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World War II Knives Made from Civil War Sabers

Discussion in 'Civil War Weapons and Ammunition' started by Championhilz, Feb 22, 2014.

  1. Championhilz

    Championhilz Sergeant

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    I found the following article in The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), March 26, 1944 - The scan of the article is hard to read, so I have transcribed it:
    Marines Use Saber Knives
    Cleveland - A written request from a Marine on a South Pacific island was the basis for an impromptu Cleveland business now proving murderous to Axis fighting men. Charles Ambrose, operator of a wet grinding company, was asked by the Marine to fashion him an overseas knife. The Clevelander complied, & a Civil War saber was ground to a razor edge and shortened.
    Others Want Knives
    The Marine, upon receipt of the knife, wrote enthusiastic acknowledgement. Officers and enlisted men alike were envious of the instrument. 'I'm thinking of throwing away my sub-machine gun' the Marine wrote. 'The knife is worth its weight in gold.' Letters from the Pacific fighting fronts began to pour in requesting similar weapons.
    Buys Old Sabers
    Unable to obtain steel, Ambrose bought 300 more Civil War sabers from a New York dealer and began grinding. Service men, stopping between trains in Cleveland, began visiting the shop. In three months, Ambrose netted more than $3,000 from the sale of knives. He spends approximately six hours on each knife and sells the weapons for $25. His wife and 3 children assist. The family business has become such that even the family cutlery has become dull. Ambrose lacks time to sharpen his own domestic utensils."
    So if anyone comes across a cut-down Civil War Saber, it may not be the work of some Bubba - it may be one of the knives made by Charles Ambrose of Cleveland.
     

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  3. lawandorder

    lawandorder Private

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    I have a vague memory of reading about the stock of the last US military sword, the version known as the Patton, being worked down into knives for USMC Raiders during WWII.
     
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  4. Dave Wilma

    Dave Wilma 2nd Lieutenant

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    He wanted to throw away his submachine gun? Is it possible he had yet to see combat?

    I can understand recycling old sabers as knives, but I wonder if a real CW blade would have the metallurgy to be a serious weapon. The sabers being ground down were likely more modern models.
     
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  5. johan_steele

    johan_steele Colonel Retired Moderator

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    The metalurgy was as good as anything of WW2. We have a pair of Patton sabres in the museum as well as an Ames 1860... it's as high a quality as the Pattons.

    That said I think someone was just buying cool stuff, the reality is that the fighting knives available to the US Army in 1942 were excellent. There were surplus War 1 trench knives available in droves and they were issued out.
     
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  6. redbob

    redbob 2nd Lieutenant

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    Last edited: Feb 22, 2014
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  7. Bob Owen

    Bob Owen Captain Trivia Game Winner

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  8. Southron

    Southron Sergeant

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    The late Colonel Lindsey P. Henderson, Jr., of Savannah, GA had in his collection an original "Memphis Novelty Works" sword on which the blade had been cut down to around 16 to 18 inches. He purchased the shortened sword in the early 1950's from on old black man that had used it for decades as a Sugar Cane Knife, to cut down stalks of sugar cane at harvest time!
     
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  9. Tag0012

    Tag0012 Cadet

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    Here is a picture of my Grandfather Charles Ambrose from 1932. The businesses he started are still operating in Cleveland today.
     

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  10. CMWinkler

    CMWinkler Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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  11. ucvrelics.com

    ucvrelics.com First Sergeant Forum Host

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    You didn't turn it in with all your other issued items. :whistling:

    I remember reading the Web Griffin series "The Corp" and in one of the books they talked about Merrills Raider having these cut down knifes. I have owned several CW cut downs over the years but the all still had the guards and not reworked handles as the ones your referring to.
     
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  12. JOHN42768

    JOHN42768 First Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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    Welcome, enjoy
     
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  13. civilken

    civilken Sergeant Major

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    I don't know if the story is right or wrong but as for working 20 years for the Navy as a metallurgists I can ensure you the blade would have held up with a little temporary.
     
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  14. Patrick H

    Patrick H Captain

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    This is all pretty intriguing, and I'll tell you guys that I would like to start seeing some photo examples....RIGHT NOW!!!
    I'm not doubting anyone. I just want to see photos. ...and I want them RIGHT NOW!!!
     
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  15. civilken

    civilken Sergeant Major

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    as for your reply to me I don't know nor have I ever seen a civil war saber turn into a knife. I was only commenting wasn't possible to do so and could withstand the World War II environment and I believe the answer is yes.
     
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  16. Patrick H

    Patrick H Captain

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    Well...dang! I was hoping to see something like that!
     
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  17. Championhilz

    Championhilz Sergeant

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  18. Carronade

    Carronade 2nd Lieutenant

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    I recall reading in MacArthur's Jungle War by Stephen Taafe that shortly after the 1st Cavalry Division was deployed to the Southwest Pacific, they received a shipment of 20,000 sabers (probably because some enterprising quartermaster back Stateside saw an opportunity to get them off his inventory) which the divisional engineers or armorers shortened into useful machetes for jungle fighting.

    1st Cav was operating as infantry, but it was the only US division to fight in the "square" configuration - two brigades each of two regiments (5th, 7th, 8th, and 12th Cavalry) each with two squadrons (battlation equivalent). This meant six headquarters were managing just eight battalions, whereas a "triangular" infantry divison needed just three regimental HQs for nine battalions.
     
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