WWI US Mark I trench fighting Knife -
Trench knives are either purpose-made weapons, or are made from cut-down (shortened) bayonets or swords, and intended for close-quarter fighting, the design originating in the trench warfare of the First World War. They
were particularly useful for trench raiding operations, along with other mêlée weapons.
Perhaps the most easily recognized American trench knife is the Mark I, introduced too late to see World War I service in the trenches, but adopted and carried by U.S. paratroopers in the Second World War. This knife was a full-tang design with a double-edged blade and a brass hilt incorporating a guard shaped as a knuckle duster, though the guard existed much more for the purpose of being a guard than for any perceived benefit as a punching aid. The pommel incorporated a so-called 'skull-crusher' extension ostensibly designed to increase the lethality of the weapon. However, as common sense and knife experts agree, using a stabbing/cutting weapon as a bludgeon is very ineffective, an improper and pointless practice contrary to the best usage of the weapon.
This page is a recognition and identification guide for military fighting knives.
Multiple detailed photos of a specific sample are provided. Descriptions point out
clearly defined points that should be noted.
One of the most commonly asked questions is "How much is my fighting knife worth?".
A price guide is included here to address this question. The value of the knives is
reviewed over a period of several years. A trend can be observed. The present worth
of the edge weapons in the collector's market is illustrated.
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The brass-hilted U.S. Mark I trench knives were made by three American companies and one French company:
| Company Name
| Landers, Frary & Clark
|| New Britain, Connecticut
| Henry Disston & Sons
| Oneida Community Limited
| Au Lion/Societe General
|| Au Lion
American models of the Mark I are stamped on the right side of the brass grip "U.S. 1918", with the contractor's initials below that. These three American companies were among the four that also made the earlier U.S. M1917 and M1918 trench knives.
The French version of the Mark I is stamped on the blade ricasso with a recumbent lion, and "Au Lion" below that. The grip of the French version is typically stamped with "U.S. 1918". Several versions of the French model exist - some with grooves on top of the grip, some without. Some have letters and numbers cast into the knucks that are smaller than others.
The American Mark I knives and steel sheaths were issued with a blackened finish to prevent reflection, but some owners believing this to be tarnish attempted to polish them and remove the blackening. The French knives were issued with iron sheaths. American versions of the Mark I appear to be better finished than the French version, and are slightly larger dimensionally as well. American-made sheaths for the Mark I trench knife are marked "L.F.&C. 1918", while the French sheath is unmarked. American-made knives have 8-sided skull-crusher pommels, the French model is 4-sided.