US Army Pocket Knives of WWII

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PvtRossi
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Re: US Army Pocket Knives of WWII

Postby PvtRossi » Thu Aug 22, 2019 4:15 am

Guys,

Thank you all for the plethora of information. I am a US WWII reenactor that tries to not be a "farb" (jargon for "not historically accurate") and hence the reason for my inquiry. Although soldiers were issued bayonets, veterans in the European and Mediterranean Theater very often discarded them, simply because there were almost never hand to hand combat, unlike in the Pacific Theater. On the other hand, trench knives were in reality issued to a limited number of individuals (those armed with M1 Carbine or heavy weapons). Most regular soldiers did not carry one. Many soldiers did carry hunting knives (such as the PAL RH-36) or special knives (the Rangers had the Fairbairn-Sykes, the FSSF had the V-42 and so on). But the vast majority of soldiers that were not issued specialized knives like paratroopers (the M2) or Signal Corps or Engineers (the TL-29) did not and still had the daily need for a blade (and a bottle opener and a can opener too at least). So they carried pocket knives. Since the war did not start with D-Day as many reenactors like to believe, I am interested to know what pocket knives would have found their way into the hands of regular GIs that fought from the start of the war through 1943 and into 1944.
Thus my interest into pocket knives is, for the moment, limited to this specific inquiry (although the world of pocket knives and knives in general is fascinating to me) and I am unable to afford Silvey's book. I welcome more suggestions and info as to what pocket knives might have been carried at the time by GIs.
One question I have is: it seems to me that the Army did not clearly contracted any specific maker to provide pocket knives. However, I know for a fact that the Army often bought lots of commercial items and then supplied them (for example, the famous paratrooper cricket, but also razors etc). Didn't anything similar happen for pocket knives? In other words, wouldn't a pocket knife popular at the time (for example Boy Scout pocket knives) be historically accurate to be carried by a GI?

Meanwhile, I will submit to your judgment a couple of pocket knives that I have meanwhile used. I have not been able to identify with certainty the models and the manufacture years. Maybe you will help me to shed some light and help me out.
The first one I BELIEVE might be a Camco 450, which I think might be a model produced during the war years. Unfortunately one of the safeties is lacking (and I take the occasion to ask for help as to where to find a replacement or how to make one, please).
The blade is marked Imperial Knife - Providence, R.I. and the can opener is marked Can Open - PAT (and then I can't discern anymore).
IMG_2953.jpg

IMG_2954.jpg


The second is a Barlow "Diamond Edge" possibly manufactured between the '30s and the early '50s. This is all I could find out. Blade is marked Imperial Knife - Providence, R.I.
IMG_2956.jpg

IMG_2957.jpg

Gunsil
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Re: US Army Pocket Knives of WWII

Postby Gunsil » Thu Aug 22, 2019 11:37 am

Both knives you show would be classified as FARB, they were both made after WW2. No, the government did not just go out and buy a lot of pocket knives from all over and distribute them to troops. The government contracted with most but not all major American cutlery companies for specific knives. NONE of the issue utility knives had synthetic scales, you need a bone handled one with USA marks to be considered properly suited for re-enactment. If you can't afford books there are libraries, perhaps you should try going to your closest one. Libraries can get any book you wish for study. I should think other re-enactors in your group would also know which knives were actually available to troops in WW2.

PvtRossi
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Re: US Army Pocket Knives of WWII

Postby PvtRossi » Thu Aug 22, 2019 12:35 pm

Gunsil wrote:PvtRossi, here is a WW2 era Camillus utility knife made for the army. The USA on the shield is for US Army. These and ones by other companies were what preceded the all metal MIL-K knives. These would have been general issue knives, that is not made for specific units like the Ulster mountain troop knives. On the Robesons Charlie shows the USA on the tang is for US Army.

IMG_0148.jpg


I'm only now reading more carefully your post, Gunsil. This is great and that knife is beautiful. Did that pocket knife specifically have a nomenclature? And when you say "[...] and ones by other companies [...]" do you mean also made in the same exact style / model as this Camillus you're presenting? I'd be curious to know the prices for it.

PvtRossi
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Re: US Army Pocket Knives of WWII

Postby PvtRossi » Thu Aug 22, 2019 12:38 pm

Gunsil wrote:Both knives you show would be classified as FARB, they were both made after WW2. No, the government did not just go out and buy a lot of pocket knives from all over and distribute them to troops. The government contracted with most but not all major American cutlery companies for specific knives. NONE of the issue utility knives had synthetic scales, you need a bone handled one with USA marks to be considered properly suited for re-enactment. If you can't afford books there are libraries, perhaps you should try going to your closest one. Libraries can get any book you wish for study. I should think other re-enactors in your group would also know which knives were actually available to troops in WW2.


::dang::
I had not thought of getting the book through my library. I will do that right away, it's an excellent idea. I will look out for bone handles pocket knives and marked USA then, perhaps specifically the same model you posted - hoping the prices then won't be too prohibitive.
Thank you sir!

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Re: US Army Pocket Knives of WWII

Postby doglegg » Thu Aug 22, 2019 1:26 pm

An interesting site that might be of some interest and help to you.
https://stewartsmilitaryantiques.com/

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Re: US Army Pocket Knives of WWII

Postby Gunsil » Fri Aug 23, 2019 1:12 pm

PvtRossi, the Camillus ones are fairly common, were I to sell mine I would likely ask around forty five bucks for it since the main blade has been sanded clean a little. I have seen them for sale at flea markets and antique shows. Mint ones will cost you more but then again most re-enactors don't want a mint knife since a used one is more accurate. Now a lot of guys carried their own pocket knives for sure. Back then every guy who didn't live in a big city carried some sort of pocket knife and many took their favorites to war with them. Of course one could not easily open cans and bottles with their favorite old jack knife so I would think most adopted the utility knife that was issued them. Not all knife companies that had government war contracts made the same model knife for the government. There were a several making the utility knife I believe, with Camillus making the most.

PvtRossi
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Re: US Army Pocket Knives of WWII

Postby PvtRossi » Sun Aug 25, 2019 7:27 pm

Didn't civilian pocket knives in the 1930s and 1940s include also can opener and bottle opener?
I very much like the idea of fielding a commercial / civilian pocket knife, because it gives character to an impression, provided that has at least a bottle opener. What were some common models sold commercially in those years - that I could find today at affordable prices?

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Re: US Army Pocket Knives of WWII

Postby Old Hunter » Mon Aug 26, 2019 11:01 am

Go look at this thread - PX knives were non-issue knives ordered for stock in the PX and sold to Soldiers - good likelihood that your average Grunt or Doggie would have one of these if not carrying an issue pocketknife. I don’t think that has changed since WW-II; most Soldiers still carry a knife that they bought - everything from customs to cheap imports. OH

viewtopic.php?t=63034
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Re: US Army Pocket Knives of WWII

Postby fergusontd » Mon Aug 26, 2019 12:01 pm

::tu:: I carried a Buck 110 in the Navy. Bought it right after I came aboard in '68. Used it daily in the " hole". ftd
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PvtRossi
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Re: US Army Pocket Knives of WWII

Postby PvtRossi » Wed Aug 28, 2019 12:52 pm

Old Hunter wrote:Go look at this thread - PX knives were non-issue knives ordered for stock in the PX and sold to Soldiers - good likelihood that your average Grunt or Doggie would have one of these if not carrying an issue pocketknife. I don’t think that has changed since WW-II; most Soldiers still carry a knife that they bought - everything from customs to cheap imports. OH

viewtopic.php?t=63034


Old Hunter, thank you! I am now on the lookout for that as well...not much luck so far now though

PvtRossi
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Re: US Army Pocket Knives of WWII

Postby PvtRossi » Sat Aug 31, 2019 3:08 am

I finally was able to obtain copies of the Silvey books and read through them. Could I post pictures from it, without infringing on copyright?
The Camillus pocket knife (also made by other companies) and normally marked USA on the shield is, according to Silvey, and Engineers knife (unlike the Pocket, Knife, General Purpose that was supposed to replace most knives then in use, including the mess kit knife). Even though millions were made it still sounds like an item that the common infantryman or regular GI would have carried. So I believe that for my pre-1944 impression I will try to find a PX version or, better still, a period-correct civilian pocket knife, hopefully including also a can opener and bottle opener. Not sure if that was a thing for civilian pocket knives in the 1930s and 1940s, however.

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Re: US Army Pocket Knives of WWII

Postby Mumbleypeg » Sat Aug 31, 2019 4:51 am

I think you were on the right track with the knives in your initial post. The most common pattern having a can opener and bottle opener (cap lifter) is the scout/utility pattern. Also sometimes called a camper pattern. It was adopted as an official knife of the Boy Scouts of America around 1912. Unofficial scout/utility knives were made by almost every American knife maker (or they had them made for them with their name stamped on them, by Camillus and others). Here’s a thread dedicated to the pattern, containing both official and unofficial versions. viewtopic.php?f=35&t=12874#p103392

Of soldiers carrying “civilian” knives, many undoubtedly had one of these. If a civilian knife with can opener and botttke opener fits your needs, find a scout/utility knife from pre-1944 and you’ll be all set. JMO

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Re: US Army Pocket Knives of WWII

Postby orvet » Sat Aug 31, 2019 6:53 am

This topic reminds me of a conversation I had with the late Tom Williams; he was the official historian of Camillus Cutlery as well as a 30-year employee.
Tom told me once that at the beginning of World War II the military was not prepared with knives for issue. He said we at Camilla and most Cutlery companies in America shipped just about every hunting knife we had to the military. They issued many of these fixed blade hunting knives to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. There was even a civilian knife drive where are the civilian population of the United States donated knives to the military to be issued to soldiers. I believe that included both fixed blade and folding knives.

My conversation with Tom, focused primarily on fixed blade hunting knives but I expect the military probably bought knives that had originally been made for the civilian Market and issued them to the Troops. They may have not been official military patterns but they where in all likelihood issued or given to the Troops.

As far as a period correct knife for your reenactment purposes goes, most any knife made prior to the start of the war potentially could have ended up in the hands of the troops. Do if the knife was made prior to 1941 I would think it would be right for your reenactment as this could have been a knife used by the greatest generation.
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PvtRossi
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Re: US Army Pocket Knives of WWII

Postby PvtRossi » Sun Sep 01, 2019 3:33 pm

Again, I want to thank y'all for your contributions to this threat and the help y'all are giving me for answering such a specific question, posed by somebody who is abysmally ignorant on the topic of pocket knives, for purposes other than collecting pocket knives. I truly appreciate it.

Mumbleypeg wrote:I think you were on the right track with the knives in your initial post. The most common pattern having a can opener and bottle opener (cap lifter) is the scout/utility pattern. Also sometimes called a camper pattern. It was adopted as an official knife of the Boy Scouts of America around 1912. Unofficial scout/utility knives were made by almost every American knife maker (or they had them made for them with their name stamped on them, by Camillus and others). Here’s a thread dedicated to the pattern, containing both official and unofficial versions. viewtopic.php?f=35&t=12874#p103392
Of soldiers carrying “civilian” knives, many undoubtedly had one of these. If a civilian knife with can opener and botttke opener fits your needs, find a scout/utility knife from pre-1944 and you’ll be all set. JMO

Ken


Ken, thank you. Yes, that's what I am oriented toward now, a boy scout knife or a civilian knife 1930s or early 1940s. The thread you linked is amazing (194 pages!) and the collections there are astounding.
Unfortunately though most of the times I cannot see the adoption date / manufacture date of the knives presented in it, which is crucial for my goal obviously. I guess finding the official Boy Scouts of America knife of 1912 won't be hard. Finding other non-official scout knives or civilians knife made in the 1930s / early 1940s will not be easy for me, since my knowledge on the subject is so limited that I don't know how to date pocket knives, not even approximately.
I believe somebody in this thread mentioned that bone handles are a telling sign can show if they are pre-WWII manufacture or not (while synthetic handles is a post-war sign). Any other telling signs of a pre-WWII style pocket knife? What about wood handles?

orvet wrote:This topic reminds me of a conversation I had with the late Tom Williams; he was the official historian of Camillus Cutlery as well as a 30-year employee.
Tom told me once that at the beginning of World War II the military was not prepared with knives for issue. He said we at Camilla and most Cutlery companies in America shipped just about every hunting knife we had to the military. They issued many of these fixed blade hunting knives to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. There was even a civilian knife drive where are the civilian population of the United States donated knives to the military to be issued to soldiers. I believe that included both fixed blade and folding knives.
My conversation with Tom, focused primarily on fixed blade hunting knives but I expect the military probably bought knives that had originally been made for the civilian Market and issued them to the Troops. They may have not been official military patterns but they where in all likelihood issued or given to the Troops.
As far as a period correct knife for your reenactment purposes goes, most any knife made prior to the start of the war potentially could have ended up in the hands of the troops. Do if the knife was made prior to 1941 I would think it would be right for your reenactment as this could have been a knife used by the greatest generation.


Yes, the "civilian knife drive" is also mentioned in the Silvvey. Something extremely interesting that I had no idea happened. It's truly a showcase example of the military unpreparedness of the US at the outbreak of the war, a stark difference from the situation of mid-1945.

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Re: US Army Pocket Knives of WWII

Postby 1967redrider » Sun Sep 01, 2019 4:13 pm

I borrowed this picture from http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/ ... tchblades/ which you may find interesting. Lots of great military knife information on that website!
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