1st Battalion - 21st Regiment Marines Fighting Knife - Very Scarce
- Product Code: EWSK-1366-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
This is a VERY GOOD condition, well-documented and published example of the very scarce 1st Battalion, 21st Marine Regiment Fighting Knife. This exact knife and scabbard are pictured on page 124 of Military Theater Knives of WWII by Bill & Debbie Wright. At the time of publication, the knife was part of the famous Roger Ballard collection of military and fighting knives, and is credited to Roger in the text on the following page. While somewhat crude in appearance, the aluminum hilted multi-purpose combat knife was in fact based on the Collins #18 Machete (better known to military collectors as the V-44 survival machete), and was manufactured in Auckland, New Zealand for the specific use of the 1st Battalion of the 21st Marine Regiment during World War II. The genesis of the knife started with the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion lead by Lt. Colonel Evans F. Carlson, better known as Carlson’s Raiders. Carlson ordered 1000 Collins #18 Machetes for use by his battalion, as utility-fighting knives. Carlson was credited with coining the Marine term “Gung-Ho”, and that name was soon applied to the #18 machete in the hands of his troops. Evans C. Carlson, the son of Colonel Evans F. Carlson, served as a 1st Lieutenant in the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion. Lt. Carlson led E company, of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion on Guadalcanal, and received a silver star for his actions on that island. Lt. Carlson was subsequently transferred to the newly formed 21st Marine Regiment, which has been established in July of 1942. While in Auckland, New Zealand, where the regiment trained and outfitted for its forthcoming roll in the Pacific War, Carlson contracted with a local jobber to have 1,000 “Gung-Ho” style knives produced. Marine Raider historian and collector J. Doug Bailey interviewed retired USMC Colonel Evans C. Carlson in 2004 and discussed the genesis of the knife. At that time Col. Carlson confirmed that he had used his “Gung-Ho” knife for inspiration, and had ordered 1,000 of the knives for the 1st Battalion, with aluminum hilts cast directly onto the carbon steel blades. While Colonel Carlson did not remember the name of the company that manufactured the knives, it is generally believed within the New Zealand knife collecting community that they were produced by Masport. Masport produced aluminum lawn mower chassis and other lawn mover related parts. They are also known to have produced other aluminum handled knives, including one for the Royal New Zealand Air Force, that was based upon the #18 Machete / Gung-Ho / 1st -21st knife. The 1,000 knives ordered by Carlson were delivered with leather scabbards, produced locally by various sporting good manufacturers, while the RNZAF contract knives had leather tipped canvas scabbards. As originally produced, the knives had hilts that were painted with a very dark green paint that is sometimes almost black in appearance, depending on the lighting. The blades were left unfinished with a bright polish. The knives were about 14 ““ in overall length with 5 1/6” hilts and clip-point, Bowie style blades that were about 9 ““ (+/-) in length. The heavy leather scabbards were form fit to the blades, and made from two large pieces of the leather, with smaller welts added at the throat. The rear piece was left long and was doubled over to form a large belt loop and hanger for the scabbard. The front and rear pieces of leather were assembled by stitching them together and reinforcing the stitching at the stress points with rivets. As the scabbards were manufactured by several different companies, minor variations in scabbard details exist. These knives are extremely rare on the market today, due to the small number manufactured and the hard use that the knives saw during the war. Unlike the Marine Raider Stiletto, which had limited utility for anything by killing, Carlson’s knife was as useful as a tool around camp as it was a fighting implement. As such, many knives have not survived to make it to the collector market, and many of those that have are in rough condition.
The 1st Battalion, 21st Marine Regiment Fighting Knife offered here is in VERY GOOD condition. The knife is 100% complete and correct and retains what appears to be its correct, original issue scabbard. The spine of the knife appears to have been worked down slightly, from about 2” in front of the hilt to the beginning of the false edge. This has reduced the slightly raised profile typical of the #18 Machete silhouette to a move conventional, oversized Bowie knife appearance. The blade shows significant wear, use, and sharpening along its edge. The blade has a mostly dark brownish-gray patina over a medium gray base metal color. The blade is mostly smooth, with only some lightly scattered pinpricking present, along with some more significant roughness along the spine, where the blade profile was slightly altered. The hefty cast aluminum grip retains traces of the original dark green paint around the pommel cap area in in protected areas near the cross guard. The cross guard retains a more substantial amount of black paint that was apparently added later, possibly because the green paint wore away. According to interviews by J. Doug Bailey with other Maries who carried the 1st Battalion, 21st Marine knife, the green paint simply didn’t stand up to use and handling in the jungles of Pacific Islands. The aluminum hilts shows wear and handling, and has the name MIKE lightly scratched into the obverse side. The “M” is closest to the pommel and is the clearest letter, while the rest of the letters are much more worn, as they are located exactly where you would grip the knife for typical handling. The original leather sheath is also carved with the name MIKE at the throat, and is additionally embellished with the US Marine Corps Eagle, Globe & Anchor insignia, near the tip. The scabbard appears to be 100% original in every way, and the rivet reinforced stitching is of the same pattern found on other known original scabbards. Some scabbards were produced with a small loop at the tip for a leg tie down, but this one does not appear to have ever had that feature. The original hilt-retaining strap is missing from the scabbard as well. The belt loop of the scabbard has been modified by the addition a wire hanger to allow the scabbard to be hung from the grommets on a US M-1936 pistol web belt. The scabbard is in about VERY GOOD condition overall, and all of the stitching appears to be original and tightly in place. The four, slightly domed reinforcement rivets are in place as well. There is tiny tear at the throat of the scabbard along the blade edge, and a small hole is present near the tip, where the point of the knife has worn through the leather. The scabbard shows significant scuffing and wear to its finish, all of which is commensurate with a leather scabbard worn and used in combat. The leather is slightly stiff, but still pliable enough to function correctly, be placed on a belt, etc.
Overall this is a wonderful example of a very scarce World War II Marine combat knife. While surely not as sexy as the Marine Raider Stiletto, this knife is much more rare. Camillus produced over 14,000 of the stilettos during the war, but only 1,000 of the 1st/21st knives were produced by a lawn mower jobber in New Zealand! Rarely do these knives come to market, and even more rarely do their original scabbards accompany them. In this case, the scabbard bears the first name of the Marine who carried it, and shows his pride in being a Marine with a well executed, trench art style Eagle, Globe & Anchor. The 21st Marine Regiment fought gallantly on Bougainville, Guam and Iwo Jima, and this knife was almost certainly in the thick of things on at least one of those islands, if not all three! Add to that the fact that this knife is published and was once part of the Roger Ballard Collection (one of the best fighting knife collections in the world), and you have a truly iconic piece of World War II Marine history that will be an outstanding addition to your edged weapons or Marine Corps collection.