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Were these banned (LF&C M-1917 Knuckle Knife)?


kfields

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Were these spike type knives banned by the Geneva Convention or some other international organization after WW1?

A member of this fine site since December 16, 2006....Member # 60

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My understanding is the knives went out of favor due to limited choice of griphold and that it used large amounts of brass needed for more valuable armaments and ordnance.

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There was no brass in the 1917.

 

I have also heard unconfirmed information that the nature of the wounds inflicted by the 1917 trench knives were deemed counter to the Geneva Convention - similar to calls for the end of shotguns in combat by Axis powers during WWII.

 

My understanding is the knives went out of favor due to limited choice of griphold and that it used large amounts of brass needed for more valuable armaments and ordnance.

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My Dad was issued one in 1940 when he joined the NY National Guard. He sent it home at some point after the Guard was inducted into Federal service later that year. Mom gave me the knife after he passed away and it is still in my collection. Dad said he was told that they had to exchange them because the triangular blades were banned by the Geneva Convention due to the nature of the wounds not healing. So true or not, I don't know, but at least that is what the troops were told.

Mikie

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militariaone

Greetings,

Short answer "no." Long-er answer below.

This subject comes up quite often on various forums and much like sawtoothed bayonet’s illegality, .50 Cal bullets are not be used on personnel, Shotguns’ usage violating (any) convention, the fake reason for the notch on WWII US ID Tags involving teeth & a good kick, and most recently, knives so sharp they penetrate steel helmets’ myths there is no such banning of triangular blades by either the Hague or Geneva conventions. But instead of repeating unsubstantiated nonsense let’s review the applicable/relevant texts. Below’s image is Article #23 of the Hague Regulations as ratified by the US in 1907 (well-before WWI and its dastardly triangle bladed M1917/18 Trench Knives’ debut). Please, view the red circled subparagraph e. The relevant quote, which is often used as a basis for the so called “banning” of these weapons is “To employ arms, projectiles, or material calculated to cause unnecessary suffering.”

 

As you may have noticed, this is a fairly general and quite nebulous definition where any number of interpretations may be made. Yet make no mistake, nowhere are triangle or multiple edged bladed weapons banned by this (or any other) relevant convention by name. Add to this discussion the oft repeated statements to the affect; that triangle bladed weapons’ wounds being significantly worse because they can’t be easily sewn up and you have a nice self-fulfilling basis that the triangle bladed weapons are therefore/obviously banned because it causes “unnecessary suffering.” With triangular/socket bayonets in use for the previous (at least) 200 years, why if they too were so able to cause unnecessary suffering weren’t they banned by name by The Hague Convention? Instead, we get those who point at The Hague Convention and state that “triangle bladed weapons were/are banned” when they were obviously (read it for yourself) not. Additionally, (& here’s the best part) that The Hague Convention banned a triangular bladed knife that did not yet even exist when the treaty was ratified by the US.

 

Remember the Hague Convention largely addresses weapons, the Geneva Convention deals with treatment of prisoners, civilians, partisans, combatants. The point being the Geneva Convention has even less to do with triangular bladed weapons than The Hague Conventions does. So any discussion of the Geneva Conventions and triangular blades is an “expletive deleted” stretch to say the least. The minute Geneva Convention is mentioned in this context you have already won that debate, because your dealing with someone who is frankly, clueless.

 

So, next time someone repeats this nonsense, please (pretty please) set them straight. They are repeating an old wives’ tale and anything else they have to say about this subject should remain suspect. That is unless you are trying to buy an M1917/18 from the person spewing this tripe, then nod smile and get the deal done as there's no point in this person being the custodian of anything so historic

 

Best,

 

Lance

 

P.S. The triangle bladed knuckle knife disappeared because it was a design of limited use (& frequently broke), whereas subsequent designs with "normal" flat shaped blades could more easily accomplish daily (read: mundane) tasks like cutting up your meals or opening ammo crates. Being able to stab someone through their woolen greatcoat and leather gear just doesn't happen often enough to justify carrying around a knife that can pretty much only do that one task.

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“With a gentleman I am always a gentleman and a half, and with a fraud I try to be a fraud and a half.”

Otto von Bismarck.

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Hi Lance, I appreciate your reply to this. You have a number of very valid points. But I am confused by your apparent contempt and anger over this issue. As I stated in my answer above, the Geneva Convention reason was given to my father at the time these knives were withdrawn from issue. It was so stated to him apparently by someone in the Army chain of command. If so, then it cannot be contemptuously dismissed as "unsubstantiated nonsense" or an "old wives’ tale" . It may or may not have been the true reason for withdrawing the knives, but it is a valid and real artifact of the actual historical event. I readily admit that Dad may have gotten things confused 25-30 years after the fact. But the persistence of the story may very well be based on it being told to many more soldiers than just my Dad. As the current caretaker of my Dad's knife, and having heard this story from his own lips to my own ears, I am more than willing to listen to anything on the subject. Dad did enjoy a dish of tripe now and then, but I cannot recall him ever spewing any of it.

Mikie

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militariaone

Greetings Mikie,

 

Less contempt/anger and borne more out of frustration over the same trope(s) being repeated as fact. Your father's Chain of Command provided a reason for him not carry the weapon (i.e. the Geneva Convention) and he sent it home. Your father (most likely) did not have a debate with his food chain about the intricacies/relevance of the Geneva Convention to his M1917/18 Trench Knife, he was a good Soldier so he saluted, executed and did as ordered/expected (as I would assume the rest of his unit so equipped). That was his experience, so I can understand his explanation/reasoning for sharing those specific memories. No harm no foul.

 

That said, there's no actual relevance between The Geneva Convention and triangular bladed weapons. I do apologize if my use of logic and reason has been overly contemptuous or dismissive of your fond memories, my intent was to inform not insult.

 

V/r Lance

“With a gentleman I am always a gentleman and a half, and with a fraud I try to be a fraud and a half.”

Otto von Bismarck.

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Greetings Mikie,

 

Less contempt/anger and borne more out of frustration over the same trope(s) being repeated as fact. Your father's Chain of Command provided a reason for him not carry the weapon (i.e. the Geneva Convention) and he sent it home. Your father (most likely) did not have a debate with his food chain about the intricacies/relevance of the Geneva Convention to his M1917/18 Trench Knife, he was a good Soldier so he saluted, executed and did as ordered/expected (as I would assume the rest of his unit so equipped). That was his experience, so I can understand his explanation/reasoning for sharing those specific memories. No harm no foul.

 

That said, there's no actual relevance between The Geneva Convention and triangular bladed weapons. I do apologize if my use of logic and reason has been overly contemptuous or dismissive of your fond memories, my intent was to inform not insult.

 

V/r Lance

I have no doubt or argument with the validity of your logic, documentation and reasoning in the discussion of why the knives were removed from service. I will readily admit that you are most likely correct. This is not the first time I have seen this. Just handling the knife tells me that it would be far less handy and useful on a soldier's belt than a regular bladed knife. Given a choice, I wouldn't pick one of them. My point is that the Geneva Convention reasoning was apparently given at the time by someone in authority in the Army in at least one instance. The persistence of the story seems to indicate that my Dad's experience was not unique and was probably passed on to other soldiers sons besides me. As such, the Geneva Convention explanation is still in fact a part of the history and folklore of these knives. Sure, with a great big triple font sized asterisk attached to it. But it cannot and should not be dismissed and ignored, just well footnoted. At the very least, you now have a possible answer about the source of this story. Once again, I do appreciate your input.

Regards,

Mike

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Yes we G.I.'s both present and former do end up being the sources for all kinds of malarkey. But what can you expect back in the day if someone out ranked you and said it was so than it was so. I know I've done my share of spreading mis-information that I honestly believed was true.

Great post Lance.

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Thanks guys.

The reason for my asking is that there is one of these knives on display (not for sale) in a local shop. A little card next to it uses the "Geneva Convention" explanation to tell folks why it was not used after the Great War. I always wondered about that as I recollect the British used those spike type bayonets during WW2 and there are even some spike type bayonets around that connected to Chinese SKS's during the Viet Nam War. To my simple mind, those seemed similar and just as lethal as the fighting knife in question.

A member of this fine site since December 16, 2006....Member # 60

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The 1917/18 trench knife was insufficient in its cutting ability, as well as having a flimsy scabbard and blade.

After various testing conducted by the U.S. Expeditionary forces in France in early 1918, the knife was replaced by the Model 1918 Mark 1 Trench knife.

 

The remaining 1917/18 trench knives were put into storage and later sold as government surplus.

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The M1917 didn't pass from use completely following the end of WWI. Sgt Rinaldo Martini can be seen with one on his equipment in the famous photo of him seated atop some ammunition crates taking a shot with a rifle in early 1945 on the island of Iwo Jima. The photo (colorized) can be seen in the link below.

 

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/72619069/rinaldo-martini/photo

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Thanks Big Al, I don't remember seeing that photo before. Great name, by the way. My alternate name is Big Mike.

Mikie

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  • 6 months later...

What you do or carry isn't always covered by a book or regulations. It's what you can get your hands on at the time. . . .just sayin'. :)

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As Lance indicates they were developed to punch through numerous layers of clothing in the trenches but like most GI's today, I expect even back then the did not want to carry items that are basically useless and seldom used. The M1917 was a tool that could only be used for punching holes in soup cans. The soldiers who carried a knife wanted something they could cut with and that is why it met its demise so soon.

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The tip of the blade was not very sturdy and would break often.

 

From a practical purpose, it was not very useful for anything other than punching a hole into someone.

 

The Model 1918 Mark 1 was a much better weapon as the M3 trench knife.

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One needed to be in the service to understand, didnt matter what time period. One finds all kinds of GI’s, just like society.

"The true Soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him" G.K. Chesterton

"A people that values it's privileges above its principles will soon lose both" D.D. Eisenhower


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