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A Scarce USAF Blade: the Boker 155 Survival Knife


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Gentlemen:

Over half a century ago the United States Air Force was America's primary nuclear deterrent. This was accomplished by its long range bomber aircraft operated by the Strategic Air Command, the B-36, the B-47 and later on the B-52. ICBMs came along even later. To maintain razor sharp proficiency in the nuclear mission long range training missions were an daily occurrence and took airmen over every corner of the world. The Air Force became interested in refining its survival kits and equipment, particularly for arctic and alpine regions, as the fastest way to the targets in the Soviet Union was often over the polar route. Training missions sometimes turned into real life survival events.

As part of that effort the Air Force in the early 1950s adopted a sheath knife for use in the E-1 Survival Kit. It was intended to be a tool, not a weapon, and weight was a major consideration. That knife was the Boker 155, a blade that is little known today among martial blade collectors. Indeed, but for researcher/author Frank Trzaska's efforts the history of this knife would likely have remained lost in the mists of time. In 2002 Frank wrote an article published in Knife World which finally revealed the identity of this little knife. The Boker 155 had never before appeared in any of the major military blade books.

 

Boker USAF 155 sheathed.jpg

The Boker had an overall length of 8 3/4", a 4 1/2" blade, a stacked leather handle, and aluminum guard and pommel. It was carried in a unique pouch or tube shaped leather sheath.

Boker USAF 155 both right side.jpg

The birds head shaped pommel had a hole drilled through it to accommodate a thong to help the user avoid losing it.

Boker USAF 155 left side.jpg

Both the knife and the sheath are free of any USAF or other military property markings. This has, no doubt, led to its anonymity among collectors. The left ricasso is simply marked "Boker U.S.A" and the right ricasso marked "155", the Boker model number.

 

Boker USAF 155 left ricasso.jpg

I found this example at the Tulsa Gun Show some years ago. Thousands had walked past it during the Show and ignored it as just another small sheath knife, and not a mint one at that. However, having been familiar with Trzaska's article I was able to immediately recognize it for what it was.

Frank Trzaska relates how several knife models were evaluated for this role, including the famous Randall Model 14. All were rejected in favor of the little Boker. Some 300 of the Bokers were tested in the early 1950s at the USAF Survival School located at Stead AFB in Nevada. This 1953 photo of survival training is the only one I have ever seen depicting the Boker 155 in the role for which it was developed. The Boker is seen outside of its distinctive sheath laying on the parachute to the far right of the photo.

Boker 155 USAF survival knife Nat Geo 5-53.jpg

Total production numbers for the Boker 155 USAF Survival Knife are unknown. Other survival knives came along later which are better known and were produced in far greater numbers, including the Pilot Survival Knife and the 6" and 5" versions of the Jet Pilot Knife. Today, the little Boker remains a rarely seen and even more rarely recognized US martial knife.

Regards,
Charlie Flick

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Over half a century ago the United States Air Force was America's primary nuclear deterrent.

 

And they still are today.

 

Also, most people dont know that Lemay was a main driver in getting the M-16 as a service rifle.

 

Cheers!

Jeb

Cheers!

Nuke41

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Guest growler100

Hi all-

 

My dad was a SAC pilot 1954 - 1965 (KC-97) and I have one of these. Sheath is 95%+ and unfortunately someone put the blade to a grinder. I can gaurantee it wasn't my dad! Blade is not misshapened, but has grind marks on side. Is it worth anything to a collector? Alan

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  • 4 years later...

I think I have come into ownership of one of these rare pieces of USAF history if someone could please respond to my post I would love to find out the truth! I have knife and sheath

---------------------------------

Mr. Brownlee,

 

You say that you think you have come into ownership of one of these knives and sheath, but you end up by saying that you have them. Does that mean that you don't know if it is going to be yours, even though they are in your posession?

 

Then you say that you would love to find out the truth. Would that be the truth about you are going to own it, or not?

 

I don't know about everyone else here, but the fact that no one has posted an answer suggests that we are all confused.

 

Maybe if you can write a little more clearly we can help you.

 

Welsome to the Forum.

GB

 

 

 

 

 

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  • 2 years later...

Truly amazing and great info, if i had saw one of these at a flea market or sale i would have just passed it off as a civilian hunting knife. Very interesting story behind this item !!

Please Remember the Following Service Members who have passed on!

 

Manley S Webb- 1925-2006 US Navy WW2

James W Boutilier - 1921-1983 US Navy Seabees WW2

Russell W Haight - 1876-1953 Spanish American War, Cuban Pacification, Mexican Border War NYNG

Lt Colonel William H Warren 1921-2014 USAF

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