Notes on United States Military Edged Weapons
Text in Red has already been published in the O.K.C.A. Knewsletter. Text in Black is awaiting print. Those of you who have been following this know I have written for the O.K.C.A. for over 5 years. This is just a portion of that writing. If there is anything you don't agree with here prove me wrong with facts or buy your own web page and post it yourself.
My thoughts on this column were simple, my notes are scattered all around me and not really in any scientific order. This will be a place to jot down my thoughts as I examine new items and receive new information. The test of time will be if I can continue to remember to put them all in here and keep this updated.
Mark 2 Parentage
I bought my first knife over the Internet today. It in a 7" hunting knife with a leather handle made by Union Cutlery Co. I already had a 5" model with stag handle and a 6" model with bone handles. The books all quote that the US Navy and Marine Corps Fighting / Utility knife, otherwise known as the Mark 2 is a descendant from the Marbles Ideal hunting knife. If so the Marbles is in my opinion a grandparent. The 7" Ka-bar hunting knife with leather handle is the real parent of the Mark2. It is made with the same profile as the Mark 2 and has the fuller as do all Mark 2's. The only change made for military use is that the pommel is steel instead of aluminum and the handle is grooved for better gripping. The steel over aluminum is a product of strategic metal usage while providing a good hammering surface. This last item I believe is an afterthought as casting a pommel from steel would have been out of the question from a production point of view. The added grooves were a direct improvement made in the change over and were spec=ed that way due to gripping problems with the US Navy Mark 1. The 1219C2 (Mark 2 government designation) is nothing more then a product improved Union Cutlery Co. Model No. 471 that was being produced as early as 1930 and probably earlier then that.
O.S.S. (Office of Strategic Services, the World War II forerunner of the present day Central Intelligence Agency) drop knives and machetes in the Philippines always make me laugh. Check your history books. The O.S.S. never operated in the Southwest Pacific Theatre of Operations. It seems General MacArthur was not seeing eyeball to eyeball with the O.S.S. and it=s leader William (Wild Bill) Donavan. MacArthur wanted complete control of his area and any other organization would answer only to him. The O.S.S. chain of command led straight to the White House and this was just not acceptable to the General. To make up for this lack of intelligence gathering capability MacArthur invented his own O.S.S. named the Allied Intelligence Bureau or the A.I.B. The A.I.B. had control of the guerilla fighters in the Southwest Pacific Area of Operations. If anything was Adropped@ in the Philippines if would have been by the A.I.B. The stories with the machetes and knives are easy, anything associated with an elite force sells itself and usually for higher dollars then a run of the mill normal issue item. Anything unmarked is attributed to the super secret spy industry again to increase prices or add to the mystery around the product to enhance a sale. The history of the O.S.S. is now a matter of public record and can be found residing in the National Archives or in many of the newly written and I might add well researched books on the subject. One in particular O.S.S. Weapons by Dr. John Brunner is mandatory reading for this topic. Not only does he supply facts but tells you were they can be located for your own search. Again the O.S.S. NEVER operated in MacArthur=s territory. Caveat Emptor, like a wise old fellow once told me, buy the knife not the story.
The Delta Knife
I received a letter recently asking for information about the so calledADelta Knife@. I was sorry to respond to the gentleman that I had no information available on that particular knife. As a matter of fact I have not one shred of evidence that it is even a military knife at all. In many years of collecting and researching military knives I have never run into a picture of anyone wearing one or any documentation whatsoever on this knife. It certainly looks to be military but so do many other knifes which in fact are not. The flimsy leather scabbard would lead me to believe the knife was made off shores or at the least to be affordable to the average service man. Many of the knives found today are wearing a Mark 2 scabbard. This attests to the fact that the original scabbard did not hold up well. It would also lead one to believe that the knife was in use by the Naval Forces as a Mark 2 scabbard would be easy to come by. Together with the plastic handle and the unmarked, stainless blade, makes this a ripe for the picking SEAL knife. See the O.S.S. story. In a recent telephone conversation with the well respected military knife collector Gary Boyd, he was also at a loss on this particular knife. In his travels he has not seen either a photograph or any documentation to attribute this knife to the military. In another conversation with the noted military collector Larry Thomas, the same response was gathered. With this span of collector knowledge and geographic locations covering much of the United States it seems odd that not a single fact or piece of evidence should come to light. Well the search goes on. Have you any proof this knife is military?
While rummaging through a used book store today I found a copy of Albert Hardin=s American Bayonet. While I am not usually that lucky another item about the book caught my attention. It is an ex- library book. The card remains in the pocket of the back cover page. The dates are starting in 1965 and ending in 1977. The book is in amazingly good shape for that extended period of time in a high school library. While driving home my mind wandered to reading The American Sword by Peterson. I first read this book while in school. While I can=t say for sure, but I=ll bet not too many school libraries carry this type of book nowadays. It would be much too violent of a subject.
Vietnam Knuckle Knives
During the Blade Show>98 in Atlanta this past year a talk was given on military knives in Vietnam. The speaker was a Special Forces veteran. According to him some of the knives in use were made up by the company armorer specifically for them. Using a common USN / USMC Mark 2 blade and a 1918 brass knuckle handle from the 1918 Mark 1 Trench knife. These knives were used in the field as well as being Atrade bait@ for rear echelon types. The handles were original when available but more often cheap reproductions then, and still, available. Don=t pass up one of these Mark 2's believing it to be something recently put together. The guards were ground off on one side allowing them to be held in the common leather or hard plastic Navy scabbards. A unique story and a not so unique knife as they had many made from the Vietnam period.
Anyone interested in bayonets and the part they played in military history should sign up with the Society of American Bayonet Collectors. The SABC is anAInternational Organization Dedicated to the Collecting and Preservation of American Bayonets@ They also publish a newsletter 4 times a year with original articles from some of the most prominent and highly respected bayonet collectors in the world. They have a web page at Awww.amerbayo.org/sabc@ or for you non computer folks they can be reached at SABC, PO Box 234 East Islip, NY 11730. It=s a great organization for you bayonet types out there.
Surplus Trench Knives?
Just received today a copy of a War Department Circular No. 379 dated 5 Nov. 1920. This circular is an Ordnance Price List for disposal of hand weapons deemed surplus in the Post war era. Model 1917 and Model 1918 Trench knives we declared surplus and could be had for $0.80 each. If a scabbard was also requested it would tack on an additional $0.58. These are the only edged items listed as surplus. The 1918 Mark 1 brass handled Trench Knife was still designated standard so it and the other edged weapons, 1917 bayonets,1905 bayonets, 1910 bolos etc. were not up for disposal. In the 1927 edition of the famous military goods catalog of Francis Bannerman the sale price was $4.50, nice markup. Also in the circular were standards for sales. If another branch of the War Department wanted any item they could take off 15%. Any retired Officer or Enlisted man could have a 5% reduction and our Allied nations were welcome to 10% off the suggested list price. It was through this program that many police and other local agencies were armed with shotguns. Uncle Sam was sure a nice guy back then.
Price Vs. Collecting
I am a collector not an investor. While at a flea market haggling over a $5.00 knife I had a flashback that just made me give in and pay the price. The thought that came to mind was, here I am arguing over a $5.00 knife when just last week I was bidding over book price for another knife which was quite substantially higher in price and also quite rare. I guess that is the law of supply and demand. Prices, much like beauty, are in the eye of the beholder. While trying to get the best price available is always a good idea, don=t let a few bucks stand in the way of something you really want. While a book price tries to set a standard or guideline, the true price of the knife is really what you are willing to pay for it. If perhaps you pay double what the book says but you walk away happy, isn=t that what really counts, after all that is what collecting is all about. Do it because you enjoy it. If you want to invest go with the stock market. Well after the way that=s been acting maybe a long term Treasury Bond or C.D. would be better. You get the picture
On a recent expedition I wound up at the fabled West Point Museum. Quite a place! While I enjoyed all the exhibits the bayonet and knife cases were what drew most of my attention. Only a small part of the museum collection is on display. With my time strictly at a premium I could not ask to view any in storage, although the thought did cross my mind. Many of the swords on display were donated by famous people who attendedAThe Point@. Several of the bayonets in the collection are very rare models, Krag Bowie and Bolo=s, many cadet bayonets that have been chrome plated and sockets of many nations. On display was a Thompson sub machine gun converted to a squad weapon much like the 1918 BAR. This converted Tommie gun was rechambered to fire a larger .45 caliber round and fitted with a bayonet. It is one of 5 produced and the only one known still in existence. The bayonet was an average model Krag bayonet. One knife in particular intrigued me was that of General Gavin=s personal WW II jump set. Gavin made the jump with the Airborne over Normandy on D-Day. It had the unmistakable look of an early Randall scabbard but the handle looked more like a Theatre knife. Couldn=t really tell through the glass. If you are ever in the neighborhood, stop in. It=s sure to please the knife lover in you. When I have more time I=m going back.
Deals are still out there
Went to a local gun show this weekend. Not usually the place to find any great deals but it is a place to see knives for sale. This particular show is pretty large, 1,000 tables actually. Now I have heard all the stories of theAjunk@ knife laying on a table which happens to be very rare. Some dealers just don=t know what they have, while others sometimes think they have the rarest knife on the planet. Well I guess it was my turn to Asneak up on a deal@. While going along the tables my eye was caught by a Robeson made Mark 2 of World War II vintage. I stopped to take a look at it. While gliding it out of the scabbard I noticed another knife & scabbard on the table which is really a unique design. I nearly dropped the knife I was looking at just grabbing for that knife. I picked it up and held it. (I have put items down for a moment only to see them picked up and bought on the spot. That is normally a giveaway to the dealer when you are holding on to an item and not letting it go.) Anyway I noticed a tag hanging on the knife so I hesitated for a moment to look at it. There is no way I could afford this knife. Well I received the shock of my life. It was priced as a home made knife. One of them so called Ajunk@ items just used to fill up table space. Again the heart started pounding and a sweat was about to break out. I bickered quickly and the fellow knocked $25.00 off the pair if I took them both. Quickly I handed over the cash and made my getaway. The knife I just purchased was a Taylor Huff Knuckle Knife of World War II fame. Taylor Huff made knives in his off time from his regular job. He sold his knives for $0.01 a piece to service men around the Fort Know area. Obviously his intent was not to get rich from the deal. I couldn=t wait to show my new found toy to another dealer at the show who I knew very well. He went nuts as he didn=t have time to walk the show early during setup. There are really two morals to this story, #1) Study the books, there are many on the market that have great quality drawings and photos. Know what an item looks like, this is your most powerful tool and #2) There are still bargains out there, never give up hope as most folks, buyers and sellers alike, don=t follow rule #1).
Well it finally happened. Several years of searching the National Archives paid off very good when several pieces finally came together. I had found a partial manuscript in a file one day several years ago but could not find the rest. Searching through several other files proved a lost cause as the rest either did not exist or was hopelessly lost. Well by sheer determination or luck it was finally recovered. When these pieces were put together it held a record of knife, bayonet and scabbard production from 1917 to 1945 for the United States Army. This paper was written in 1945 at the cessation of hostilities. As this information had never been assembled into one book for the general public I knew what had to be done. The entire manuscript was retyped including the missing pages and printed. It is now available to all and hopefully it will be a basis for collectors and historians to build from. The book, Bayonets, Knives & Scabbards is available in the classified section of the O.K.C.A. Knewsletter. (Shameless plug)
Collins Militia Knife
At a recent auction a Collins militia Knife was sold for an amazing price. While not a common knife they are out there to be found. This Collins was almost inAnew@ condition. What struck me was the letters that went with the knife. It was a letter from a Civil War soldier to his father explaining the conditions as usual and also the new knife he had just been issued. Issued !! In D. E. Henry=s book Collins Machetes and Bowies 1845 - 1965, (which I consider a great book) he tries to make a case for the militia knife but could find no proof of it ever being issued. The same is also stated in Petersen=s American Knives. While this letter is not conclusive proof of the fact that the militia knife was issue it certainly puts some more perspective to it. I am in the stages of trying to track down this letter writer now to find the soldiers background and any other info I can find on him. One never knows where the search might lead. If you have any info on the Collins militia knife I would sure like to hear from you. Although the chances are slim on this one it would be nice to prove the knife really was issue.
I have to admit I have always been an adrenalin junky. The faster my heart beats the happier I am. Recently I relocated from the beloved North Georgia woods that I called home for three years to the old home town I grew up in. I know the old adage that you can never go home again but here I am. While cruising down to the local hardware store I bumped into an old friend who lived across the street from me when we were growing up. It had been over five years since we had seen each other. After exchanging pleasantries we began to talk about old times in school and racing. We raced anything we could. Starting with bicycles to motorcycles and onto cars. As time goes by and racing gets more expensive we both just drifted out of it to concentrate more on jobs and chores around the homes. I got it out of my system to a point, he didn=t. He asked if I had some time to spare he wanted to show me his latest toy. Upon our arrival at a little local airport I was shocked. A Russian MIG fighter/trainer in full camouflage paint with big red stars sat in the hangar. The old adrenalin started to go into overtime. It seems my old friend now plays with jets for fun. He offered a ride (after I refused to get out of the cockpit) and I shouted ALet=s Go!@. After takeoff and a quick double roll we were headed for the Atlantic Ocean. In less then five minutes (at least an hour by car) we were over the blue waters. Now the fun begins, Rolls, Loops, Dives and just plain bouncing around left me in awe. He comes up on the radio and tells me the batteries that were just installed aren=t charging and we need to make a pit stop at a small local airport just to check it out. ADon=t pull the canopy release lever!!@ Down we go. Opening the access hatch reveals a battery cable recently replaced that had lost it=s ground through corrosion and poor preparation of cleaning away paint. Now comes the knife part, I pulled out my trusty all metal MIL-K pocket knife and scraped the paint and corrosion away and we reconnected the ground strap. Ignition, Blastoff. After being airborne for about another hour we were low on fuel and went for home. After planting my feet back on Terre firma again I reached into my back pocket and handed my old friend the knife. An old $10.00 US military pocket knife fixing a $1,000,000.00 Russian Jet. Yep, whooped those Russians again.
I recently received a memo from the National Archives about a knife submitted for procurement approval to the Commandant of the Marine Corps during World War II. It seems this knife was patented prior to submission but I have never heard of it. The inventors name was Mr. M. Hickman of Corpus Christi, Texas. I included this knife, as much as I knew about it at the time, in an article for Knife World several months ago. This newest memo confirms what I already knew but it still leaves the question of what the knife looked like. Mr. Hickman=s proposition was to produce these knives for the Marines at a rate of 500 per day. The price was to be $0.32 per knife. Mr. Hickman was also willing to sign over the rights to the patent to the U.S. Government if they would allow him to make these knives. Mr. Hickman was also willing to supervise the production if a plant and steel could be obtained. The more I research the more I find this to be a common occurrence during World War II. It seems with the country committed to an all out war effort, winning was the only thought on most folks mind. I have never seen a Hickman Knife, have you? I have a request into the United States Patent Office now. Maybe soon we will all know what a Hickman knife looks like. Stay tuned on this one.
Bayonet Collecting Dead?
I recently came to the conclusion that bayonets are almost forgotten. Not a single monthly or bi-monthly general circulation publication covers this fascinating area of collecting with consistent written coverage. I could only assume that bayonet collectors aren=t willing to pay for this type of coverage or that there just aren=t enough of them to actually make it happen. Perhaps as a group we just aren=t vocal enough. Either way it is a shame to let this go by without a fight. Bayonet collectors where are you??
Mystery Double Edged M3
In a recent conversation with another collector the subject of the double edged M3 as pictured in Silvey=s US Military Knives pg. 319 came up. It seems a friend had given him a knife he was issued during training in England. The knife was called a Thrust Knife by the owner. It was issued to him upon the completion of training in Dundee Scotland by ex-members of the 14th Commandos. Approximately 100 knives had been handed out. All were alike, Double Edged M3's. This knife has three dot=s on it from a hardness test. One on the butt, one on the guard and one on the blade itself. The group being trained was none other then the 5th Ranger Battalion. It seems typical blade marked M3's were used and possibly re-ground in Sheffield to compare with the Fairbairn / Sykes pattern for the newly trained AAmerican Commandos.@ Does anybody have any other information on this knife they would like to contribute? If so I would like to hear from you. Perhaps we can clear up another mystery.
More Selected Quotes
Among other items I like to collect quotes about edged weapons, whether it be knives bayonets, swords, pikes, etc. Quotes from famous leaders are rather rare in this field but not so amongst writers and great military officers. Quite some time ago many issues back ibdennis ran some of these selected quotes. Here are some more.
"Bombing is the worst way to kill guerrillas; Bayonets are the best"
John Paul Vann
(In light of the recent Cruise missile attacks this one arose very timely)
"When bayonets deliberate, power escapes from the hands of the government."
Napoleon I, 1848
"Under Divine blessing, we must rely on the bayonet when firearms cannot be furnished."
In a letter from Stonewall Jackson with a requisition for 1,000 pikes, 1862
AThere is no weapon too short for a brave man@.
Richard Steele, in the Guardian, 1713
AThe first dry rattle of new drawn steel changes the world today@.
Rudyard Kipling, Before Edgehill Fight, 1911
At a recent gun show I picked up a Conetta Mk-2 just to take a look at it. I always inspect every Mk-2 just out of habit. Well the dealer started telling me about Conetta. The story goes that a Mr. Anthony Conetta from Stamford Conn. Was briefly in the business of making knives and bayonets for the military. Due to unknown circumstances the company went bankrupt or closed. At this point Conetta reorganized under the name of Bren-Dan. This according to the story was a contraction of the names of Conetta=s children, Brenda and Daniel. I have no idea if this is true or false other then it was the story given me. I have never seen government documentation as to the background of either of these companies. Conetta was in business for a short time in Stamford, that much is correct. The Bren-Dan part starts to get a little dicey. Do you know who the elusive Bren-Dan was?
To put it flatly there isn=t one available. Like the man said AWhat this country needs is a good $0.05 cigar@, what the knife collecting community needs is a first rate bibliography. Not just a listing of books but what they contain, page length, date published and by whom. There are just so many books out on the market, new and used, it is confusing. In addition to this printed title would be a computer copy which would allow easy searching based on key words and subjects. I=m sure it wouldn=t make it to the New York Times Best Seller List, but it sure would make life much nicer for the average knife buff, not to mention the researcher. Just food for thought.
Arms and Armor
Spent the better part of the day today walking through the Philadelphia Museum of Art with my daughter, Lauren. It was her idea. Yes it is full of wonderful paintings and sculptures, but the highlight of the visit for me was becoming reacquainted with the Arms and Armor exhibit. The museum houses one of the largest collections of European Arms and Armor in the world. The collection was bequeathed to the museum by Carl Otto von Kienbusch. To say it is awe inspiring is an understatement. I spent literally hours in there studying and comparing swords, daggers, knives, halberds, pikes, fighting axes, shields and full suits of armor from chain mail to polished steel. The museum is also home to a 140,000 volume library. The Arms and Armor Department has their own section which also includes some very rare books. Much of the collection is undergoing conservation and preservation right now. If old warrior items are your gig, this is a must stop for you. I had a great time, I even enjoyed theAart.@
Using a knife??
Who ever heard of such a crazy thing like that? I must admit I am not a great knife user. Not that I can=t cut something when I need too, I always carry a pocket knife, it=s just that I don=t have the need to use them often. In hunting season my old ARegular No. 7" gets a great work out and is then sent back to the safe to hide for another year. In a recent conversation with a fellow collector I have come to the conclusion that very few collectors use their knives. I mean really USE a knife. In today=s world the use of a knife is usually relegated to opening a box or letter. I have often walked past a table at a show only to spot a knife with Arare@ markings that has been sharpened almost down to nothing. Asking myself Awhy would somebody do that?@ Not really thinking of the obvious answer, that=s what it was made for stupid. So we have an oftentimes split motive for knife buying. My own buying is for collection purposes only, to be put away just to say AI have one of those.@ Others buy a knife to use and when it is worn out or another fancier model comes out it is thrown into a draw and forgotten. The collector falls into the category of AHe who dies with the most toys, wins@ while the user looks at the merits of a particular brand or style to accomplish the tasks at hand. It is actually quite funny to note that a collector who is Aeducated@ in the markings and varieties of a certain style of knife can=t actually tell you HOW it cuts. Ask one and you get this dumbfounded look in return. While recently explaining to a young man the subtle differences between a Ka-Bar Mark 2 and a Camillus Mark 2 without even picking it up he asked Abut which one cuts better?@ That was certainly my response. The guy walked away muttering something to himself about Aso called expert.@ Neither branch of this Aknife family tree@ is Acorrect@ or Abetter@ then the other. As long as we all Ahang@ together on the legal ownership of knives we all will win in the end. I for one hope I never see the day that the true all-purpose knife is made. Imagine if all the users only picked one knife type to really use. What would we collectors do then? Start collecting dolls I guess....... Naw!
The Internet (Can you keep a secret)
I must admit I really don=t like talking about this but it=s catching on quick. Computers, just that name strikes fear in the heart of millions! I too had this fear several years ago. I=m too old to learn that kind of thing, it=s only for kids. Well I=m here to tell you it=s not true. The information available on the Internet is seemingly endless but that=s not the best part. Recently a new addition to the Internet has sprung up, the auction. These auctions are coming up everywhere and the items for sale are often unbelievable. Collins Hospital Corps. Knife, Case Stilettos, Blade marked and dated M3's, Robeson USMC Mk-2's, Everett knuckle knives, V-44's, Richtig=s, and bayonets of every type imaginable. I have seen rare military knives sold for mere cents on the dollar from a seller who is happy just to get rid of it. As with any other auction, care must be taken to study the item before you bid and ask questions, a lot of them if you like, of the seller. I hate to give away a prime hunting ground like this but it is there and I=m here to tell you it=s good hunting. It will never replace the knife or gun show but it fills in the days and weeks in between. Don=t fear the computer, I=ve been writing on one for several years and still type with two fingers. But let me tell you, since I have been buying from the >net it seems I=m always broke. But I sure have a lot of fun when the mail arrives!
On my annual hunting trek to the north woods of Pennsylvania this year several youngsters were invited as they had attained the age to hunt. In the club that I belong to this is something we highly encourage to initiate young people to the pleasures of being in the woods. One of the young boys was wearing a knife that I spotted right away, a Ka-bar Mk-1 of World War II vintage with a wooden pommel. When I asked him where he had gotten it he replied it was his grandpa=s knife, that he had been given it several years ago but this was the first time he was allowed to wear it. He removed it from the sheath to proudly show it to me. It was in near mint condition and this youngster was mighty proud of it. With care I examined it and returned it to him. He wiped it down and returned it to his sheath. The look in his face could not be related in mere written words. After the second day of hunting back at the cabin I again bumped into him but that look was gone. It seems he had lost the knife during that day and was extremely upset about it. I told him I would help him retrace his steps at first light so we could try to find it. The look came back. The next day came fast, too fast for me. We started out after the ritual coffee for the place he had been the day before. I talked with the member he had hunted with the day before and knew the area very well. All morning spent looking but nothing came of it. Finding a lost knife in the woods is like looking for the proverbial Aneedle in a haystack.@ A quick lunch and some rest found us at it again. The sun was out shining bright after noon which was a good sign, hopefully it would add a reflection of some sort to the polished blue blade. Well the miracle I was hoping for came our way. There was the knife laying on top of some leaves shining away. Our earlier despair turned to euphoria at this point as the youngster again held the knife with the same reverence displayed the first time we spoke. I know this really has nothing to do with military knives but you see the young fellows Grandfather had passed away earlier in the year and this was the boys prized possession. It taught me a lesson in what an inexpensive knife could do for a youth. This young man will have the memories of a lifetime every time he holds that old knife of Grandpa=s, provided he manages to keep it in the scabbard.
Just the other day I was re-reading some information on logistics of the battlefield. Did you know that the replacement rate of bayonets for the U.S. Army alone after landing in Normandy during World War II was an incredible 1300 units per day! So from June 6th to May 7th that would come to 435,500 lost bayonets needing replacement. It=s easy to see what item was more then likely discarded for that long walk to Berlin. Around this same time frame the can opener was distributed to the soldiers as an individual item, that=s when the bayonet really found itself in disfavor.
I just purchased a Western Stiletto over the Internet. The deal was too good to pass up. The knife itself is in mint condition as is the scabbard. Upon it=s arrival I was a bit confused. The knife did not have the gentle taper to the blade as is custom in the Western L-76 / L-77 line. The blade width is 1 1/4" for the full length finally coming to a spear point tip. The length and width suggest a G-48 knife blank was used to grind this stiletto shape on. All the other attributes to the knife are correct with an L-76, such as the dual tang and spacer arrangement in the handle. Upon querying the gentleman I purchased it from he stated it was from the grandson of a longtime Western employee who made the knife for himself. Now me of all people should know better then this. I constantly remind people to Abuy the knife not the story.@ But it did intrigue me somewhat. The knife was purchased out of Boulder, Colorado home of Western. It is in mint condition suggesting it had never been used. The smell is gone from the leather again suggesting it has been around for some time. Supposedly this knife was made in the 1940's, thrown in a drawer and forgotten about until it became part of an estate. I asked the seller if he could find out the grandfathers full name. He replied that he would as the grandson was an acquaintance of his. So I wait. Has anyone ever seen a Western Stiletto such as this one? If I do get my answers and the story proves true I may have to rethink my comments about buying the story. But I doubt it.
In a recent contact with an old friend the search for the elusive knife maker Stevenson took on a renewed angle. If you remember from past articles I have been looking for the maker of the World War II utility knives for what feels like all my life. Although I am still stumped I believe that Robeson Cutlery Co. produced the knives. Stay tuned, this trail is starting to heat up again. If there are any Robeson collectors out there that can add to this story PLEASE let me know.
I constantly see the reference to the orange handled MC-1 aircrew survival knives as paratrooper knives. Not to be a nitpicker but this is not correct. The MC-1 was designed as a knife for someone who was experiencing an emergency inside or outside of an aircraft, not for someone who intentionally jumped out of a perfectly good aircraft. That was the job of the M2. Parachutist yes, Paratrooper no.
My mother always told me if you wish hard enough and live a good life it just might come true. TheAliving a good life@ part is a matter of opinion, but the wishing part is for real. Well one wish has come true. My hat is off to Tactical Knives Editor Steven Dick for running an article on a bayonet. Bayonets just don=t get enough press in my opinion. Every gun or knife show I have ever been to had bayonets for sale. I always see someone walking around with a bayonet in hand that they just purchased. I just don=t get it.
Hickman, Still Searching
This knife is somewhat of a mystery to me. Mr. M. Hickman of Corpus Christi, Texas submitted a knife to the Commanding Officer at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi in February of 1943. Mr Hickman had already been issued a patent on his knife and was offering it to the Armed Forces free of charge if the knife could be used. In addition Mr. Hickman had dies made up for blanking the knife. With the use of 16 men Mr. Hickman could deliver the knives at a rate of 500 per day, finished and ready for use. Mr. Hickman was also willing to supervise if a plant could be located and the steel obtained for manufacture in another location. The finished price at the time for this knife was $0.32 each, quite reasonable. A few sample knives were furnished with the letter of intent to produce for testing. This letter and the sample knives also reached the Commandant of the Marine Corps. A simple response was returned to Mr. Hickman that the Marine Corps had already adopted a knife and a procurement program was already in effect. As the adopted knife will serve the same purpose as the Hickman knife the Marine Corps was not interested at this time. The mystery is that the knives were returned and no drawings accompanied the letters. Does anyone know what a Hickman knife from Corpus Christi Texas looks like??
Oregon Comes Through !
As I read this letter I felt the hair on my arms start to rise as a chill ran down my back, the Star Spangled Banner was playing in the background too. The letter was from a Mr. O.G. Hagemann of the Portland Home Workshop Club of Portland Oregon. Someone at the clubs meeting brought it to attention that the Marines were in desperate need of knives in the initial stages of WW II. Marines were fighting and dying in a far away place with out the tools they needed to defend themselves in time of need. Well this club was going to do something about it. They contacted local sawmills working for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad company and secured a large supply of used steel planner blades. Next they secured all the oak or hickory scraps the sawmills had on hand. Last but not least they contacted a local manufacturer and secured the use of a riveting machine after hours to rivet the handles on to the blades. This letter was being sent as they could not find any supply of leather to make the scabbards from and they were asking for directions on where to obtain it from. All of the above work was to be done at night after they had worked at their regular jobs during the day. The offer was made strictly as a patriotic gesture as they did not ask for and would refuse to accept any income derived from this knife making business. They simply wanted to supply our Armed Forces with quality knives they could otherwise not obtain. Of course by this time the Marines and the Army had already secured knives in quantity so the offer was discouraged by the desirability to equip all servicemen with the same type of knife. A response was sent back to the club from the War Department with the closing line of "Your interest in the defense of your country is greatly appreciated".
All Out War, We Need To Remember This
With the United States now entered into the World War II, 1942 was a difficult time. Many new laws had been enacted under emergency conditions outlining what materials could or could not be used. These "Orders" or "Acts" as they were sometimes called, restricted just about every item produced in the United States. The overwhelming majority of production was destined for war use. Many new "Boards" were created by the government to establish what was deemed at the time "Emergency War Restrictions". Many of you have heard of or even remember "Food Rationing" and "Gas Rationing", these are the biggest or most often remembered items in America's past to help in the war effort. Many lesser known but much bigger in the overall scheme of things, Orders were issued that have comprised volumes of books. Such as the "Steel Act" and the "Copper Order", these limitations or conservation restrictions almost completely shut down production of everyday items available to the consumer. The chief item of interest to knife collectors is the "General Limitation Order on Cutlery No. L-140" issued under Title 32 on National Defense, Chapter IX under control of the "War Production Board". This order all but eliminated cutlery production for the average over the counter consumer. All out war it was then, as it should be today, if our young men are ever again sent into harms way. Forget that "Good War" hype today by the release of Academy Award nominated movies like "Saving Private Ryan" and "The Thin Red Line" and Best Selling books such as "The Greatest Generation", there ain't one.
Starting from the Civil War up through the Vietnam War the Collins Company furnished machetes for every branch of the U.S. Military. Lately I have become intrigued by machetes. While wondering around the aisles at most shows looking for that special knife I need for my collection it's becoming harder and harder to find the ones I am lacking. After coming home from one too many shows empty handed it hit me. I've seen machetes in just about every aisle and the prices are down right cheap. True they aren't the prettiest edged instruments about, but none the less they are still plentiful enough to make up a nice collection without taking out another mortgage on your house.
As I sit here writing this I am also unpacking my luggage. I just returned from a trip to Denver Colorado. My traditional routine is to stop in front of the detectors and unload my pockets. All kinds of things usually reside in them. Mobile phone, beeper, wizard, Zippo lighter, keys, change, and pocket knife. My usual carry knife is none other then the U.S. MIL-K. It has hundreds of uses and is a constant companion. The routine continues once through the detector. Turn on the phone, the beeper, the wizard and refill the pockets. This time I was escorted to the side for an examination of the knife. I have been through literally hundreds of these scenarios without a hitch, this time the knife grabbed the fellows eye. Not wanting to seem overly anxious although as usual I was late to the plane, the inspection went on. Open every blade hold it against the palm, etc. etc. At this time another fellow was called over. I explained to him this knife had been on several planes without ever a second glance. He escorted me to another area to talk privately. He opened the blade and examined it closely. He then pulled from his pocket a knife, a MIL-K to be exact. By this time I was pretty aggravated but this through me for a loop. Looking somewhat confused I asked if I could see his knife, it seemed appropriate at the time. His was a Camillus dated 1987, mine was a Camillus dated 1984. Then it hit me, he like several folks I had met over the years was a MIL-K collector. We talked for a few minutes and I offered to trade him if he needed a 1984. My first thought was that this was a shakedown. Not so, he politely declined as he already had a 1984 but he did offer to send his want list to me. I gave him one of my cards and told him to send me the list as I have several duplicates. Slipping the knife back into my pocket he said I was only the second person he knew who collected these knives. I assured him it was indeed a small community. Shaking hands ( and my head for awhile) I managed to catch my plane. Military knife collecting is a growing hobby, people from all walks of life are entering everyday. I think the future looks bright.
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword....
"There can not be good laws where there are not good arms."
Machiavelli: The Prince, 1513
AThe first artificer of death; the shrewd,
Contriver who first sweated at the forge,
And forc=d the blunt and yet un-bloodied steel
To a keen edge and made it bright for war@.
William Cowper: The Task, 1758
AThe onset of bayonets in the hands of the Valiant is irresistible@.
MG John Burgoyne, 1777
AHave you not got bayonets@?
Sir George Cathcart Inkermann,1854. Uttered when his division claimed they were low of ammunition.
AA bayonet is a weapon with a worker at each end@.
A Socialist slogan from the early 20th century.
AUntil the world comes to an end the ultimate decision will rest with the sword@.
Kaiser Wilhelm II, 1913
AA sword is defensive or offensive depending on which end is pointed at you@.
Aristide Briand, 1930
As Andrew Jackson once said, "It's a damn poor mind that can't think of at least two ways to spell any word!
(It doesn=t have anything to do with knives but I liked it, thank God for spell checkers)
For continued reading click here