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Thread: What Do I Have?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
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    Annandale, VA
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    905

    What Do I Have?

    I just purchased what was listed as a M1917/41 cutlass. I really don’t know quite what it is, but it is definitely not one of the 2938 swords the Lilley-Ames Company built and delivered to the Navy in 1941/1942, the so-called M1917/41 cutlass. The cut-outs on the Lilley-Ames basket are smooth; on this sword they are notched similar to most Dutch klewangs. So what is it? The sword is unmarked but the scabbard is stamped “U.S.”.

    Name:  US Marked Scabbard 8.jpg
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    I have heard unsubstantiated stories that the Navy procured additional cutlasses in the 1960/70s. In his 1975 article “A MODERN MYSTERY: CUTLASS OR KLEWANG? The Elusive U.S. Navy Cutlass Variant of World War II”, Carter Rila states “But the story of the Naval cutlass does not end during World War II. Thanks to Al Hardin, Mr. Peterson and I have copies of six drawings for the Navy Cutlass dated 8-11-69! The only major difference between the cutlass in the drawings and the 1917 cutlass is that the grips are to be of plastic rather than wood. This cutlass is not apparently intended for fighting though, for the edges are to be left dull to .04 inch and the point is radiused to .25 inch.” (Foot Note: Dept. of the Navy, Naval Ordnance Systems Command, US Naval Ammunition Depot, Crane, Indiana, 47522, Drawings 2846672 to 77, Approved 8-11-69.) Unfortunately Mr. Rila he does not elaborate on when this cutlass might have been made or for what purpose.

    Whatever, I think my new sword may be this late-day cutlass, probably procured for training bases for ceremonial purposes. However I would really like some solid info to go with my conjecture. Do any of you have similar swords? Have you heard of post-WWII procurement of cutlasses by the Navy? If this was happening in the 1960s or 1970s, someone should remember. Have you seen the drawings to which Mr Rila referred? Did they show a cut-out hand guard? I hope some knowledgeable member can help me.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Kingston area, Ontario Canada
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    3,566
    The blade is ground from flat stock. Unmarked strongly suggests a copy. Here at the bottom of this link states what markings etc. US cutlasses would have: https://www.history.navy.mil/researc...vy/swords.html
    Dutch cutlasses are maker marked and the quick sanding of the grip slabs, rivets suggest a copy to me. Edged weapons have been known to be reproduced for anniversaries and re enactments.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
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    Annandale, VA
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    905
    Quote Originally Posted by Will Mathieson View Post
    The blade is ground from flat stock. Unmarked strongly suggests a copy. Here at the bottom of this link states what markings etc. US cutlasses would have: https://www.history.navy.mil/researc...vy/swords.html
    Dutch cutlasses are maker marked and the quick sanding of the grip slabs, rivets suggest a copy to me. Edged weapons have been known to be reproduced for anniversaries and re enactments.
    After examining this sword in person, I am confident that neither the materials nor workmanship suggest this sword is a repro. Rick Warner, whom some of you may know, also has an identical sword, along with its “U.S.”-marked scabbard which he has had since at least the 1980s which was before the replicas surfaced. His comments:

    “My cutlass hilt and the scabbard are exactly like your example. The clip on the point of mine has the wider and rather sloppy grind of American manufacture as I suspect your's does too. ( wartime?) The mystery remains, and I've given up thinking that I know much about these things. I speculate that these are American swords. Are they the result of some obscure contract now lost in the blizzard of paper from WW II? Are they from a Navy contract? If so, why Army russet brown scabbards instead of Navy black? Why U. S. marking when it is a point of Navy pride to stamp everything U.S.N.? Gilkerson's book says the Army Corps of Engineers was issued these cutlasses during the Korean War. If true, for what reason certainly escapes me. I've also heard they were used in ROTC ceremonies. Were cutlasses made in 1969 or the 70s? Every Army Surplus store generally had a barrel full. I grant it's not beyond the military to do that. Questions, no answers.”

    His point about the “U.S.” marking is well taken. I have never seen the Navy use “US” instead of “USN” in marking property. I checked the Gilkerson story:

    "The model 1941 U.S. Klewang Cutlass (or m. 1917 variant, as it has been called) was still in issue as late as the 1950s, and, while its service was primarily as an NCO sword for ceremonial wear, it might have been the last cutlass to have seen wartime combat, if one persistent story is to be believed. This account is pieced together from divergent sources all differing in some detail, but, while unverifiable for this study, the story is plausible enough considering the known late issue of the weapon. This would appear to have been one of the cutlasses produced by MILSCO (Military Supply Co.) and issued to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Simply, during a counter attack by the North Koreans at Inchon, an Engineers battalion was surprised and overrun; its troops were forced to fight with whatever weapons were immediately at hand, and in the case of one NCO, this happened to be his ceremonial side arm, the cutlass. With it he had at the enemy, slaying one. If so, this incident writes a very late finish to the fighting career of the U.S. naval cutlass."

    The M1917/41 cutlass the Navy ordered in the 1941 was, of course, made by Lilley-Ames, not MILSCO (which I believe is the Milwaukee Saddlery Company , not Military Supply Co) in the 1947 or so timeframe. Was there another contract for Klewangs after the 1941 order which may have gone to the engineers in addition/instead of the Navy?
    Last edited by Richard Schenk; 11-09-2020 at 02:47 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    West Yorkshire, England.
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    "U.S.N.? Gilkerson's book says the Army Corps of Engineers was issued these cutlasses during the Korean War. If true, for what reason certainly escapes me."...

    You will find that a lot of 19th and early 20thC. European armies issued "swords" like this to artillery and engineers as "brush cutters", aka machete's, to cut away undergrowth etc. I would suggest that is what was going on here.

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