News: The KA-BAR slashed and stabbed its way into USMC history
Story by Cpl. Martin Egnash
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. - The KA-BAR fighting knife has long been associated with the United States Marine Corps. Since World War II, the two have hardly been separated.
According to the official KA-BAR website, http://www.ka-bar.com, legend has it that the name “KA-BAR” originated from a letter to the Union Cutlery Company from a nameless fur trapper in the early 1920s. In the letter, the fur trapper wrote (in almost illegible handwriting) that when his rifle jammed, he used his knife to kill the bear, though all that was legible of his writing was “ K A BAR”. The knife company is said to have been so honored by this testimonial that they used the term “KA-BAR” as their official trademark.
The Marine Corps made its own mark on the now famous fighting blade in the 1940s.
According to the KA-BAR website, after the start of World War II, KA-BAR submitted a fighting/utility knife to the Marine Corps Quartermaster Department. The company and the Marine Corps worked together to improve upon an already quality knife. After revising the knife to suit the Marine Corps’ hand-to-hand fighting needs, they developed what we now think of as the KA-BAR fighting/utility knife.
“The KA-BAR is a quintessential part of the Marine Corps and its legacy,” said Sgt. Carlos Ruiz, martial arts instructor trainer at the Camp Geiger Martial Arts Instructor’s Course training facility. “Since World War II, Marines have gone into combative engagements with a KA-BAR at their side. It’s part of who we are.”
According to the KA-BAR website, the knife was so popular with Marines due to its quality and performance that it was unofficially reactivated during the Korean, Vietnamese, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom conflicts.
“The KA-BAR is an excellent fighting knife,” said Ruiz. “In my opinion it is the best fighting knife the Marine Corps has ever had. It’s not too big or too small. The blade is just long enough without being unruly. And it can stay incredibly sharp. It’s also extremely versatile. You can do a lot of things with it, but it’s still first and foremost a fighting knife.”
Due to the popularity of KA-BARs in the Marine Corps, similar style fighting knives have been developed. Though they are not all from the KA-BAR knife company, all knives with similar patterns are colloquially referred to as KA-BARs throughout the Corps.
Today numerous Marines continue the proud tradition of carrying KA-BARS with them into combat.
“In the Martial Arts Instructor’s Course, we teach Marines a lot about how to use a fighting knife like a KA-BAR,” said Ruiz. “It’s important that Marines know how to handle a knife if they’re in combat. If their weapon malfunctions or they run out of ammunition, having a KA-BAR at your side could be the difference between life and death.”
Today, Marines give engraved KA-BARs as departure gifts and proudly display them at their workspaces. Even while in garrison, these combat tested fighting knives are never out of reach to a Marine.