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The Jet Pilots Survival Knife

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In an e-mail explaining why he did not include Japanese copies of the Fairbairn-Sykes Commando knives on his book “Knives of the United States Military in Vietnam,” Mr. Mike Silvey told me:

 

“That knife, like many others, were not included because I was intent on presenting the higher end knives used by Special Forces and other professional soldiers. Also, I had to limit the number of photos to keep the cost of the book affordable for most collectors. I've always regretted not including some of the more common knives like the 5" Jet Pilot's knife ... probably the most often carried knife in Vietnam. There were also the Japanese made Mark 2 knives sold in the PX and many others.”

 

Fortunately for us, another fellow collector and author, Frank Trzaska, has compiled and published a lot of information on the Vietnam era ubiquitous “Jet Pilots Survival Knife,” commonly known among the collecting community as “JPK’s.” So, I would like to start this post by thanking Frank for sharing that wealth of information (see References) with the rest of us. :bravo:

 

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Brigadier General Robin Olds, USAF (1922-2007)


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JPK’s in my collection

6” Blade – Blade Marked (1957-1966)

1. Camillus, screw-on pommel (1958-1959). The knife was blued by the original owner, who had a custom, expensive sheath made for it. He never used it again afterwards.

 

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4. Camillus - Polston knife display. The knife on this display belonged to Major Harry Polston, USAF Ret. (1932-2003). I will post more details on it at a later time.

 

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6. Utica Cutlery (1964-1966). Rare. Sheath and handle dyed black. This is the Crown Jewel of my JPK collection! ;)

 

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5” Blade – Pommel Marked (1967-to Date)

7. Camillus, 2-71. Metal protector on sheath tip (1-67 to 7-74)

 

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8. Ontario, 1-73.

 

Note:

a. Ontario began supplying JPK’S to the US Armed Forces on 1-1969.

b. A full metal protector was added to the back of sheaths in 7-74

 

 

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Incidentally, Ontario Knife is still supplying JPK’s to the military as verified on this e-mail to my friend and fellow military knife collector from “Down Under” Dutchy357:

 

On Wed, Sep 28, 2011 at 9:30 PM, Green, Sue <SGreen@ontarioknife.com> wrote:

 

Thank you for your email. Yes, we still sell the Pilots survival knife to the military. Ontario Knife Company has made this knife since the 1969 and we still sell quite a few each year. We also supply the ASEK (Air Survival Egress Knife) to the Army which is an upgrade of the old knife.

Please let me know if I can supply any further information.

 

Sue Green

Ontario Knife Company

26 Empire Street

Franklinville, NY 14737


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Others American JPK’s in my collection

9. Camillus, Desert Tan (epoxy coating) Finish – 2003

 

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Commercial Copies

The popularity of the Jet Pilot Survival Knife spawned a multitude of copies and knock-off’s--some very good and some very bad.

 

Most of the copies were made in Japan and were available in stores in the States, via mail-order catalogs and in the PX’s. Japanese JPK copies with the name brand of importers like Kiffe, Hoffritz, Valor, PIC and OMOR were common (PICTURES). These knives were very popular among military personnel that did not have easy access to government issue JPK’s and were widely used in the 60’s and 70’s by a lot of our servicemen. Here are two examples—photos courtesy of Administrator GWB123 and Moderator Bayonetman.

 

GWB123 tells me that he bought his knife in the 1970’s at a knife shop in a shopping mall, either when he was in ROTC, or later on when he was in Active Duty. He distinctly remembers that he paid $12.50 for it—not exactly a pittance back then. He says that, originally, the sheath had the natural leather color but it did not go well with their camo back then and so he spent about a half an hour “painting” it with black leather shoe dye :D

 

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Bayonetman’s example, imported by Kiffe from Japan, was carried in Vietnam by a local serviceman who also blackened the sheath. Bayonetman believes that it is possible that the knife was carried "in country".

 

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As mentioned, while a lot of the copies were very well made, some, albeit functional, were of clearly inferior quality. Take a look at the blade shown below and the photos of a couple of my knock-off’s:

 

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This is why the following recent description by a seller in a famous auction website made me laugh:

 

This is a US Jet Pilots Survival Knife. This is a new issue never used. After WWII the US military began purchasing edged weapons from Japan notably "Kiffe."The product they were turning out was better then expected,since then they have produced knives for the US for years. This knife is stamped on the ricasso ..Japan..The workmanship ithat went into this knife is better the Camillus or Ontario. The stacked leather washer handle is perfect,the crossguard is very tight (not like others) the saw tooth back on the blade is far superior then the others (you could cut a rope with this one). This knife has the leather sheath with the sharpening stone. Another plus with this knife is that the sheath uses a the rawhide tie instead of the metal snap which used to rust and would not open.

Buyers beware! :w00t:


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Copies and knock-off’s in my collection

 

11. Factory marked “Japan.” Hand-marked with funny marking and “1975.” A well-made knife with an excellent custom-made sheath.

 

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13. Green plastic handle. Blade looks coated—no markings. Bought at a yard sale in England, near an American base. Probably made in Taiwan.

 

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Note that Camillus also produced a JPK with plastic handle for the commercial market, but of course, of superior quality.

 

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14. Japan, inferior quality. Note the sloppy leather handle and the puny fuller (“blood groove”).

 

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15. Japan, imported by “Hoffritz.” Hollow steel handle--screw pommel with compass. Well made—superior quality sheath.

 

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