Original U.S. WWII Named Custom MK 5 Deep Sea Dive Knife with Stacked Leather Washer Grip and Leather Scabbard - Seaman 1st Class Le Roy Boutillette, Balao-Class Submarine, USS Pipefish (SS-388)
Original Item: Only One Available. This is a lovely example of a custom US Navy Mk Deep Sea Dive Knife, most likely produced by the Morse Diving Equipment Company, but without the brass scabbard it is difficult to determine. The dive knife was most likely acquired by US Navy Seaman 1st Class Le Roy Bruce Boutillette (7102764) who was a crewman serving aboard the Balao-Class Submarine, USS Pipefish (SS-388) and the only one we could find with the initials “LBB” on the muster reports. The “LBB” can be found carved into the face of the leather scabbard. Thankfully this crafty sailor etched the name of his vessel as USS PIPEFISH 388 on the blade, giving us solid grounds for research. He further modified this dive knife by replacing the heavy brass handle with a stacked leather washer example, a common practice of the times. He was a Navy veteran of World War II and served in the Pacific theater for submarine duty aboard the Pipefish and on the Sirago, the last World War II submarine commissioned before the Japanese surrendered. He was awarded the American campaign medal, the Asiatic-Pacific campaign medal with three stars, the Combat Submarine medal with two stars and the World War II Victory medal, the Combat Action Ribbon (retroactively), the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal and the Morris County Distinguished Military Service medal.
When the US Navy standardized the Mark V diving helmet in 1916, they were using a friction-style knife popular with divers in the 19th and 20th centuries. It was in 1929 that the US Navy had a considerably different style of knife design required for its divers.
The new style knife was referred to officially as the Navy Standard Dive Knife. Many collectors refer to the style as the Mark V knife, in reference to the diving helmet the knife is used with.
Morse Diving is the oldest manufacturer of diving equipment in the world and the 412th oldest officially recorded company ever, sharing its founding year (1837) with Tiffany and Co. Morse Diving Equipment Company was one of the primary manufacturers of the famous United States Navy Mark V diving helmet. They also manufactured the next generation Mark 12 free flow diving helmet which was used by the US Navy for almost 20 years.
Most companies who made the Diving Knife marked the scabbard, but some did not. There were five or so manufacturers of this type of knife in WW2: DESCO, VINCE FORGE, MORRIS, BATTERYLESS TELEPHONE, BOMAR and SCHRADER.
This example was acquired from a collector, and shows signs of faithful use. There is some wear to the blade in the form of scratches, and rust spotting from water, but otherwise there is very little wear aside from sharpening marks. The stacked leather washer grip is still solid but is loose due to material shrinkage with age. The pommel nut used was also taken from the MK 5 knife. The leather scabbard is in wonderful condition and was handmade by Boutillette. A great example, ready to display!
Blade Length: 6 1/2"
Blade Style: Spear Point with Sawback
Overall length: 13 1/2“
Crossguard: 3 3/4”
Scabbard Length: 7" with 5 1/2" Belt Loop
USS Pipefish (SS-388)
Following training off the East Coast, Pipefish proceeded via the Panama Canal to Pearl Harbor, where she arrived on 3 May 1944.
On her first war patrol - 24 May-16 July - Pipefish cruised west of the Mariana Islands, as a rescue submarine for pre-invasion carrier strikes on Saipan, saving one pilot on 12 June. She also cruised in the Surigao Straits to block Japanese escape from the Battle of the Philippine Sea. She moored at Majuro on 16 July.
On her second war patrol - 6 August-27 September - she patrolled off the southeastern coast of Honshū, Japan. Pipefish sank Hakutetsu Maru Number Seven on 12 September. While evading escorts after that attack, she struck bottom four times. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 27 September.
On her third war patrol - 28 October 1944 – 6 January 1945, Pipefish roamed southwest of Taiwan and off the east coast of Hainan Island, China, operating with Pampanito, Sea Cat, and Searaven. On 30 November Pipefish was damaged from an air attack but remained on patrol in the South China Sea. Attacking a convoy, Pipefish sank Coastal Defense Vessel Number 64 on 3 December. She arrived at Majuro on 6 January.
On her fourth war patrol - 31 January to 26 March - Pipefish provided rescue capability for downed aviators in the Nansei Shoto area.
During her fifth war patrol - 28 April to 16 June - she performed lifeguard duty for B-29 Superfortress aviators off Honshū, and in the Nanpō Islands area. Pipefish saved eight aviators on 26 May, 29 May, and 10 June. She moored at Midway Island on 16 June.
Her sixth war patrol - 15 July-28 August - called for lifeguard duty in the Nanpō Islands area and off the east coast of Kyūshū. On patrol she destroyed eight naval mines. Following termination of hostilities with Japan she arrived at Pearl Harbor on 28 August, and then proceeded to the West Coast.
Pipefish decommissioned on 19 March 1946, and joined the Pacific Reserve Fleet. She was redesignated AGSS-388 on 1 December 1962. She was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 March 1967 and sold on 20 January 1969.
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