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Knives of GIsí lives: Blades were made in crucible of war
Sierra Vista Herald, Sierra Vista Arizona ^ | Bill Hess

Posted on 09/05/2006 5:34:26 PM PDT by SandRat

SIERRA VISTA — Certain knives tell stories.

But, unfortunately, many of these stories remain mysteries. “Trapper Jon” Carpenter has a number of special knives made by World War II GIs, each with some kind of story behind its making.

He once had a knife that was tailored for or by some soldier.

It was different, Carpenter said.

The handle was personal.

On the butt of the handle, underneath Plexiglas, was the photo of a GI’s family, he said.

“I wanted to know about that family and the person who carried it (the knife),” Carpenter said.

Today, there is an increase in collecting the special personal knives GIs carried into battle or made to while away periods of boredom.

As the owner of Trapper Jon’s Knives, Carpenter said he has a variety of instruments that are collectibles.

The New England transplant and former professional chef and restaurant partner, said he always has been interested in knives.

As a chef, knives are part of the profession, but his interest increased to include becoming a collector and opening a store where all types of blades are sold.

At 62, he continues with what once was a hobby and now a business, after moving from New Hampshire to Arizona a few years ago.

From pen knives to large broad swords his store on Fry Boulevard is full of a variety of blades, and yes that includes kitchen ones as well.

During America’s Civil War soldiers on both sides took large kitchen knives and reshaped them into personal knives, which they carried into combat, he said.

There is something about having a knife, beyond a bayonet, that makes a soldier feel safer when in battle, Carpenter said.

Today, knives made by GIs or made for soldiers by others fall into the category of Theater Made knives, he said.

Historically, military people have always wanted something personal when it came to a blade, the store owner said.

And, those who served during World War II, where men who could work with their hands and understood knives, Carpenter said.

According to historians there was a game boys played called mumblety-peg, in which a jackknife was used in a contest to show off the knife-throwing skills of a person.

During the war, many GIs played the game, according to a number of Googled sites about mumblety-peg, which is thought to go back centuries during the times of sailing ships.

Carpenter said that during WWII, soldiers from all nations made personal knives.

His main interest is in the American-made ones.

GIs then had access to material, like Plexiglas, insulation materials and aluminum, as well as scrap steel, such as large files, he said.

“They had access to good types of tool steel, too,” Carpenter said, adding any piece of strong metal would be used.

One knife he has is made from a large file, the serrated portion visible on the top of the device.

Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines also had easy access to machine shops, whether on ships, at airfields or in camps, making it easier for them to make their personal blades, Carpenter said.

He looked at one knife that had a brass handle shaped into a line of skulls, probably created through a “lost wax” casting process. This was a special blade.

It was not a commercial blade that had been modified, Carpenter said.

Like many of the “Theater Made Military Knives” he has, he has no idea of the story behind the skull knife.

“Maybe it was made by a paratrooper,” he said, because to him the handle symbolizes somehow death from above.

Then there is a knife he has that has a special engraving on the blade.

It states: “Made by R. Arthur for Pete Belton, Dec. 45.”

By December 1945 the war was over, but Carpenter said what he will never know is if Arthur and Belton were friends and the knife was made as part of the friendship.

Or did Belton ask for the knife to be made.

Was it made in a ship’s machine shop as the two sailed home after the war?

Or, was it made at an airfield or Army camp?

The story of the Arthur and Belton blade, like many of the other collectible Theater Made Knives, will remain a mystery.

Perhaps Churchill’s oft-used quote about Stalin’s Russia is appropriate.

For the stories surrounding the knives also can be seen as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

And, as the surviving GIs who served in World War II fall to the Grim Reaper, the stories of the special blades go with them into a deep shroud of fog.

Herald/Review senior reporter Bill Hess can be reached at 515-4615 or by e-mail at bill.hess@svherald.com.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: akti; arizona; az; bang; blades; crucible; gis; knife; knives; lives; made; milhist; mumbletypeg; sierravista; sierravistaarizona; war
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Jon Carpenter, owner of Trapper Jon's Knives, displays two sharp-edged tools used during World War II. On the left is a spax which is still used as a breakout instrument on larger aircraft. On the right is a theater made knife using a bayonet built by a soldier. (Mark Levy-Herald/Review)


1 posted on 09/05/2006 5:34:29 PM PDT by SandRat
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To: 91B; HiJinx; Spiff; MJY1288; xzins; Calpernia; clintonh8r; TEXOKIE; windchime; Grampa Dave; ...

The Cutting edge of ground combat.


2 posted on 09/05/2006 5:35:03 PM PDT by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country. What else needs to be said?)
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To: SandRat

I carry a Gerber MK-II and a Gerber MK-I backup when I am in the field.


3 posted on 09/05/2006 5:41:18 PM PDT by RadioAstronomer (Senior member of Darwin Central)
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To: SandRat

Nice post. I live right outside SV. I'm gonna have to check this place out when I get back.


4 posted on 09/05/2006 5:41:38 PM PDT by BOBTHENAILER (One by one, in small groups or in whole armies, we don't care how we do it, but we're gonna getcha)
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To: 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten; 75thOVI; Adrastus; A message; AZamericonnie; AzSteven; bcsco; ...
To all: please ping me to threads that are relevant to the MilHist list (and/or) please add the keyword "MilHist" to the appropriate thread. Thanks in advance.

Please FREEPMAIL indcons if you want on or off the "Military History (MilHist)" ping list.

5 posted on 09/05/2006 5:43:31 PM PDT by indcons (FReepmail "indcons" to get on/off the Military History ping list)
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To: SandRat

I traded a pair of desert boots for a Gorka (their spelling) knife. It is razor sharp and quite a weapon. It is serialized and has a unique sheath.


6 posted on 09/05/2006 5:43:49 PM PDT by stm (RIP Steve Irwin, you will be missed.)
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To: SandRat

btt


7 posted on 09/05/2006 5:44:23 PM PDT by Ciexyz (Leaning on the everlasting arms.)
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To: RadioAstronomer
Hi RadioAstronomer-

The Gerber MK-I is nice and I own one...and I've found it's essentially a dagger and doesn't have a useful "belly" for typical cutting chores. My latest preferred fixed blade for around the campsite is a Busse Steel Heart variant.

~ Blue Jays ~

8 posted on 09/05/2006 5:49:06 PM PDT by Blue Jays (Rock Hard, Ride Free)
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To: RadioAstronomer
This is my favorite knife blade, a Scottish dirk, 14 in. blade.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

9 posted on 09/05/2006 5:51:39 PM PDT by Candor7 (Into Liberal flatulance goes the best hope of the West, and who wants to be a smart feller?)
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To: SandRat; 300winmag; 2Jedismom; Corin Stormhands; g'nad; GulfWar1Vet; JenB; Rose in RoseBear; ...
This thread seems an appropriate place to plug Hobbit Hole knives :~)

FrodoPlease support our Hobbit Hole Pocket knives for the troops project.
FR thread here: Help us support our troops! [Knives for Soldiers] Update: 1,000 shipped (Currently over 1,600)

10 posted on 09/05/2006 5:54:31 PM PDT by HairOfTheDog (Head On. Apply directly to the forehead!)
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To: SandRat

I still have my Kabar from 30 years ago. I've chopped brush, dug holes, opened c-rats, cut wire, and a myriad of other things with that old clunker. Not as fancy as some, but still a great knife.


11 posted on 09/05/2006 5:56:39 PM PDT by MadJack ("To the best of my recollection, senator, I don't remember.")
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To: SandRat
Camillus knives have a great legacy of supplying combat knives as well.

Poor old company is on hard times right now (union labor trouble).

Gerber knives are the absolute best in my opinion.

12 posted on 09/05/2006 5:57:47 PM PDT by SkyPilot
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To: SandRat
I have a knife made by my father on Guadalcanal. I don't remember what the steel blade used to be, but the laminated handle was made of discs of plexiglass, aluminum sheet metal, and brass sheet metal taken from a Japanese Zero fighter and its 20mm cannon shells. The cast aluminum parts of the handle were made from melted Zero aluminum, and molded in plaster molds with plaster given by a Navy corpsman. In the pommel a small picture of my mother's face was inserted and sealed in with a small disc of Zero plexiglass.

That's a keeper.

13 posted on 09/05/2006 6:00:32 PM PDT by Dumpster Baby ("Hope somebody finds me before the rats do .....")
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To: SkyPilot

Randall makes some nice ones .. http://www.randallknives.com/index.htm


14 posted on 09/05/2006 6:05:46 PM PDT by Neidermeyer
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To: MadJack

"I still have my Kabar......"
Me too!


15 posted on 09/05/2006 6:08:48 PM PDT by BnBlFlag (Deo Vindice/Semper Fidelis "Ya gotta saddle up your boys; Ya gotta draw a hard line")
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To: Neidermeyer
Roger that!

The instant I saw my first Randall Model 14, it was a given one would be mine.

Wish I could have afforded it when I needed it.

SOG is offering some very fine and functional knives for a very competitive price.

Semper Fi

16 posted on 09/05/2006 6:14:43 PM PDT by river rat (You may turn the other cheek, but I prefer to look into my enemy's vacant dead eyes.)
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To: Blue Jays

Nice knife! Way Cool!

The Mark-II

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerber_Mark_II

Is a pretty good knife. I really like it.

Around campfires I find my Estwing:

http://www.bobwards.com/bobwards/servlet/item/features/803493-01

and my faithful scout knife very useful.


17 posted on 09/05/2006 6:16:25 PM PDT by RadioAstronomer (Senior member of Darwin Central)
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To: Candor7
This is my favorite knife blade, a Scottish dirk, 14 in. blade.

WOW!

I too have a really old blade. It is a German long sword made about 400 years ago.

18 posted on 09/05/2006 6:18:45 PM PDT by RadioAstronomer (Senior member of Darwin Central)
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To: river rat

I still want to buy a SOG Gov-Tac.


19 posted on 09/05/2006 6:22:10 PM PDT by RadioAstronomer (Senior member of Darwin Central)
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To: MadJack
I still have my Kabar from 30 years ago. I've chopped brush, dug holes, opened c-rats, cut wire, and a myriad of other things with that old clunker. Not as fancy as some, but still a great knife.

That's what we hope is said about our Hobbit Hole knives, 30 years from now. We give away several styles, most from Camillus, but a number of favorites from Gerber, CRKT, and other manufacturers, too.

Part of the reason we decided on knives (and other tools) is because it's highly unlikely anyone will have around the candy, socks, or toiletries they were given as gifts, 30 years from now. Any way of thanking the troops is good, we just wanted something useful and durable.

20 posted on 09/05/2006 6:22:49 PM PDT by 300winmag (Overkill never fails)
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