This is a FINE condition example of the very scarce V-42 Stiletto, which was developed for issue to the First Special Service Force (aka “The Devil’s Brigade”) during WWII. The First Special Service Force was the predecessor to what would be known as the Army Special Forces. In fact the V-42 is immortalized as the centerpiece of the logo of the current Army Special Forces (The Green Berets) today. The V-42 was officially designated, via the Quartermaster Department order as “Knives, Fighting Commando Type V-42”. According to US Government procurement and receiving reports, a total of 3,420 of the knives were purchased during World War II, not counting the 3 sample knives submitted by Case during the initial testing phase. The deliveries appear to have take place between late 1942 and November of 1943.
The V-42 knife was produced by the famous W.R. Case company of Bradford, PA. The W.R. Case company was started in 1889 by the Case Brothers: William Russell (WR), Jean, John and Andrew. Initially the sold knives as traveling salesmen, working the wagon roads of upstate New York, with their home base being Little Valley. The Case brothers had learned the knife making and retailing business while working for the Cattaraugus Cutlery Company. In 1905, John Russell Case, son of W.R. Case, moved the company to Bradford, PA and established it as W.R. Case & Sons. The company grew to become one of the foremost American knife making companies over the next few decades. During World War II, Case manufactured thousands of fighting knives and edged weapons for the US military including the M-3 Trench Knife, producing some 300,465 of those knives during the war. They also produced the USAAF Survival Machete and the V-42 Stiletto, which Case claimed to have produced more than 3,600 of during the war (See Cole), a number that slightly exceeds known US government purchasing records. The Case company remains in business in Bradford today, as a subsidiary of the Zippo Lighter Company.
The V-42 Stiletto was developed by Colonel Robert T. Frederick, who was to command the new First Special Service Force, an all volunteer join commando force utilizing both American and Canadian troops. The design of the knife was influenced by the close combat instructor for the battalion, Michael “Pat” O’Neill, who had served as a sergeant with the Shanghai Municipal Police under the legendary close combat instructors Fairbairn and Sykes. In fact the basic contour of the V-42 closely resembled that of the famous Fairbairn Sykes fighting knife. Colonel Frederick selected the sample knife submitted by Case, over examples provided by Camillus and Cattaraugus as well. The official specifications for the knife called a 7 5/16” stiletto style blade, although the hand made knives tended to vary in length very slightly by about 1/16” of an in, with 7 ¼” being fairly common. The hilt has a palm swell and was made of thin leather washers, stacked and compressed. A small steel crossguard separated the ricasso from the hilt. The obverse ricasso had a thumbprint sized serrated imprint, which was intended to allow the soldier to correctly orient the knife by feel, and allowed the thumb to index and support the knife when stabbing an opponent. As the knives were hand made by Case, the size and number of the serrations in the thumbprint is known to vary from knife to knife. Below the thumbprint serrations, the name CASE was stamped on the ricasso. A pointed pommel cap was included at the rear of the hilt, which was intended for use as a “skull crusher” in close combat. The pommel cap was secured to the hilt of the knife by a single transverse pin. The blade and the pommel caps were deeply blued to protect the metal of the knife and to minimize reflection from the metal. The knives were issued in leather scabbards that were similar to those issued with the Camillus USMC Raider Stiletto, and would eventually be used with the M-3 Trench Knife. The scabbard was leather, and was assembled by stitching and riveting the body together. The scabbards were very long, as the original mission for the First Special Service Force was thought to be as mountain troops operating in the snow covered regions behind German lines. The long scabbard allowed the knife to be reached easily, even when the soldier was wearing a parka. As the First Special Service Force, was sent to the Aleutian Islands in 1943, the long scabbard was probably appreciated. The First Special Service Force saw additional service in Italy, Anzio, and France before they were disbanded in 1944. The initial lot of 1,750 of the knives were delivered to the First Special Service Force in November of 1942. An additional 70 knives were delivered to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in February of 1943. These were the only knives not delivered to the First Special Service Force, and are the knives that appear to have been issued to the landing crew of the Light Cruiser OMAHA. The balance of the V-42 stilettos were delivered during 1943, with 600 arriving in June, 100 in October and the last 900 being delivered in November.
This V-42 First Special Service Force Stiletto is in about FINE overall condition. The knife is 100% original and correct and retains its original long leather scabbard. The knife blade measures 7 7/32” in length, which is about 3/32” short of the regulation length. This is not uncommon as many of the knives that saw actual use in the field were re-tipped. This was due to both breakage, and the fact that the needle like knife tip was so sharp that it was often dangerous to the man who carried it. The blade retains about 70% of its original blued finish, with the loss primarily along the edges, contact point and the last inch or so of the blade. The blade is almost entirely smooth, with only some light pinprick pitting present at the very tip of the reverse of the blade. The serrated thumbprint indentation is in fine condition with 22 neatly cut grooves, which remain crisp and shows only minimal wear. The leather washer grip is in FINE condition with only light to moderate handling marks and minor scuffing present. There are no gashes or cuts present in the leather. The skull crushing pommel cap is in FINE condition as well. It remains very sharp and pointed, and would be quite effective even today. The pommel cap retains traces of its original blued finish, which has faded and blended with a smooth, plum brown patina. The pommel cap remains securely attached by the single transverse pin that passes through the hilt of the knife. The knife is accompanied by its original scabbard which is in VERY GOOD+ condition and shows some great evidence of real combat use and wear. The scabbard is full length and measures about 19 ¾” in length. The leather is in strong pliable condition and the scabbard is fully functional. The only excessive wear is to the long drop, below the belt loop, just above the hilt-retaining strap. The leather is worn and weak in this area and a small piece of leather, about ¾” long and ½” deep is missing from one side of this area. This significant wear is indicative of one of the ways that these long scabbards were worn in the field. It was not uncommon for the long belt loops to be looped over the pistol belt, and then secured with the leg tie down. This shortened the scabbard to a more conventional length, and allowed the quick removal of the scabbard. When the knives were worn in this manner they were usually located on the strong side immediately behind the holster for the soldier’s 1911 pistol. The missing leather is exactly where the butt of the 1911 would have rubbed the scabbard when the knife was worn in this fashion. The scabbard retains its 8 original “staples” (actually conveyor belt joiners) at the throat to keep the knife from cutting the scabbard. The 14 original semi-diamond shaped rivets remain in the scabbard body as well. The original hilt-retaining strap is in place on the scabbard, complete with a functional snap. The scabbard has a nice, theater added improvement on the reverse, near the tip. A slightly tapered 2 ¾” long by 1 ¾” wide metal plate has been added to reinforce the rear of the scabbard and prevent the knife from stabbing through the scabbard and into the leg of the wearer. This is similar to the reinforcement plates found on the M6 scabbards for the M-3 Trench Knife. The plate is attached with three copper rivets. This great field modification is wonderful evidence of the knife seeing real use during World War II.
Overall this is a wonderful, field used and carried World War II issue V-42 First Special Service Force Stiletto. With only 3,420 of these knives produced, these knives are very rare today and are not often found on the collector market for sale. Official records indicate that Camillus produced 14,370 of the incredibly scarce USMC Raider Stiletto during World War II. With only 3,420 V-42s produced, they are about 4 times rarer than the coveted Raider Stiletto. As such, they ought to command prices about 4 times higher! This knife is 100% original and correct in every way. It also retains its original scabbard, in very good, field used, condition. These knives rarely appear on the market for sale, and this is one you will never have to make and excuse for and will be a great addition to your WWII edged weapons collection. SOLD