Updated March, 2011
An M1 Bayonet With Unusual Markings
Bayonet Points #3
Frank Trzaska bought this bayonet as a curiosity, and was kind enough to send it on to me for my comments. Although I am not able to answer the questions that the bayonet raises, it was quite interesting to study this and try to put the pieces together.
As knife expert Bernard Levine says, look first at the knife (or bayonet in this case) and see what it tells you before you worry about the markings. So first we will take a close look at the bayonet itself and see what we can learn from it.
The bayonet is a shortened M1905, commonly called by collectors the M1905E1 from the military designation while testing the concept of a 10 inch blade. The blade has the "square" fuller, and has been shortened to a beak point (often called by collectors the "bowie" point. There is no mark to indicate what facility did the shortening.
Generally it is believed that this style of point was not used until the shortening program had been in operation for some time. This is based on the quote from Bayonets, Knives and Scabbards: "Particular difficulty was found with the bayonets having square blood grooves , as they gave evidence of being weakened when submitted to the shortening process. Union Fork and Hoe Company undertook a comparative study of rectangular blood grooves and round blood grooves of M1905 bayonets, which was submitted to Springfield Armory, along with 10 modified bayonets from each facility, for their study and tests, in order that the practicability of converting the square grooved type might be determined." From this it is generally believed that all bayonets were first shortened to the spear point, and later it was determined that those with square grooves were to be shortened using the beak point.
Looking at who may have made the original M1905, there are very strong indications that it was made in 1942-43 by one of the six contractors rather than in the 1906-1922 period by either Springfield Armory or Rock Island Arsenal.
Two things in particular lead me to that conclusion. One is the shape of the pommel under the upper flat. 1906-22 production had a "step" cut into the underside, which was not done in WW2 contract production. In the photo below, the arrows point to the area with the upper being early production and the lower being the WW2 style of the bayonet being studied. Note the marking of G4 on the upper tang. Bayonets were marked in early production with letter number combinations to show steel lots for quality control, but this was not usually done in WW2.
Another area where there is a difference is the shape of the relief cut made around the hole that the grip screw passes through. Early production used a round cut, while in WW2 there were several differing styles of cut. In the photo below, the upper is the standard early style of cut, while the lower is the cut found on our mystery bayonet.
Although not certain, the shape of this cut would indicate that it was possibly finished by American Fork and Hoe. Pal used a similar cut but there are other differences that make Pal less likely.
Square grooves were used by several makers in their early production, including Oneida, Pal and Utica. The other makers MAY have used the square groove on their earliest specimens, but I have none in my admittedly limited notes. All had converted to the round groove by the beginning of M1 production.
The guard is WW2 style with the rebated barrel hole. It is unmarked which is somewhat unusual as most of the makers (other than AFH) marked their guards.
The bayonet catch is marked UC which is quite common, and is of no assistance as they were commonly replaced at the time of the modification. The finish is of course also not original as the bayonets were normally refinished when they were shortened.
Overall the bayonet is very well made with the interior cuts in the handle smoothly done. It does not look like wartime "hurry up" quality.
To recap, the bayonet appears to be WW2 vintage, not 1906-22 production. The quality of workmanship and the square groove indicate that it was probably made early, possibly as early as late 1941 or early 1942. The cut down was also very well done, with the point well shaped and smooth. The refinish is also very smooth and the bayonet under the finish shows no signs of use, pitting or damage on the edges. Basically it looks like it was in near perfect condition when it was shortened.
The grips appear to be standard black Bakelite grips, but have a different mark than I have seen before. The mark is an intertwined CP, which is an unknown maker to me. I attempted to contact the museum that had found the previous logos and makers, but unfortunately it has been closed. The materials are being transferred to Syracuse University, but at the time of this writing they have not finished cataloging the collection and are unable to help. Hopefully sometime later they can find the materials that may help in the identification. I believe it is possible that the mark is a later mark from Columbus Plastic Products that had made the red/brown grips for AFH, but at the moment that is only a guess.
Having examined the bayonet in detail, lets turn our attention to the subject of this article, the odd markings found on the ricasso.
As can be seen in the photo the markings are different from any standard marks and from any that I recall having seen before.
On the left ricasso, the mark of S A over the Ordnance Shell and Flame are very close to those used in the 1906-22 period by Springfield. They are not totally identical however, in that they are somewhat higher on the blade than normal by about ¼ inch and the Shell and Flame is a little larger than Springfield standard.
The obvious oddity in the marking however is the addition of the U S twice, and the lack of a date. In checking out the reference collection, the only maker to use the semi-block letter S was American Fork and Hoe. The photo below shows the marks of the various makers from WW2.
The other side is more conventional for Springfield production, but still has a couple of oddities. The U S has periods following the letters, which Springfield did not use and the shape of the letters, although quite similar, is not quite the same. The serial number appears fairly normal, and would place the bayonet in very late 1921 or early 1922. There is a slight area of material just under the numbers, most visible under the zeros. At first I thought this might be the remains of an area where the blade had been rewelded, but a careful examination of the area does not show any obvious signs of a weld, and it has been noted that it is nearly impossible to get a perfect Parkerized finish over an area that has been welded or heated. Right now I have no firm thought on what might have caused this.
In summary, it appears that the bayonet itself was finished in 1942-43, possibly or even probably by AFH. The only real difference is that AFH did not use the square groove to my knowledge.
The question of course is who applied the markings and what is their significance.
The markings appear to be professionally applied, certainly not done by Joe in his basement workshop.
Careful measurement of the ricasso area indicates that it was not ground down to remove any other markings.
To again quote from Bayonet, Knives and Scabbards:
In late 1941: "A project to develop a more satisfactory steel for use in procurement of approximately 800,000 M1905 bayonets was set up at American Steel and Wire Company, and American Fork and Hoe entered into a contract to forge and heat treat (austemper) a number of bayonets for field tests.."
Also, in early 1942: "It was found that about 35,000 forgings for M1905 bayonets left from World War 1 were lying idle at Springfield Armory. . . . The facilities were notified of the availability of these forgings, and several of the facilities did investigate such possibilities.." It was found that the steel was from different lots and made it too difficult to heat treat and the forgings were not used in production.
It MAY be that AFH as part of one of these tests finished some bayonets with square fullers and the odd markings were applied during the tests. That is only a GUESS, based on observation not facts.
If anyone has any information about this bayonet, it would be greatly appreciated if you would contact either Frank or myself.
E-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org
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