"A Copse. Evening"

"A Copse. Evening"
A. Y. Jackson, 1918
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

More Big Bowies from the South Pacific

Well, the North Pacific as well. First photo: Two FSSF men examining a Japanese knee mortar on Kiska in the Aleutians, Aug. 1943. The force, as part of the, ultimately unnecessary assault on Kiska, wore the insignia of Amphibian Training Force 9 AKA "Corlett's Long Knives".
The attack on Kiska had been expected to be grueling as it was a large installation with shore batteries and an air strip. This reasoning was based on an earlier operation against Attu, chosen because it seemed a "softer" target which turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory. The ratio of casualties suffered by American forces was second only to those of Iwo Jima and of the 2,650 Japanese defenders, only twenty-nine were taken prisoner. However, Kiska was a different story. The Japanese had evacuated to - everyone's surprise and relief.
But I digress - on the shoulder patch, notice a big Bowie. The swath cut by the famous "Gung Ho knife" of Guadalcanal fame being considerable over the previous 10 months, this was the image chosen as the symbol for the insignia of the ATF 9. Next pictured is an example of the patch, available with a knife, at Snyder's Treasures. Only $499.
What I'm really prattling about here is another big Bowie altogether. One our lads - and I assume, Brits, Kiwis and Aussies carried during the island hopping campaigns.
First of all, we have another nomenclature issue here. This knife is usually referred to as "The Ranger Knife" often the "1st Ranger Battalion Knife". Alas, the 1st Ranger Battalion served only in North Africa and Italy, a fair piece from Australia, where these knives are known to have originated. So these knives have as much to do with the Jellystone Park employee responsible for thwarting Yogi Bear's raids on pic-a-nic baskets as with any military organization.
First pictured is the most common, the brass handled model. I refer to it as "the cogwheel ranger knife". By all accounts these were pieces of crap. A smaller version sported a knuckle bow that most fingers wouldn't even fit into. Many examples have bent blades which points to a poor heat treatment, if they were so treated at all. The consensus seems to be that these were flogged off to GI's as souvenirs of Australia. One period account, by someone in some medical capacity states that he bought one in Australia thinking it would be useful in clearing brush around aid stations and the like. After a few weeks in the field, and apparently taking something of a ration of shit from the guys about his big knife, he found it too cumbersome and traded it off. In spite of this, they still command high prices in the collector market.The other two are examples of Ranger knives that probably originated in New Zealand, the Kiwi's being more prone to use aluminum as a handle material.


They appear to be far more practical with lighter handles - which look as if they're actually meant to be held by someone with an eye toward use - and a knuckle bow with three points. Hence, they're referred to as "Three Point Ranger Knives". Duh.
One of my favorite things about looking at knife pictures is noticing the backgrounds used in photos. On the second example, can anyone say "field jacket liner"?
I won't go off into some place where my bad attitude can have free reign. Instead I'll leave you with a picture of the original Collins #18 circa 1880.It got a tad shorter during the intervening fifty-odd years.

1 comment:

Stephen Renico said...

Dan,

Another great historical treatise on big knives! Keep up the good work.

I sent you a few emails, by the way.

-Stephen

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