches. The sheath also took on a redesign, so as to avoid the rib poking problem, the back of the sheaths were lined with aluminum. Also available for the first time was a sheath without belt loops. Most pilots did not were survival belts but survival vests. This new sheath was produced with a series of perforations around the edge so the sheath could be sewn into the survival vest in any position the pilot preferred. These sheaths also eliminated the stone pocket. A very thin piece of woven nylon cord was provided with the sheath to tie the knife to it and act as a lanyard to prevent loss. A pretty well thought out system.
With America's growing involvement in Vietnam, another manufacturer was awarded a contract on these knives. Milpar was a small military contractor producing knives for the government. They produced the M5, M6, and M7 series of bayonets. It is not known exactly how many were produced by Milpar but the number seems to be low judging by how many show up for sale now. Very few. Milpar also experimented with an aluminum handled version of this knife. It is thought to be the rarest of all jet pilot knives and brings high dollars when one is found for sale. Up until this point all the knives were blade stamped by the manufacturer.
The third generation of knives are the ones we know today. Manufacturer stamped and dated on the pommel flat. This change took place at the beginning of 1967, as some knives can be found blade stamped and also pommel stamped and dated 1-67. Some what of an oddity but why throw away those blades already made. During this time period Utica Cutlery Co. also won a contract to supply Jet Pilot knives. They were unique as they didn't have a date stamp on the pommel. This contract was apparently very short lived and very few Utica Jet Pilots survive today. Out of the short bladed Jet Pilots issue knives they are the rarest. Late in the Vietnam War yet another manufacturer was awarded a contract on Jet Pilot knives, Ontario. Ontario like Camillus is still making these knives today. Unchanged since 1967 and still a big seller quite an accomplishment.
The Jet Pilot knife certainly doesnít hold the mystique of a Marine Raider Stiletto or a First Special Service Force dagger but it won't set you back in the pocket book nearly as much either. It's an excellent place to start a military knife collection in. They are mostly plentiful, very few in types so they don't take up much room and are above all reasonably priced right now. So what are you waiting for ? Go to it !
THE SEARCH FOR THE INSIGNIA DAGGER
While looking through my insignia collection, I ran across the thought that a very high number of them depicted a knife as the central character or at least in some way used a knife to bring their message across. In most of the insignia in my collection (Special Operations Forces) it almost always seemed to be of the dagger or stiletto blade profile. Yet there was something wrong or missing and I couldn't figure out what it was. Then it came to me, what knife was it a picture of ? As I leafed through my books and my insignia it became clear. There are two different knives in the insignia. The two are commonly used and often interchanged in the same unit, company, branch, etc.. What knife was it really supposed to be ?
The first place I started was in the official lineage area. The U.S. Army Special Forces can trace their lineage back to the First Special Service Force of World War II fame. So there was my answer it had to be the F.S.S.F. dagger. Made by Case during WW II, it was personally tested and selected by General Robert T. Frederick himself, from among three knife designs submitted. That was too easy, could it be just an artist's mistake in the other designs.
The second stop was in unofficial unit histories, photos and first person books. It seems that the WW II era Rangers were trained in the art of hand to hand combat in England. Lo and behold they were using the Fairbairn - Sykes dagger, as their primary weapon and were also issued these knives upon their graduation. The F/S dagger was invented by and named after Captains William E. Fairbairn and Eric A. Sykes. Both, previously stationed with the Shanghai Municipal Police, were recalled to active duty to train the new British fighting force, the Commandos. The first knives produced were made by Wilkinson Sword Company in England. Issued to the Rangers, this knife fought it's way across Europe in American hands. But, this was a British knife and it couldnít be the basis for all those other American insignia could it ?
My search was taking a strange twist and leaving me with a lot of unanswered questions. I found that the Office of Strategic Services of WW II fame, shared a large part in the unofficial lineage of Special Forces and that they used yet another knife. The O.S.S.. dagger is based on the F/S dagger but it was made by an American company by the name of Landers, Frary & Clark.. They were said to have produced 5000 unmarked daggers for the O.S.S. during WW II. This was a knife that saw action in every theater. It was easily distinguished by it's pancake flipper sheath. You see before the war L F. & C. made pancake flippers and the dies they had seemed to make a good fit as a belt loop to hang the sheath from. Many early Special Forces soldiers served with the O.S.S. during WW II and it was a natural that this knife should be used. Quite confusing so far, no.
Well my search finally brought me to the first person account. Asking those who knew about insignia, who designed insignia and who approved insignia. It seems that all three knives above are correct. There isn't any granddaddy knife that they all follow up on. The F.S.S.F. dagger is correct as is the British Fairbairn - Sykes as is the L.F.&C., O.S.S.. dagger. I know, you're really confused now, but it's true, the correct knife is really in the eyes and hands of the beholder. Officially the F.S.S.F. knife is correct in lineage and it is quite distinguishable in the S.F. D.U.I. and in their crest. Unofficially but equally championed is the British F.-S. Dagger, for late in WW II the F.S.S.F. and Rangers were merged and many early S.F. troopers had a proud past in the Rangers. That leaves the O.S.S. dagger. The original concept of S.F.. was to mirror that groups task of behind the lines harassment. Some of the founding fathers of S.F. were of an O.S.S. background and their knife being American made was a natural choice.
The debate rages on as to the official background of Special Forces in the United States Army. So we can expect to see more insignia featuring a knife as a part of them. All we can hope for as collectors is to document which knife is being used. As is the case with some of the newer insignia, such as the U.S.A.S.O.C. red arrowhead, the intended knife is the O.S.S. dagger. Also the newest addition, the Military Freefall Wings prominently display the O.S.S. dagger.
I hope this serves to clear up some of the confusion associated with knives in insignia, and also helps in the future designs, to document which knives are being used. Official or unofficial they each have their own unique past, worn as a badge of honor, in tribute to the courage of the men who used these silent weapons.
As you can see the above is subject to conjecture and opinions. I ask that anyone with any information on this subject please write it down and submit it. This is the only way we have of collecting this information and as time goes by it will all be lost.
THE PRODUCT IMPROVED BAYONET TEST
Does all this sound familiar ? Itís not whatís said, but just how itís said. Letís go back to the Product Improvement test, the one designed to replace the M7 bayonet.
In January of 1977 the U.S.Army Armament Command (USAARMCOM) fabricated 40 prototype, product improved (P.I.) knife / bayonets for a test. This test was conducted at Fort Benning Ga. on 12 January 1977 thru 31 January 1977 by a class of Ranger students. The following is what transpired.
The P.I. knife / bayonet prototypes, two types, are approximately 12 inches overall. Blade length is about 7 inches and width is 1 & 1/4 inches. The serrations on the non-cutting edge are about 2 & 1/2 inches long and 1/16 inch deep. The two types differ only in the orientation of the blade, i.e.., the cutting edge down vs. the cutting edge up. The blades were stamped "CAMILLUS, N.Y." on the reverse, and "U.S.N. Mark 2" on the obverse. Some were lacking the "Mark 2" stamp. The handle was made from the same high impact plastic as the M7, while the bayonet lock and muzzle ring were taken directly off old M7 bayonets. The U.S.N. MK 2 scabbard was used as a carrier, but, was not a test item. (What a shame for itís a much better item than the leather sheath common to that style knife.)
The M7 bayonet was used as the control item. It has an approximate length of 12 inches. The blade length is about 6 & 3/4 inches and the width is 7/8 of an inch.
The object of this test was to provide data on the comparative user acceptance of the P.I. knife / bayonet as a replacement for the M7 bayonet. Also to provide data on the effectiveness of the serrations on the P.I. knife / bayonet prototypes in cutting Plexiglas, aluminum, soft wood and common natural camouflage materials, i.e.. brush, small branches, etc..
To insure that an adequate number of test and control items were on hand and that they were in serviceable condition, the 40 P.I. knife / bayonets were first numbered 1 thru 40. The P.I. knife / bayonets with the cutting edge down were marked as items 1 thru 20, while the cutting edge up pieces were marked 21 thru 40. Finally the M7 control bayonets were marked 41 thru 60. All the items were marked on the heel of the handle and on the attaching ring side of the guard facing the handle. Fifteen P.I. knife / bayonets of each design and 15 M7 bayonets were issued to 45 randomly selected Ranger students undergoing Ranger training at Fort Benning. For test purposes the students were considered as three groups of 15 each with each group using a different item. These items were used for a period of three weeks on a non interference basis and were rotated among the groups so that at the end of the test period each student had used each type item once. P.I. knife / bayonets broken or damaged were withdrawn from the test and replaced by like items.
A questionnaire was administered to the students at the conclusion of each rotation to obtain their opinions and observations concerning the test or control item used. Follow-up interviews were used to amplify and clarify test soldier responses and to obtain specific information concerning tasks in which the items were used and if any difficulties were encountered. At the end of the third week of testing, the remaining test soldiers were individually interviewed to determine their overall preference concerning the test and control items. This would cover the acceptance portion of the test leaving the effectiveness of the serrations next.
Timed trails for each prototype were conducted by test soldiers using the serrated edge to cut Plexiglas and aluminum. The Plexiglas was of acrylic plastic, 1/16 of an inch thick, the same as that found on the UH-1 helicopter doors. The aluminum was 1/32 of an inch thick, the same as that used for the skin of that aircraft. A test officer also attempted to cut through the aluminum using the cutting edge of the P.I. knife / bayonet and the M7 bayonet. Next timed trials were conducted while cutting a rough pine board. And finally trials were conducted to subjectively compare the effectiveness of the serrated edge of the test item as opposed to the sharp edge of both the test and control items for cutting natural materials for camouflage of foxholes and other uses.
The last portion of the test was to attach the P.I. knife / bayonet to an M16A1 to insure compatibility. Three P.I. knife / bayonets with the cutting edge up and two with the cutting edge down were used for actual testing.
The results are as follows. The soldiers found that cutting aluminum and Plexiglas with the serrated edge of the P.I. knife / bayonet was difficult. Cutting by pulling, as the serrations were designed to do, was impossible as the serrations would jam or hang-up. Both were cut by push friction or filing on the materials being cut. As the materials were cut, the serrations wore down and lost their sharpness. This was particularly noticeable cutting aluminum. The extended guard ring on the cutting edge down P.I. knife / bayonet did not interfere with cutting except as dictated by the angle. The test officer experienced extreme difficulty in cutting aluminum with the sharp edge of both the P.I. knife / bayonet and the M7 bayonet. The P.I. knife / bayonets cutting edge was severely dented and dulled, while the M7 bayonets cutting edge was undamaged. Both lost their original finish. The soldiers also had difficulty cutting the 2 X 4 pine boards as the serrations filled with material and had to be tapped frequently to clean the teeth. The results seemed to be more of wearing than sawing. It took approximately 3 minutes to saw half an inch into a green limb 2 inches in diameter. Two strokes of the cutting edge of the P.I. knife / bayonet and four strokes of the M7 bayonet cut through the same size branch. the use of the serration to cut bushes, brush, tree bark or rotted branches was ineffective.
Two of the three P.I. knife / bayonets with the cutting edge up locked onto the M16A1 rifle. The latching device appeared to be slightly miss-aligned on the third. Both P.I. knife / bayonets with the cutting edge down locked on with no problems. no problems were encountered with the M7 control items.
The analysis is as follows :
The serrations on the blade of the P.I. knife/ bayonet are unsatisfactory for cutting aluminum, Plexiglas, camouflage material and softwood. This is a deficiency. When the P.I. knife / bayonets were used to cut relatively hard materials such as aluminum, nicks on the cutting edge and the wear on the serrations showed that the steel used in the manufacturing of these prototypes was not sufficiently durable. Possibly the heat treating of the steel could be at fault. The sharp edges of the P.I. knife / bayonet prototypes were substantially more effective than the serrated edges at cutting all camouflage materials. The P.I. knife / bayonet can be attached to and from the M16A1 rifle with little or no problems providing all attachments are aligned.
After three weeks of testing by the Ranger students 14 of the 40 P.I. knife bayonets were broken and 2 were damaged. None of the 20 M7 bayonets were broken or damaged. The plastic handles of the P.I. knife / bayonets were susceptible to cracking due to the way in which they were mounted. The students preferred the M7 bayonet over the P.I. knife / bayonet due to itís lack of durability. The P.I. knife / bayonet was regarded as a better field knife design and would be the preferred choice if strengthened. Of the two designís submitted the studentís preferred the cutting edge down. This was not due to any specific reason just personal choice. All of the P.I. knife / bayonets showed signís of rust after the test. This was also marked as a deficiency.
The U.S.A.I.B. (UNITED STATES ARMY INFANTRY BOARD) concluded that the P.I. knife / bayonet prototypes provided were not sufficiently durable and that the serrations were ineffective. It was also concluded that the M7 bayonet would continue to be the U.S. ARMYíS issue bayonet until a new design was approved. This was changed on 6 Oct. 1986 when Phrobis was awarded the contract for the M9 bayonet. With the advent of the M9 it seems the U.S. ARMY really wanted more of utility design with serrations on it all along. Although the P.I. knife / bayonet trials ended in unsatisfactory resultís, it was the first step in the replacement of the bayonet to a much more user friendly utilitarian tool. Something the individual soldier had been asking for all along and usually paying for out of his own pocket.