The online community of knife collectors, A Knife Family Forged in Steel
If seems like months since I've posted anything it is probably because it has been months since i posted anything. One reason is because i just have purchased a knife recently that I felt was worth talking about. I guess that happens now and then when you have over 500 knives.
That all changed over the week-end when I finally decided it was time to buy one of the knives on my bucket list. And man am I so happy I did. I finally got around to picking up a Army Air force Folding Machete! And this is no replica, this one is the real deal:
In 1942, the Army Air Force adopted a Folding Machete for use in the B-2 and B-4 Bail out kits. This machete was designed to replace the Model 18 Collins machete. The reason for the adoption was to reduce space in the emergency kit. When folded, the AAF Folding Machete measures only 11 inches.
Case, Camillus, and Cattaraugus were the 3 makers of the WW2 model folding machete. (I’ve also read Kinfolks made them but until I see one by them I’m going with the “3 C’s”.) All three are nearly identical to each other. As such all three suffer from the same flaws.
The shape of the handle is not especially comfortable. The edges are squared off and cut into the hand over time. The liner lock on the blade was not trusted by the users and was subject to failure. To make matters worse, the blade guard was a separate item and was subject to being lost. However, due to the war, these minor issues would have to wait until after the war to be resolved.
The folding machetes were called “Jungle Knives” by the crews who carried them. Despite their flaws, they did work. In some instances, crew members would reshape the plastic grips to make them more comfortable. However, the other problems remained an issue; especially losing the blade guard.
For the most part, the AAF folding Machetes were issued to crews operating in the South Pacific. However, I have seen accounts of them being used in European theater. I assume this was later in the war when survival kits were becoming more standardized or perhaps when certain Bomber Groups were transferred from the Pacific to Europe.
I’ve been looking for the AAF’s nomenclature for this item. I have seen at least on instance of it being called the M1942 Folding Machete but most sources have called it the AAF Folding Machete.
From what I understand, The USN and USMC flight crews also used the Folding Machete in their bail out kits. Again, I’ve yet to be able to verify this.
The Royal Air Force and Commonwealth forces also adopted the folding machete for the air crews. They not only bought ones made in the US but produced them under license in Sheffield, England. The British made folding machetes normally had a lanyard hole added to the handle.
After WWII had ended trials were conducted to address issues with folding machetes. Problems with the poor shape of the grip and loose blade guard were the top issues. Imperial submitted a design with an improved grip and integral folding blade guard in 1947 and this would later be adopted by the newly established U.S. Air Force as replacement. The new Imperial Folding Machete was known as the A-1 Folding Machete. The A-1 also rreplaced the canvas bag of the previous model with a soft leather sheath that included a sharpening stone enclosed it a small pouch on the sheath. The A-1 was adopted in 1948 and remained in service throughout the 1950s. During this time, the older AAF folding machetes were phased out.
The liner lock on the folding machete is very stiff and extremely strong, The blade has absolutely no movement when opened or closed. It really seems to be as good as the day it left the factory which was at least 71 years ago! On top of that the blade is close to razor sharp! The blade guard is also nice and snug with no warping. I'm totally psyched by just how well made this machete. I've seen you tube videos of people using them and I have no doubt they are as rugged as Sherman Tank! While i don't plan on using it I know eventually I'm going to have to just cut something to smithereens with it!