The Marine Raider Stiletto is one of the rarest and most sought after US combat knives from World War II. The Raider Stiletto has the distinction of being the first US designed fighting knife to be put into production after the United States entered the war. Lt. Colonel Clifford H. Shuey designed the knife in 1941. Shuey was the Officer In Charge of the Engineer Division, Quarter Master Department, Headquarters of the US Marine Corps. Lt. Colonel Shuey would go on to design several of the knives used by the USMC over the coming years and would retire from the Corps as a Brigadier General in 1956. Lt. Colonel Shuey based his knife upon the classic Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife, that many of the old 4th Marine Regiment had training and experience with due to the close combat instruction that many of them had received from Fairbairn & Sykes while they were on station in Shanghai, China. The Raider Stiletto, like the Fairbairn-Sykes knife was a purpose made killing weapon with little value as a utilitarian knife. The knife was designed to be lightweight, cheap and easy to manufacture. It utilized a stamped steel blade that was then machined to a diamond shaped cross-section. The blade was polished to a bright shine and was etched with a USMC banner scroll on the blade and with the maker’s name and location in another scroll on the ricasso. The handle was cast from an aluminum-zinc alloy and was integrally cast onto the blade. The grip featured sharp diamond checkering cast into the sides of the hilt and serrations along the top and bottom. The grip was cast in a slightly oval shape, which fit the hand better than the machined round hilt of the Fairbairn-Sykes knife. The oval guard was integrally cast as part of the grip as well. The thin, stamped steel stiletto blade was very thin at the end and very delicate. In fact, Marine Corps dictates specifically prohibited the throwing of the stiletto, as it would likely break the tip of the blade. In actual use, the stilettos likely had many of their tips damaged by using the knives as tools to open and pry things, and using them in any number of ways other than as a stabbing weapon. This inherent weakness in the blade design has made these rare knives even harder to find with original full-length blades that have not been reshaped or “re-tipped”. Marine Major General (retired) Oscar F Peatros recalled of the Raider Stiletto in the book Bless “em All: The Raider Marines of World War II: "It was pointed out that it should never be thrown, as it was designed as a hand-held weapon to be used only in combat. It was also pointed out that it was brittle and would break even if just dropped, particularly the point." The aluminum-zinc alloy hilts had an inherent weakness as well. The alloy was very brittle and leached zinc ions, making the hilt even more susceptible to cracking and degrading with age. Finding a Raider Stiletto without any obvious cracks in the guard or grip is very difficult these days, and will only become harder as the grip alloy continues to age and essentially decompose due to the loss of the zinc ions. The Raider Stiletto was issued with a leather scabbard that would become the pattern for use with the Army’s V-42 Stiletto and the M3 Trench Knife. It was a two-piece scabbard, with the front and rear leather components joined by a combination of sewing and riveting. The scabbards were produced in two basic variants, with the early scabbards being of leather without a reinforcing tip and the later scabbards reinforced with staples at the throat and metal plates at the tip.
In early 1942 a contract for 5,000 of the new Raider Stilettos was let to the Camillus Cutlery Company of New York. The Raider Battalions themselves were not officially designated until February of 1942. Camillus would receive an additional contract for 9,370 knives, bringing the total production of these rather scarce knives to only 14,370. The initial production knives reached the Marine supply depots and Raider Battalions in training, in the summer of that same year. It was probably the fall of 1942 before any of the stilettos were issued to the Raiders who were already engaged in the Pacific. The Raiders were based on the famous British Commandos serving in China and were intended for lightning-fast “behind the lines”, “hit and run” amphibious actions against the Japanese. During WWII the Raiders were instrumental in delivering stunning blows to the Japanese forces and fought gallantly in nearly every major Pacific landing operation from the Battle of Midway through Guadalcanal, the Solomon Islands Campaign, New Georgia and Bougainville. The four official “Raider” battalions were disbanded in January of 1944 and the two battalions in the process of being formed were reorganized into other standing Marine regiments. During their brief existence, a total of 7,710 Marines and 368 sailors served as “Raiders”.
The USMC Raider Stiletto offered here is in about FINE condition. The knife shows all the signs of issue and actual use in the field. The blade has been lightly sharpened, and shows some light stoning marks along its edges and along its entire length. The ever-fragile blade tip does not appear to have been re-shaped and re-tipped, and the knife has a blade length of 7 1/8”. The Camillus factory specifications for the knife list the blade at a nominal 7”, but knife author and Guru MH Cole lists the blade as 7 “. I would assume that there was some minor variation in length during production (especially the final shaping of the point) and +/- 1/8” would not be uncommon. The blade still retains much of its brilliant polish, making it difficult to photograph accurately without excessive glare. The etched USMC banner scroll on the blade is about 65%+ visible, and is actually much better than is typically encountered on a Raider Stiletto that has seen any significant use. The lightly etched Camillus makers mark on the ricasso is less visible, with probably only about 35% or so being legible. Even so, under decent light, most of the five lines can still be discerned and read: CAMILLUS / CUTLERY / CO / CAMILLUS / N.Y.. The cast alloy hilt is in about FINE+ to NEAR EXCELLENT condition with sharp checkering and no readily visible cracks. I’m sure some very fine ones are present under strong magnification, but realistically this is about as fine a condition hilt as you are ever likely to encounter. The hilt has a lovely dull pewter-gray color to it and shows some very light patches of oxidized leaching and some minor surface discoloration scattered along the grip. The guard / hilt / blade junction is excellent and free of the often encountered casting flaws that are often found in these knives as the hilts degenerate. The face of the hilt has had the name (or nickname) ZUKE scribed into it with an electric pencil. The use of electric pencil to mark Marine knives during World War II is well documented and the mark appears old and original to the period. While I could not find any Marine Raider with a first or last name of “Zuke” in the available Raider rosters I have access to, Doug Bailey a noted Marine Raider collector and researcher is doing further research into the name. UPDATE! Doug found a Q.M. Zukerbrow who served in the 2nd Raider Battalion. It is entirely possible that he was known as "Zuke". Another possibility is a Private Charles Zuke who served with the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment in the Pacific during WWII as a sniper, and it is possible that he acquired the knife in a trade with a Raider, as these knives were highly prized souvenirs among the US service men in that theater. The knife is retained in the correct, later production leather scabbard. The scabbard features both the stapled throat reinforcement and the pair of metal plates on the tip. All of the scabbard stitching is tight and strong and all of the rivets are present. The scabbard is completely unmarked, and does not have the “Flaming Ordnance Bomb” mark that would designate it as an Army scabbard for an M3 knife. The small strap that retains the hilt of the knife is missing, a weak part that is often missing from these scabbards. The leather of the scabbard remains fairly pliable and is in good shape, with a dark brown, aged color to it. The top portion of the scabbard retains the original M-1936 pistol belt hook which allowed the scabbard to be attached to the belt.
Overall this is really a very nice displaying example of a rather scarce US WWII combat knife. USMC Raider Stilettos do not appear on the market for sale very often and due to the numerous factors that affect their durability, they are often in rather rough condition when they are found. The hilt of this knife is about as good as one could ever hope to locate. The blade shows use and some light sharpening, but still retains a relatively nice etched Marine Corps banner on the blade and a partially legible Camillus makers mark “ a mark that is almost always in poor condition or illegible due to the knife scraping the staples at the scabbard throat. With minty USMC Raider Stilettos regularly being priced in the $2,500+ range, this is a very respectable and solid example that will display well, and for a much more reasonable price.SOLD