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Original U.S. Vietnam War Named Custom Bowie Knife Machete with Scabbard marked to J.E.S.T. Camp in the Philippines

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. During the Vietnam War, coping with the harsh and unpredictable jungle environment was one the most challenging parts of serving there. In the late 1960s, some U.S. Army Serviceman visited Subic Bay on the Western coast of Luzon in the Philippine Islands. There, they encountered the Aeta People, an indigenous ethnic group on the Philippines, who are thought to be one of the first groups to arrive on the Island chain. In the 1960s they were still living a mostly nomadic lifestyle, and were able to survive in the forest using only their "bolo" (knife or machete). Knowing that this would be vital to be able to Jungle warfare, the Americans studied the techniques the Aeta People used to survive.

The story goes that those who underwent the training got captured in Vietnam, but were able to escape and hide in the nearby forest. Unable to radio for help, they were forced to survive in the Jungle, and the skills learned from the Aeta People were the only things that kept them alive. When they finally made it home, the Jungle Environmental Survival Training (JEST) camp was created in Subic Bay to train more Serviceman for Jungle survival.

We are not able to verify this completely, but we have seen accounts that say each trainee at the camp was given their own Bolo Knife machete at the beginning of training, and that was the only item they were issued during the survival training. It is possible that this is one such machete, later put into a decorative scabbard to remember their time in training.

This example is quite large, and is in the form of a very large "Bowie" knife, with the iconic "clip-point" blade, and has a brass cross guard and wooden handle. It definitely looks to be hand made, though it is possible that the blade itself is not, as it is marked Philippines on one side, often seen on locally machine made blades. It does not show much wear from use, though it definitely has been sharpened several times. It looks like the very edge was ground off at some point, possibly to make it safer for display. We can feel a bur on the side of the edge, so that was definitely the last thing done to the blade.

The handle looks to be made of a dense hardwood, and is also slightly curved. It is made very much in the design of Philippine machetes that we have seen before. Overall condition is very good, and aside from the removed edge, we see no reason why it would not be just as effective today as it was when originally made if the edge was restored.

The scabbard is lovely, made in the typical Philippine style, with a slightly curved overall shape. In the middle of the scabbard is the clear name JOE GALINSKI / PHILIPPINES, the name of the owner. At the top is a triangular FASOTRAGRUPAC emblem, which stands for "Fleet Aviation Specialized Operational Training Group, Pacific Fleet". At the bottom is a painted coat of arms, with JEST at the top over a bolo knife cutting bamboo, the most common plant used to make survival equipment and shelters. To the right is the Mamali plant, a medicinal plant used for cuts and bruises, and to the right are some Japanese characters, which usually symbolize "Victory". The colors also have meaning, with green symbolizing the jungle, while yellow symbolizes knowledge. Black is for those who did not survive.

A fantastic and rare Vietnam War set in great shape, with some great research potential! We have seen very few of these JEST Bolo Knives on the market, and they make a great addition to any Vietnam War display.

Blade Length: 12”
Blade Style: Clip-Point "Bowie" Machete
Handle Length: 4”
Total Length: 18 1/2”
Scabbard Length: 14 1/4”

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