Updated Oct, 2006
Bayonet Points #33 - October, 2006
Bayonet Points #3
Utica M4 Bayonet with Unusual Latch Plate
Most 1944-45 production of the M4 bayonet used latch plates (sometimes called the butt plate or pommel) manufactured by Standard Products Inc of Port Clinton, Ohio. Imperial also used some made for them by the Hemphill Company of Pawtucket, Rhode Island as well as those by Standard Products.
From time to time I have observed Utica M4 bayonets with an unusual latch plate that is unmarked other than a "dimple" at the 6 o’clock position. As a similar mark is found on latch plates used by companies such as Turner Manufacturing and Conetta/Bren-Dan in the 1950s, some questions were raised as to the originality of the plate on the Utica bayonet.
Awhile back a collector inquired about an early Utica M4 with the dimple marked latch plate on one of the internet forums, and Frank Trzaska (host of this site) replied with some new information he had turned up in his ongoing research. Although it does not specifically address the marking, it does indicate that Utica used latch plates of their own manufacture and therefore there is a high probability that this dimple marking was used by Utica on those latch plates that they provided.
Since then I was fortunate enough to obtain a very nice specimen of the early Utica M4 bayonet with this marking. When I say that it is early, I mean that the grip was of the style used on their production of the M3 knife, less the grooves on each end. The early grooves were created by using washers of smaller diameter (square grooves) rather than cutting them into the finished grip (V grooves). Also, the M3 knife had 8 grooves and the specifications for the M4 Bayonet-Knife called for only 6 grooves. On their early M4 production, Utica (and some other makers) simply left out the grooves on either end.
Since this information would be of interest to collectors and is easily lost on the forum, I asked Frank if he would mind if I would essentially repeat it here so that it would be more readily available to collectors, and he promptly agreed. The information came from the reports of a government inspector who visited the Utica plant.
During the initial discussions on producing the M4 the Bayonet Integration Committee held a meeting of the principal suppliers of the M3 Trench Knife. Utica expressed confidence they could build the entire bayonet without subcontracting any parts. The remainder of the factories asked for help in securing latch plates. Two initial contractors of plates were selected, Standard Products and Utica Cutlery. Drawings were sent to both companies for set up of production equipment. Utica encountered trouble producing plates due to the inability of their dies to stand up long enough for economical runs. They could not complete enough for their own uses and also supply others. Utica had new dies made of High Speed Steel to address the problem and had them sent out to a specialty heat treating facility in Syracuse for industrial hardening. Additional presses were required to keep up with the urgent need, Ordnance was to supply them when the dies were ready. All of the other components Utica made were good, the catches, pins, blades and guards were all up to capacity and of high quality. By late 1944 Utica had contracted with Union Forging Company of Birmingham, New York to supply forged to shape latch plates. In November 1944 Utica had received 60,000 latch plates from Union and found them too hard to final machine. They had to anneal them to final shave and machine to specifications. After machining they rehardened them. After this process they had heavy decarb on them, some to a depth of 0.030 that appeared as pitting. Plates were sent to Springfield Armory for testing compared to the Standard Products assemblies. They were much weaker but passed the testing. A new steel mixture was suggested with higher manganese to substitute for the WD-1060 then in use. Utica eventually dropped out of the latch plate business, as it was easier to secure them from a supplier like Standard Products.
A photo of my specimen of the early production M4 Bayonet-Knife by Utica Cutlery Company of Utica, New York. Note the narrow squared grooves in the grip spaced near the center, and the "dimple" stamped in the latch plate at the six o’clock position.
A closeup of the Standard Products latch plate on the left and the "dimple" marked plate believed to be a Utica produced latch plate on the right. Note also that the Utica plate uses slightly smaller diameter latch retaining pins, about 0.13 inch as compared to about 0.17 inch for Standard Products. (Note – these measurements are "eyeballed" with a dial caliper and are not perfectly accurate!)
On the left is the Utica dimple marked latch plate and on the right is a latch plate from the Turner Manufacturing Contract M4 Bayonet Knife from 1954. One collector has suggested that the dimple mark on the later latch plates may be from a Rockwell Hardness Test, but I have no proof of that.
N P J Marked M1 Bayonet
I purchased my specimen of this bayonet about 1990 at one of the "on the street" antiques show / flea markets at Gettysburg, PA. At the time I had no clue as to the maker nor did the dealer I purchased it from.
After checking Bayonets From Janzen’s Notebook, I found it shown as 139-4 and identified as Japanese Self Defense Force 1952. His comments about it state that it was manufactured for the Japanese and that the N P marking stands for National Police with the J meaning Japan. He comments that they have been seen for some time at gun shows with the blade cut and that Sarco apparently imported some in 1985.
In my book, I essentially repeated the above information, and added the comment that many collectors were saying that the N P stood for Nippon Products, the maker of the bayonet.
Bill Porter, in his Porter’s Report #2 (found on this website), made much the same comments about the meaning of the N P.
What all this comes down to is that no one has any firm evidence as to the actual manufacturer of these bayonets, who they were made for, and when they were made. The bayonet is very well made, and a close enough copy that the internal parts will interchange with the US made ones. This may indicate that the bayonet was actually made on some sort of US contract rather than a Japanese contract for the Self Defense Force or National Police. One scenario mentioned sometime back was that the contract was issued by the US for issue to South Korean forces following the Korean War. However, at this time I have seen nothing that would prove any of these theories.
As mentioned above, several of these bayonets, especially those observed some years ago, were cut in two. This method of demilitarizing was commonly used by the US government during a period of time in the 1980s. The fact that several of the N P marked bayonets were found this way may indicate that they were in US inventory during that period. In passing, it should be noted that some of these bayonets had blades welded back together and refinished, so anyone purchasing one should look carefully for signs of a rewelded blade.
A few 16 inch blade bayonets were offered for sale a few years ago with these markings. I never actually handled on, but the suspicion was that they were made by welding longer blades to the cut off portion of the demilitarized bayonets mentioned above.
There are three scabbards associated with this bayonet, although all three are uncommon and the bayonet is normally found in a US M7 scabbard. The first has a smooth plastic body with two circular mold marks. The throat is similar to the US version, marked with the Ordnance Shell and Flame mark with U S over J inside the bomb similar to the markings on the bayonet itself. Note that in the photo of the scabbard shown in the photo above that the throat has been shortened for an unknown reason. Normally it is the same length as the US throat. This scabbard body is also found with a throat marked only with a set of circle marks associated with the Howa Machinery Ltd. This company made M1 carbines for the Japanese Self Defense Forces and on foreign contracts as well as limited commercial production. They may also have made the M4 bayonet associated with Kiffe. The third scabbard has the Howa marked throat, but the body has a fiberglass filler with a very coarse weave. In the photo above I show the first and third mentioned scabbards. The other one has the upper body with the lower throat shown in the photo.
As mentioned, all of these scabbards are fairly uncommon and the bayonets are normally found in US M7 scabbards. That may indicate that the bayonets were in US inventory at one time.
Recently an eBay seller listed a quantity of US M1 bayonets for sale. These included a mix of all styles, including shortened M1905 bayonets and regular M1 bayonets, and a number of the N P marked ones as well. All appeared to be refinished in a very dark Parkerizing, and many showed signs of use and wear before being refinished. Since there were several of the N P marked ones in the group, I emailed the seller, Nick Dailey of Fort Collins, CO (eBay name folcmote) to ask if he could give me any information on where these bayonets had originated. I was hoping that this information might give us a clue as to whom the bayonets had been made for, or at least where they had ended up.
Mr. Dailey responded very promptly with this reply: "After receiving your email I phoned the gent that I bought the bayonets from. I bought about 30 bayonets about 3 months ago. He told me he purchased the bayonets from the United States Navy. The bayonets came from Okinawa and were used on Okinawa by the US Marines. The bayonets were made in Japan by Nippon Products in the 1950s under contract for the Navy for the Marines on Okinawa. He is 99.9% sure of this information."
Not that many years ago there were various knives available that had been sold out when the Marines closed one or more bases on Okinawa. These were sold through DRMO and their provenance was unquestioned at the time. So the story that they came from Okinawa has the ring of possible truth to it, although there is no evidence that they were originally made for the Marines. Hopefully further information will be coming, but at this time it is a possibility that these bayonets MAY have been made on US contract.
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