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THE HISTORY OF THE SPECIAL FORCES FIGHTING KNIFE

Knives have been a key fighting weapon in every war. No matter how advanced the technology, a good knife always has a place in battle.

A special breed of knives saw extensive development during WWII. Known as the "fighting knife". While it could be employed for the uses of a regular knife, its primary goal was for hand-to-hand combat. The design, balance and materials employed varied from the run of the mill knife.

This page provides a sample of the various American fighting knives used during WWII and beyond. The samples displayed here cover various countries that participated in the war. Information provided includes the identification of fighting knives and pricing of fighting knives.


THE WWII OSS SMATCHET

A Smatchet is a short, heavy fighting knife/sword 16.5 inches in overall length (including grip). It was originally designed by William E. Fairbairn during World War II.



Though described in the Office of Strategic Services catalog as a cross between a machete and a bolo, it was actually based on the Welsh Machinegunner's Knife of World War I, and was designed as a pure combat weapon. It has a broad, leaf-shaped blade sharpened the full length on one side, and from the tip to half of the other side. The entire blade is coated with a dull matt finish to prevent detection at night from stray reflections.



There were no markings on the blade or handle. This was done purposely so that no indication of origin was possible in case the weapon was dropped while in enemy territory.

These are side views of the handle of the smatchet. The pommel is dove head type and it is made of aluminum. A leather string is passed through a hole. This was a wrist strap. Two rivets hold the handle in place.


The following photograph illustrates a leather scabbard for the smatchet. The scabbards came in black and brown. The back has a strap riveted in place at an angle to form a belt loop. A second piece of leather is secured near the top. This forms a safety strap which has a snap on the other end.






THE WWII US PARATROOPER SWITCHBLADE

A switchblade is a type of knife with a folding or sliding blade contained in the handle which is opened by a spring when a button or lever on the grip is pressed. The United States developed a series of switchblades to be issued to paratrooper forces during World War Two.

The handle of the switchblade came in different colors. The photos to the left show two of the types available. One is black while the other is brown. The brown color was an earlier version of the knife. The black example is missing the silver cap at the very top.




The knives were made by the Schrade company. They were shipped in a cardboard box, six per box, and were wrapped in a piece of wax paper that had instructions on how to use the knife printed.

The paratrooper switchbalde was marked at the base of the blade. The photo above belongs to the brown handle knife. The photo below are the markings found on the black handle knife.



The construction of the knife consisted of a bone handle with a pattern simulating heavy pitting. This feature improved the gripping ability. The handle was secured via the use of multiple small rivets. There were two openings on one side of the handle. One was circular for the release mechanism. The other was oval and it housed the safety mechanism.

The early versions of the switchblade did not have a metal lanyard loop at the end. This feature was not implemented until mid WWII. The lanyard loop was again removed after WWII.

WWII MARKINGS WWII MARKINGS
Schrade Cut Co.
Walden, NY
US Pats.
Dec.21.09.
Sept.13.10.
June.6.16
Presto
Pat Pend-G
G Schrade
B'Port CT

Some of the switchblades were also produced for the civilian market. One of the differences between the two is that in some cases the civilian version had black metal handles.


The following photos illustrate the switchblades in the open position.




The knife was housed in a special pocket of the jump jacket.

The pocket was located in the chest area and was closed via the use of a zipper.

The idea was that opening the pocket, taking out the knife and opening it could all be done with one hand. This function was very important because the paratrooper may hurt one arm upon landing.

and be stuck in the branches of a tree or building structure. The soldier needed a way to cut himself loose from the parachute.



THE V-42 FIGHTING KNIFE

The V-42 Stiletto was a stiletto issued during World War II to the 1st Special Service Force (Devil's Brigade), a joint Canadian/American commando unit.

The V-42 was designed in part by the Commanding Officer of the brigade, Lt. Colonel Robert T. Frederick. Every part of the knife was made with the intent of combat. This knife was the trademark weapon of the Devil's Brigade, and its members were trained extensively in the use of this knife. The profile of this knife is pictured on the crests of the Canadian Special Operation Forces Command, Canadian Forces's Joint Task Force 2 and the one of the United States Army Special Forces.

The V-42 was manufactured in the United States by W. R. Case & Sons Cutlery Co.. The original leather sheath was reinforced by the troops to include a metal tip, so that the sharp blade would no longer penetrate through and cut their legs. Since the force was originally trained for fighting in cold weather conditions, the sheath was designed long, so as to hang beneath the bottom of their military parkas. After use in the field against the Germans, some unit members purposely dulled the tip of these knives to minimize its habit of embedding into bone and becoming difficult to withdraw

The V-42 weighs 7 ounces, with a 7-inch blade and 5.5-inch handle, for a total length of 12.5 inches. Its features include a sharp blade and a sturdy handle with a skull-cracking butt, similar to a Dotty Hammer.




This information is brought to you courtesy of MilitaryItems.com the premiere provider of military antiques and collectibles to the general market.

If you have an interest is seeing other fighting knives, you can do so by going to our Military Fighting Knives Price Guide identification page. Where we cover Army, Navy, Army Air Force, USMC and other military groups.

While the knives shown on this page are not for sale, you can visit our website, MilitaryItems.com , to see other military and non-military knives available for sale.



 
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