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

Another type of jackknife used in great numbers by the US Navy was the EZ-opener. These two bladed knives pre-date the four blade utility knife as standard and were manufactured in large quantities by Pal, Camillus, Utica, Imperial and Kingston. Pictured here are Imperial examples made with both bone and plastic handles. Approximately ten years ago, an original untouched M-592 kit was found in a leaky attic and interestingly enough, a rusty plastic handle Imperial EZ opener was in the kit, still in the original wrap. It is not known if this was a factory stocked item or replacement added while the kit was in service.

The four and 3 bladed jackknives used during the WWII era were often referred to commercially as a Boy Scout Knife and all share the common dimensions of 3 5/8” in length when closed. Within military literature, pocket knives are often referenced as a “Boy Scout Type” or “Scout Type”. Even the 3 bladed knives for the Army Air Corp are listed in the supply catalog as Knife, Boy Scout. Official Scout knives will have a shield bearing the Boy Scout emblem or be stamped “Scout” on a shield. Collectors often take this reference literally and have these BSA pocket knives in their collections erroneously. This is just a basic descriptive term being that the Boy Scouts held a considerable stature during this era which was the height of their popularity. Knife manufactures had product lines geared towards the Boy Scout market. During the war, various models were then produced for the government. The Ulster engineer knife is an excellent example. Typically, this model is found with the BSA emblem, they simply removed the shield for US government contracts.




Dating pocket knives from WWII can be a daunting task. Most manufacturers made very little adjustments from their commercially produced models. The best clue would be the use of all steel construction. In 1942 the War Production Board (WPB) placed brass on the critical materials list. Brass was a common material in all pocket knife manufacture so all steel is a good start. Brass being on the critical materials list did not mean that knife manufacturers could not use brass just that they were no longer able to secure the material. Many companies still had stocks of brass parts which they quickly used up. This opens the door for minor variations in regards to materials used such as the use of steel liners and spring spacers but with brass handle pins or brass liners but with steel spacer etc. Brass began to be used again in knife production by the end of 1944 so this will make it difficult to determine early or late war production. Can openers can also be helpful; every knife manufacturer had their own style of opener.  In 1944, Imperial introduced the eagle beak safety can opener and by the end of the year other companies began using this design, but not consistently until the post war years, therefore the eagle claw or beak openers are a good indicator of late to post-war production. The first generation safety can openers for Imperial will be stamp PAT PEND. The patent was assigned in December 1945, after which they were stamped with the patent number. In 1943, Camillus introduced their design of a safety can opener in a two piece construction as seen on the Navy 41-J-4. All previous can openers required an upward stroke which was said to open up hands better than cans; the new “safety” openers used a downward stroke. Tang markings can be useful as well and will help you to place an era on a knife. Camillus used a 4 line stamping in the pre-war and inter-war years then in 1944 introduced a 3 line marking. This 3 line marking carried through to the post-war years and by the late forty’s they made a slight adjustment by adding a short under line below CAMILLUS. The Kingston MADE IN USA is a bit easier as these knives were only produced during the war. In the immediate post war era, starting in 1946, Kingston was associated with Schrade-Walden (located in Walden, NY) and began using the brand name Kingston.  Imperial Prov. RI stamping was used from 1936 to 1952. Pre 1936, the full spelling of Providence was used and in the post war era, a crown was added over Imperial on their Kamp King line of knife.

Condition is everything in the knife world, which can make a considerable difference in prices. Finding these jackknives in unused condition is an almost impossible task however. They were so well built they seem to last forever and are preferred by many people today over newly made pocket knives. There are literally hundreds of variations of folding jackknives from the WWII era for the military collectors. Many of the non-high-profile knives, as shown here, can be found for reasonable prices, especially the plastic handle variety and brands other than Camillus or Case.

Crewmen aboard the U.S.S. Lexington in 1943 grab a few minutes of relaxation between bouts of hectic activity on the flightdeck. A common sight was the sailors pairing off for a quick game of Mumblety-peg, a pastime learned in their youth, with many possible variations. The general concept was a game of skill where you take turns throwing down the knife in many prescribed moves, each of which to be successful had to end up with the knife point sticking in the ground (or deck planking) firmly enough so the knife would stand without falling over.