M3 Trench Knife – The Fighting Knife

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M3 Trench KnifeIn 1943 many soldiers got a brand new shinny present called the M3 Fighting Knife or as it was commonly called the M3 Trench Knife.  The original purpose of the M3 Trench Knife was to equip soldiers with a close combat weapon who were not equipped with a bayonet.  This meant soldiers who were equipt with weapons such as submachine guns, BARs, M1 Carbines, and infantry support weapons. The intent behind this was to give these soldiers their own edged weapon for fighting.  The first troops to receive these new M3’s were the Airborne, Mountain Rangers and Glider infantry units as well as the Army Air Corps.

The M3 Trench Knife is very distinctive looking.  It has a 6.75 inch spear point blade, which contains a 3.5 inch false edge.  The handle is made from compressed, stacked leather washers, which comprise either 6 or 8 grooves.  The crossguard and pommel are made of steel.  It’s almost 12″ in length.

During the short time the M3 Trench Knife was made (1943-1945), there were 3 distinct patterns.  The first and early pattern had “US M3”, the manufacturer name, and the date 1943 printed on the blade.  The second pattern was similar to the first, but it omitted the date.  The third pattern, which occurred sometime in 1944 removed the markings from the blade and placed them on the underside of the crossguard.

The original scabbards or sheaths were the M6 scabbards.  The M6 scabbards composed of leather riveted together, with a metal shield near the bottom.  These were replaced in 1944 with the M8 or M8A1.  These scabbards resembled olive drab fiberglass bodies that were used with the 1905E, 1905E1 and M1 bayonets.

The M3 Trench Knife is often seen in pictures attached to the ankles of members of the 101st Airborne.

During WWII a total of 9 different manufacturers produced the M3 Trench Knife.  After 1945 production for these blades for war purposes ceased.  The M3 was eventually phased out for the M4 bayonet.  The M4 bayonet was used for the M1 Carbine.

  • Aerial (Aerial Cutlery Mfg. Co.) – 51,784
  • Boker (H. Boker & Co.) – 31,300
  • Camillus (Camillus Cutlery Co.) – 402,909
  • Case (W.R. Case & Sons) – 300,465
  • Imperial (Imperial Knife Co.) – 854,015
  • Kinfolks (Kinfolks Inc.) – 135,548
  • Pal (Pal Blade & Tool Co.) – 121,131
  • Robeson (Robeson Cutlery Co.) – 36,575
  • Utica (Utica Cutlery Co.) – 656,520

Total Production was about 2,590,247 M3 Trench Knives produced.  The rarest of the M3 Trench Knives are made by Boker, with only 31K being produced, but beware, there are also a lot of replicas out there.

Below are examples of the 1st pattern markings that appeared on the blade of the M3 Trench Knife.  These markings included the manufacture date of 1943.

M3 Trench Knife Blade Markings 1943

Below are examples of the 2nd pattern markings that appeared on the blade of the M3 Trench Knife.

M3 Trench Knife

Below are examples of the 3nd pattern markings that appeared on the cross guard of the M3 Trench Knife.

M3 Trench Knife Crossguard Markings

Camillus Cutlery Comapany continued to produce the M3 Trench Knife for non military needs, but eventually went bankrupt in 2006. Boker still produces reproduction M3 Trench Knifes.

US M-3 Trench Knife of World War Two by Vincent J Coniglio and Robert S LadenThere is a great book out there called US M-3 Trench Knife of World War Two by Vincent J Coniglio and Robert S Laden.  Another good reference is US Military Knives Bayonets and Machetes Book III by MH Cole.

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3 Comments

  1. I have just purchased a WW II case M3 but before I accept it I need to learn more about this knife….Was the Tang “Pinned” on a U.S. M3 CASE knife please?
    Mark

  2. Nice article.
    If memory serves, the M3 was actually only produced in 1943, maybe to very early 1944. The M4 was made from about 1944 onward. Some people will tell you the M4 wasn’t around for WWII, but it was and can be found in pictures of Marines in the Pacific. Also, I have found that factory blade lengths can vary from as little as 6 5/8″ to 6 7/8″ even among the same manufacturer. Several different pommel type, double pinned, non-pinned, double tang, peened. Also, Imperial made commercial M3s, (not called M3s) after the war and I believe Kutmaster did as well. Aerial also made different knives, using M3 parts.
    Cheers,
    Mark L.

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