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


By Dustin Clingenpeel



Use of the term V-44 is often associated with the Collins model No. 18 machete and other similar copies procured by the USAAC during WWII. This has been a perpetuated misnomer for over 50 years. The real V-44 is the Case & Sons Cutlery Co. pattern number for a fixed 10” blade machete with wooden handles. The V-44 was a derivative of the USAAC folding machete standardized in 1942 for inclusion in their parachute emergency kits. The V-44 was solely procured by the BuAer starting in 1943 for inclusion in their standard back pad kit M-592 and only manufactured by Case. There is still a bit of a mystery in regards to the quantity of V-44s procured. What is known is that the total production of the M-592 was close to 100,000 and the V-44 was available for replenishment purposes in the supply system under stock number R74-K-200. If enough V-44’s were procured to re-supply the kits in service, we can estimate that possibly as many as 200,000 were manufactured. The M-592 was the only standardized emergency kit to utilize the V-44 as a component. Considering that these machetes spent most of their service life in storage, either in a supply room or an emergency kit, this would explain why they are so common on the collector market today. They simply never got used. “Machete” is probably not the best descriptive term for these tools. They were not intended to be used in the manor of a standard engineer machete to plow one’s way through the thick jungle of some remote Pacific island. Rather, the intention was to facilitate the cutting of tree limbs for shelter, to clear a small area or split open some coconuts when in a personal survival situation. It more resembles the functions of the LC-14 Woodsman Pal and its intended uses. As a side note, recently a picture has been found of a USMC aviator wearing a Woodsman Pal, certainly an unusual circumstance. The LC-14B was a US Army Signal Corp tool and it was probably obtained from an Army unit operating in the area by that enterprizing Marine flier.*

In the summer of 1942, the BuAer began the development process of an emergency back pad kit to be used in conjunction with the AN-R-2 life raft. It initially did not include a machete type utility tool. Ideas and revisions came through ComAirPac (Commander Air Force, Pacific Fleet) however, based on service tests conducted in the combat zone. It was reported in several documents that individuals and units were securing small machetes from adjoining USAAC organizations. Some descriptions are clear enough to determine that they were referring specifically to the 10” folding machete or the Collins No. 18 knives, although some reports are vague as to which model. Never the less, they were highly favored by US Naval aviators. Interestingly enough, the top reported use was for opening coconuts! By the beginning of 1943, the BuAer had a pretty solid idea of what survival equipment they wanted for inclusion in a standardized back pad kit and a machete type knife was on the top of the list as it was felt to be an indispensable tool for jungle living. By the spring of 1943, the BuAer drawing number 8662 had been assigned for this fixed blade 10” machete.  It differed from the previous USAAC drawing, 42D7462, by eliminating the folding feature and the use of wooden grips. The result of these simplifications was reduced manufacturing costs. As provided in the survival kit, it can be found in a labeled pocket, wrapped in brown craft paper, fitted with a blued steel edge-guard and a sturdy leather wrist thong. The blade is marked "CASE XX". The first service use of the V-44 began by the end of 1943, concurrent with the introduction of the M-592 kit, and it remained in use until the end of hostilities, even though technically having been replaced by the Giant Jackknife in the spring of 1945 (see Pt. 2 of this series). The V-44 is one of many items that would have a short service life. Development of emergency equipment was progressing at such a pace that most items only had a 1-3 year service  term so the V-44 is not unique in that respect.


Above:  The machete can be seen at the top of this M-592 kit display from the Air Sea Rescue Equipment Guide.

Below:  *As mentioned in the text above, at least one Marine aviator carried an LC-14B as his survival tool. He was First Lieutenant Robert L. Woods.
U.S. Marine Corps photo courtesy of vmb611.com.