"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
 
THE CUTTING EDGE
 

One interesting knife that was produced for the Bureau of Aeronautics in 1944 was a three bladed utility knife consisting of a spear main blade, a screw driver cap lifter and a can opener with a stamped USN shield manufactured by Camillus. This knife is listed by Camillus as a Navy Aviation and Ship Stores Resale Utility Knife. This knife was a direct purchase from the Aviation Supply Office so would have only been available through the aeronautical supply system. It is not clear if it was intended for emergency equipment or general issue to aviation activities. This knife has two variations, one having brass linings and the other with all steel. Also, this is one of the very few knives attributed to a specific contract, that being N288s-24170 for a quantity of 54,000. This knife bears a 3 line stamp on the tang.

Imperial produced a similar looking knife which could also have been an ASO purchase under the same intentions as the Camillus version and since Camillus, Imperial and Kingston were supplying the BuAer, it is highly likely. This knife is constructed of all steel with a bone handle. A Made in USA version exists identical to the Imperial. The Class 41 supply catalog for aeronautical materials lists and illustrates a similar jackknife but with an odd looking can opener that has a stamped “SCOUT” shield. The catalog description says:

 Boy Scout, three blade type including one heavy cutting blade, one screw driver, and one bottle and one can opener. Has 3 5/8 inch bone stag handle with riveted shackle ringStock number R41-K-365

 The description fits these three bladed knives quit well. Through various supply type catalogs, three differently constructed knives are available under the same stock number. It is important to keep in mind that supply catalogs were available for basic reference and do not always picture the correct items. It is my opinion that the Scout knife pictured in the catalog is not correct. The individuals responsible for putting the catalog together could have made an emergency type procurement at the local sporting goods store and/or misinterpreted the verbiage "Boy Scout". It was not unusual at all for local procurements to be made and references to these types of acquisitions do surface from time to time in the period material.

The primary type of 4 bladed utility pocket knife used by the US Army, United States Marine Corps and Bureau of Aeronautics was the Engineer type, specification 17-170 and M-575. The US Navy Bureau of Ships utilized a slightly different 4 bladed knife under their specification 41-J-4 Four Blade, Utility, Jack Knife. It should be noted that 41-J-4 is a general specification in which the two bladed EZ openers follow these guidelines as well.  This knife is similar to the Engineer except the leather punch is replaced by a pen blade with all other construction aspects being the same.  Known Navy contractors include Camillus, Pal, Imperial and Boker. Very larger quantities of these knives were manufactured by the above mentioned makers.  These type of knives most likely ended up in use within the BuAer considering the fact that every sailor had them and they were available in every naval store. These jackknives can be found with bone and plastic handles, with plastic being the most common, and they were produced in very large quantities. As a side note, several years ago, an original packed ADR-1 Air Droppable Ration Kit (these kits were introduced late in the war) surfaced and one of these 41-J-4 jackknives with instruction card was included. See below.

An ADR-1 kit on display as part of an emergency equipment exhibit at NAS Norfolk, circa late 1944-early 1945. A jackknife can be seen in the left foreground.