USMC Stiletto & 1 Can Para Bn “Killing Knife”

In WWII, the United States Marine Corps adopted a fighting knife which is now called the “USMC Stiletto” by collectors. A much rarer all-black unmarked version was issued to the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.

Top: 1 Canadian Parachute Battalion "Killing Knife"
Top: 1 Canadian Parachute Battalion “Killing Knife”
Bottom: USMC Stiletto.

The author has observed 2 styles from WWII and a number of post-war commemorative copies.

  1. USMC Stiletto with USMC in scroll and CAMILLUS maker name information on the blade. Bright blade.

  2. 1 Canadian Parachute Battalion “Killing Knife”. All black with no markings.

These knives were designed by Captain Clifford H. Shuey of the United States Marine Corps in February, 1942. The knife blades were made by Camillus Cutlery Company, of Camillus, New York. The cast Zinc alloy hilts and scabbards were made by outside contractors.  These knives were generally issued to the USMC Raider Battalions and possibly to the USMC Pareamarines. We do NOT know the total number of these knives made during WWII. It is reported that 14,370 were made in the first two production runs of 5,000 and  9,370 however a third wartime production run was also made as stated by Tom Williams in 2012 on BladeForum. He stated that he has copies of the production records but I do not know the quantities on that run. I also do not know which run the all black version was made, though I suspect it was on the third run.

The blade is similar to the British F-S Fighting Knife designed by Fairbairn and Sykes. The USMC version looks like a clone, with a different grip texturing and the guard, grip and pommel are all one casting whereas they were separate parts on the British F-S Fighting Knife. The scabbard is similar to the M6 scabbard for the M3 Trench Knife and is also similar to, but much shorter than, the V-42 scabbard. Most of these USMC knives have the letters “USMC” in a scroll on the blade, similar to the custom scroll applied by Wilkinson Sword to some privately purchased F-S Fighting Knives.

These knives were not well liked by the Raiders and John Bakeberg,  the son of one of those Raiders, told me how they practiced knife throwing at tree trunks until the blade broke.

The alloy in the grips tends to disintegrate and many knives are reported to have cross-guards crumble and chunks fall off.

USMC Stiletto

USMC Stiletto, with no markings remaining visible, with staples at throat of scabbard. Snap fastener strap is gone and the Marine fitted a leather lace loop fitted to retain the knife. Formerly in the Colin M. Stevens Collection.
USMC Stiletto, with no markings remaining visible, with staples at throat of scabbard. Snap fastener strap is gone and the Marine fitted a leather lace loop fitted to retain the knife. Formerly in the Colin M. Stevens Collection.

This specimen is for sale by the way as I am focussing on the Canadian issued items. The Scabbard is in very good used condition. The blade is excellent although as usual the shallow etching has partly worn away. The hilt and cross-guard are in superb condition. Wikipedia says “Because of the decomposing Zinc-alloy handle, the stiletto is one of the rarest knives in the world of militaria collecting, and Knife collecting and existing specimens can be expensive”

Here is a link to a photo of a well used USMC Stiletto with the same type of scabbard as above. The retaining strap is fitted low, as per the two holes on the example above. The higher position is the most commonly seen. This suggest that this scabbard was made with the strap low, and then it was moved to the higher position. The lack of staples and plates on both suggest that this may be from the first production run.  Link to a Snyder’s Treasures photo of a low mounted securing strap.

 

1 Canadian Parachute Battalion “Killing Knife”

 

1 Canadian Parachute Battalion sniper Pte. R. C. Rushton Roermond, Holland 1945. He has a "Killing Knife" on his left hip. It is an all-black version of the USMC Stiletto. (Out of the Clouds)
1 Canadian Parachute Battalion sniper Pte. R. C. Rushton Roermond, Holland 1945. He has a “Killing Knife” on his left hip. It is an all-black version of the USMC Stiletto. (Out of the Clouds)

“I was issued the knife you mention in 1943 or 1944 by our quartermaster stores. I recall that it was darkened but I am unable to recall what was imprinted on the blade. Our knives were always referred to as “killing knives” and they were used to dispatch German soldiers on at least two occasions. Some training was provided on how to attack or defend from the front and how to attack from the rear.” – Roy C. Rushton, 1 Canadian Parachute Battalion.

Quality REPLICA scabbards of three of the four known patterns are available from Moore Leather in Scotland. I have purchase some items from them and found them to be of very good quality.

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