KA-BAR, The Legend

On December 9, 1942, after the start of World War II, KA-BAR submitted a fighting knife to the United States Marine Corps in hopes that it would become general issue to that branch of the military. Working in conjunction with the Marine Quartermaster Department a design was devised and soon production was under way on a new and improved fighting / utility knife for the Marines. As the war escalated, the demand for these knives was so great that the KA-BAR factory alone could not keep up. The government assigned several knife companies to create similar knives as supplemental pieces for those serving the War. KA-BAR’s wartime production totaled more than 1 million. The KA-BAR knives became so well recognized for their quality and so abundant in number that “Kabar” became the name by which many referred to this knife pattern, regardless of whether the knife was manufactured at the KA-BAR facility.

These knives were depended upon to perform daily tasks such as pounding tent stakes, driving nails, opening ration cans and digging foxholes, not to mention defending lives.

Growing so in popularity and earning only the greatest respect, the KA-BAR was adopted by not only the Marines, but also the Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Underwater Demolition Teams. Years after World War II, many KA-BARS were unofficially reactivated in the Korean, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom conflicts.

The dependability and consistent quality of wartime KA-BARs was the result of constant strict quality control procedures by KA-BAR workers and supervisors as well as the US Marine Corps and Navy Supply inspectors who were assigned to the KA-BAR factory to work along with company personnel to accomplish this goal.

These high quality standards were maintained in 1976 when production was reintroduced to commemorate the Marine Corps 200th Anniversary of service to the United States. It was then that the original factory in Olean, New York, along with some of its original craftsmen, undertook the job of creating a “full dress model” of the original – a Limited Edition Commemorative that would prove to be most meaningful to the Marines. Using the original blueprints which had been stored in the company archive files, the recreated knife was a true work of art that retained the look, feel and performance of the original battle ready combat knife. The first one of its kind, serialized with the number “1”, was presented to the Commandant of the Corps and was later put on display at the USMC Museum at Quantico.

The USMC Commemorative was so enthusiastically received that it became obvious that the original KA-BAR Fighting / Utility knife had retained its popularity through the years. The limited production Commemorative was so quickly taken up by the Marines, knife enthusiasts and collectors that KA-BAR decided to return it to regular production in its standard form. With only a few changes made possible by modern technology, the KA-BAR Fighting / Utility Knife was reintroduced.

Today, the original USMC Fighting / Utility Knife remains the first choice for many Marines who choose to carry it as their personal option knife during service. It is also a favorite of adventurers, survivalists, outdoor sportsmen and, of course, knife collectors who know that this knife – this “American Legend” – deserves a place in their collection.

- KA-BAR, The Legend