Original U.S. WWII M3 Fighting Knife by IMPERIAL Knife Co. with Vietnam Era M8 Scabbard

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This is a very nice service used example of a WWII M3 U.S. fighting knife, made by the desirable maker Imperial Knife Co. of Rhode Island. This company was at the time one of the largest knife makers in the world, founded by Italian immigrants. With the markings on the crossguard, this is the third and final pattern manufactured in the war. It comes complete in the correct M8 scabbard, which was updated during the war to the M8A1 standard. These fighting knives were preferred by American infantry during World War Two for hand to hand combat.

This knife is later war production, indicated by the maker information being stamped into the crossguard: U S M3 / IMPERIAL. The 6 3/4 inch spear point blade is in great shape, showing very little damage and a great shape. However, it has been polished either during or post war, and now has a shiny bright steel finish. There are some traces of past oxidation, but it does not look to have been worn down by the polishing. The pommel cap and crossguard have also been polished to some degree.

The handle and stacked leather grip are in good service used condition, showing staining and rounding consistent with service use. It is now a very dark brown, and looks in the past to have been conditioned using saddle soap. The crossguard is still in the correct shape, straight with a forward bend at the top for the thumb, and is still tight to the blade with no wobble. The bottom of the pommel shows the U.S. "Flaming Bomb" ordnance proof mark and correct "starburst" peened over tang, though polishing has made them very faint.

This lovely knife comes with an OD green scabbard marked U.S. M8A1 / P W H, also in offered in very good condition. This design features a thermoplastic impregnated duck canvas body, metal throat, and canvas frog and securing strap with a steel pistol belt hook. This was manufactured by the Pennsylvania Working Home for the Blind, one of many organizations set up after WWII and Korea to provide work to blinded veterans. The scabbard is still fully functional, with a functional retaining strap, but does show wear and use. The canvas is somewhat dirty and discolored, and the finish on the metal fittings is mostly worn away. The body has been repainted once, which now shows some wear through.

A great service used M3 knife from a desirable maker, complete with scabbard. Ready to add to your edged weapon collection!

Blade length: 6 3/4”
Blade Style: Spear Point Knife
Overall length: 11 5/8”
Crossguard: 2 1/4”

Scabbard length: 7 3/8" with belt loop.

History of the M3 Fighting Knife

The M3 fighting knife or M3 trench knife was an American military combat knife first issued in March 1943. The M3 was originally designated for issue to soldiers not otherwise equipped with a bayonet. However, it was particularly designed for use by elite or 'shock' forces in need of a close-combat knife such as airborne troops and Army Rangers, and these units received priority for the M3 at the start of production. As more M3 knives became available in 1943 and 1944, the knife was issued to other soldiers such as Army Air Corps crewmen and soldiers not otherwise equipped with a bayonet, including soldiers issued the M1 Carbine or submachine gun.

The M3 was manufactured by a number of U.S. knife and cutlery manufacturers during the war. Manufacturers known to have made the M3 under wartime contract include the Aerial Cutlery Co., W. R. Case & Sons Cutlery Co., Imperial Knife Co., PAL Cutlery Co., Camillus Cutlery Co., Robeson (ShurEdge) Cutlery Co., Kinfolks Inc., Utica Cutlery Co., and H. Boker & Co.

The M3 was developed as a replacement for the World War I-era U.S. Mark I trench knife, primarily to conserve strategic metal resources. The prototype for what would become the M3 was evaluated in December 1942 by the civilian board of directors of the Smaller War Plants Corporation Board (SWPC) against another competing design, the US Marine Corps' 1219C2 fighting utility knife. However, while the specified priority steel supplies for both knives were available, the M3's lower production cost compared to that of the 1219C2 convinced the SWPC board of directors to approve the M3 prototype for quantity production.

Though the M3 had competed with the USMC 1219C2 for approval by the Army, the M3, unlike the Marine Corps knife, was not a dual-purpose weapon designed for both close combat (fighting knife) and general use (utility knife). As the U.S. Catalog of Standard Ordnance Items of 1943 clearly explained:

The Trench Knife M3 has been developed to fill the need in modern warfare for hand-to-hand fighting. While designated for issue to soldiers not armed with the bayonet, it was especially designed for such shock units as parachute troops and rangers.

The M3 was first issued to U.S. Army soldiers in March 1943, with the first knives going to elite units such as airborne troops and the U.S. Army Rangers. Despite ordnance descriptions of the knife as being designed for hand-to-hand warfare, the M3 did not receive universal praise as a close-quarters fighting knife upon issue to combat units. While the knife itself was generally well-made and balanced (some paratroopers and rangers mastered the art of using the M3 as a throwing knife), the long narrow dagger-like steel blade, designed to economize on priority steel requirements, was best used as a thrusting or stabbing weapon, and performed less well when used for slashing strokes. Reports of blade failures on M3s in service increased as soldiers began to use their trench knives for ordinary utility tasks such as opening ammo crates and food ration tins, a role for which the M3 had not been designed. Some soldiers also found the M3's cutting edge to be difficult to maintain in the field. As issued, the blade's secondary or false edge was intentionally sharpened and beveled for only a portion of its length, leaving an unsharpened spine on the top of the blade in an effort to stiffen the relatively narrow blade. This limited the usefulness of the M3 when employed for backhand slashing strokes.

The M3 replaced the OSS dagger in service in 1944.

After U.S. Army ordnance began developing a proprietary bayonet for use on the M1 carbine, it was realized that the new carbine bayonet, which already incorporated the M3 blade design and leather-wrap grip, could also replace the M3 in service in a secondary role as a fighting knife. The carbine bayonet, now designated the Bayonet, U.S. M4, was added to the Company Table of Organization in June 1944, and the M3 was declared to be a limited standard ordnance item, with supplies to be issued until exhausted. Nevertheless the final M3 production run did not take place until August 1944, by which time 2,590,247 M3 trench knives had been produced.

At termination of production in August 1944, the M3 trench knife had one of the shortest production and service records of any U.S. combat knife. However, the M3's blade design continued in U.S. military service in the form of the U.S. M4, M5, M6, and M7 bayonets.

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