WW2 Ka-Bar vs bayonet

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by MBG, Jun 25, 2020.

  1. MBG

    MBG

    62
    May 21, 2020
    I've been rewatching the series The Pacific and something occurred to me. Pop culture and several books that I have read give the perception that most Marines who fought in WW2 carried a Ka-Bar (Mark 2 Fighting Utility Knife). The problem is that most of the Infantry would have had bayonets which goes against the perceived common use of the Mk2. Some weapons couldn't mount a bayonet but this would have been the exception, not the rule. Out of 13 Marines in a rifle squad only three of them carried automatic rifles, everyone else should have had a bayonet.

    My theory is that many of the authors who wrote about their experiences weren't in rifle squads (survivor bias?). So perhaps the books we read about the pacific theater in WW2 overemphasize how common Mk2s were? Maybe some marketing help from the KA-BAR company is at play as well?

    Does anyone have any evidence about this one way or the other?

    As a side note, I wonder if Army personnel in the pacific theater had any affinity for the M3 fighting knife.
     
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  2. BladeScout

    BladeScout Basic Member Basic Member

    May 16, 2010
    "By 1944 the Ka-Bar knife was issued to virtually any Marine in the combat branches who desired one"
    - Wiki on Ka-Bar.

    There were plenty of knives in play/to go around for the various branches. Not only Ka-Bars. Bear in mind, that several companies supplied knives on government orders and not only the MKII pattern.
    For example Cattaraugus alone made 1 (one) million Cattaraugus 225 Q knives during two years of WWII.
     
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  3. R.c.s

    R.c.s Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 23, 2013

    You might find this documentary on the k - bar interesting
     
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  4. eveled

    eveled Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 11, 2016
    The m1 carbine didn’t have a bayonet lug until the very end of the war. Neither did the Tommy gun. Not everyone wanted a bayonet.
     
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  5. R.c.s

    R.c.s Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 23, 2013
    I remember a while back reading about the origins of the M3 . The army was looking for a replacement for the Mark 1 trench knife . A Fighting knife to be issued to paratroopers and rangers for hand to hand combat . They looked at the prototype of the M3 against ka-bar but decided to go with the M3 as it used less steel and was cheaper to manufacture . Due to the quantities of the M3 being manufactured they started to issue them to anybody who wasn't equipped with a bayonet . roughly a year or so later it was turned into the M4 bayonet .
    Disclaimer this is what I remember it might not be entirely accurate :)
     
  6. R.c.s

    R.c.s Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 23, 2013
    IMG_20200610_133327.jpg IMG_20200610_133200.jpg IMG_20200610_133807.jpg
     
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  7. MBG

    MBG

    62
    May 21, 2020
    Ill check it out when I get a chance, thanks!
     
  8. MBG

    MBG

    62
    May 21, 2020
    I forgot that the early M1 carbines didn't have the bayonet lug. That would account for a lot of Marines without bayonets. My assumption has been that they would be required to carry a bayonet if their weapon could mount one, maybe this is a false assumption.
     
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  9. Halfneck

    Halfneck

    Jun 30, 2005
    Airborne soldiers that were issued an M1 Carbine were issued the M3. Some carried them strapped to their lower legs/boots for ease of access during a jump. Least that's what I recall reading when I was with the 101st Airborne. I'd imagine that once they were on the ground they moved it. I think it would be an annoyance while walking.
     
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  10. eveled

    eveled Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 11, 2016
    .The m3 wasn’t issued until march 1943. So any movie from before then shouldn’t have m3’s.

    The mk2 is only a couple months older.

    So Wake Midway and Guadalcanal wouldn’t have had either knife.

    There was also a huge movement to send home made knives and hunting knives. Stories about high school shop classes making knives, Hoyt Buck making knives in his Church basement. We never see those depicted in film.

    As far as being required to carry what you were issued. I don’t think it was like that.
    More of “carry what you want it’s your funeral”.
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2020
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  11. BladeScout

    BladeScout Basic Member Basic Member

    May 16, 2010
    Id tend to think it was something along those lines. Us knife nerds tend to think knives are/were way more important than was the case.
    As for being required to carry what was issued; While a lot guys carried knives (obviously, since millions were made), the powers that be most likely were more concerned about supplies, ammo, shells, refitting the Yorktown, island hopping and Fat Man.
     
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  12. 315

    315 Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 2, 2017
    I know Grandad carried a Western he bought before he shipped out in the Seabees. He carried it when he landed on Okinawa and eventually returned home with it. I now have that knife. I can’t recall asking him if he was ever issued a knife or not, but I do know he carried the Western the entire time. But I’m guessing that even if someone wasn’t issued a knife they probably acquired one fairly quickly. Even men behind the lines were probably used to having some type of knife on them for various day to day tasks. Back then young boys and men from the cities had a reason to carry a knife, sharpening pencils, cutting string off parcels, etc.. I’ll caution a guess to say once they landed somewhere it didn’t take long to see the value in a solid knife.
     
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  13. MBG

    MBG

    62
    May 21, 2020
    That is some really interesting history, I might need to buy a Buck now!

    I could see the "carry what you want" mentality happening to a certain extent. I just assumed that the Platoon/Squad NCOs would have had a more professional approach. I'm sure the culture was different for leaders who joined after the war started. At the end of the day, things like ammo and water were a lot more important, maybe that is all they were concerned about.
     
  14. MBG

    MBG

    62
    May 21, 2020
    Great story! Any idea what model the Western was? I could see choosing a knife that would work better for you than the Mk2 or M3, especially when you are doing the type of work that the Seabees did.
     
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  15. 315

    315 Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 2, 2017
    It looks like a Shark to me but I’m not a Western aficionado to know if there was another model that was similar to it. Here is the knife, picture taken today. There is a story I heard when I was about 7 that it was used on an enemy on Okinawa. I heard that story only one other time the day he gave me that knife. After WWII, he used it on Caribou, Moose and fish in Alaska, countless deer and antelope in Montana and gave it to me in 1997. I’ve used it on Moose, Bear, Deer, Elk, Antelope since then. The last being a little Idaho Whitetail my daughter took last year, 2 days after Grandad died at 102. I figured it was fitting for his knife to be used.

    [​IMG]
     
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  16. BladeScout

    BladeScout Basic Member Basic Member

    May 16, 2010
    Some WWII warhorses - Camillus MKII, Ka-Bar MKII, Cat225Q

    [​IMG]

    1940s FS
    [​IMG]

    More Cats

    [​IMG]
     
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  17. Chalet

    Chalet Gold Member Gold Member

    456
    Aug 23, 2013
    I think either over on the Kabar forum on here or maybe the wiki page for them that earlier in the war they were issued to anyone without an M1, such as mortar crews, machine gun crews, etc. then by the end of the war they’d pretty much issued them to everyone.
     
  18. midnight flyer

    midnight flyer Basic Member Basic Member

    Jan 12, 2009
    Yes, yes, yes. (Bold/Italics above by me.)

    I grew up and went to work in the 60s with a lot of WWII and Korea age vets. NONE, yes... NONE of them saw a knife as anything other than a tool. Of course, I was horrified. They saw the KABARS and their like of military issuance as damn fine pry bars (used the KABAR to open ammo and other crates), digging tools when the shovel was lost or the ground too frozen to dig, an emergency stake to hold down their shelter half in a storm, a cooking tool, a hammer (the butt), a chopper for all manner of materials, a board splitter to make a small camp fire, and everything else that the knife was actually designed to do for the everyday soldier's needs. All agreed that it was a great piece of gear, but never really thought of it as a knife. And they weren't issued any kind of sharpening tools (Army... no "survival knife" setups), so they literally left them behind when the blades were damaged or really dull.

    Fast forward. A good buddy of mine is a retired Sgt. Major from Special Forces. (Not an ounce of bravado in him, kind of a thoughtfullness...). We chatted a lot about the role of knives in his 27 years of service, and he felt the same as his brothers from previous conflicts. Knives and bayonets are tools, and they could have called it anything they wanted, but it was still just a tool. His thoughts and the way he trained his "students" was that if you were close enough to rely on a bayonet or a knife, you were screwed. They all learned basic knife skills, but according to him, his basic knife skills were only to disarm someone that has a cutting tool, or if it was a mission critical piece of equipment. In the "mission critical" arrangements, he assured me that the point was the only thing that needed to be sharp on a knife. !!!!

    He thought from his time at the end of the Vietnam war and the Middle East (and other) conflicts he was personally involved in was the issue of the multitool as one of the most valuable pieces of utility gear he ever had. He thought that was the most practical thing they could have given the troops for all the obvious reasons. Being an "in the field" kind of guy as he put it, he never carried a big knife of any kind unless it was for a specific purpose. He did carry two different sizes of multitools, though. Oh yeah... he did make off with a couple of KABARs during his service. One has a sheath, one doesn't. He uses one in his garden (old habits never die) and the other one he is keeping safe since it was the one he had at the end of his career.

    His one tool he considers a piece of cutlery? A real knife? His CASE brand stockman carried and given to him by his late father.

    Robert
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2020
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  19. eveled

    eveled Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 11, 2016
    I read once, and I’ve never been able to find it again. Something along the lines of. The life expectancy of a knife in combat was like 20 minutes. That’s why they thought leather handles were fine.
     
  20. afishhunter

    afishhunter Basic Member Basic Member

    Oct 21, 2014
    When I was in the Army Reserves in 1975 (81mm morterman) I was issued two knives:
    A Western made "Demo" knife, and a bayonet for "my" M16A-1. When I was discharged for medical reasons in Basic, the Reserves wanted "my" M16A-1, the Bayonet, and "my" .45 ACP 1911 "Government" back. (daRn it) :(
    I did get to keep the Demo knife. I still have it. :)

    I don't recall anyone in my company/platoon that had a fixed blade other than the Bayonet. We had enough gear on out web belts as it was. We sure didn't need to be adding more.

    I used the Demo knife a lot more often than the Bayonet. (The bayonet did come in handy when stacking the M16-A1's muzzle down. Stick the bayonet into the ground and walk away. The rifle was not going to topple over. (that practice dates back to at least the Civil War, by the way.)

    (I qualified with the M16, 1911, and 81mm mortar in the 3 months before being sent to Basic.:) )
     

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