US Bolo Knives

Not to be confused with the Krag Bolo bayonet, these knives started off as a full size machete and ended up as a smaller more usable heavy side arm for brush clearance etc. Made in large numbers in WWI they continued to be used right up to and through WWII

Bolo Model of 1904/1905

The first limited issue Army bolos were for the Hospital Corps troops. They had a need to clear brush and cut poles for litters, tents etc. From the experience with these through U.S. troops in the Philippine Insurrection, the Model 1904 Bolo Knife was developed. This was a heavy curved knife that was used in the jungles for cutting through dense, tangled vegetation and as a close combat weapon.

The Model 1904 bolo used a curved 12" blade with a rounded end, and a curved handle with wood grips attached by brass rivets. An "S" shaped crossguard protected the hand. A heavy leather sheath was used with a mounting for attachment to the belt.. Theis Model remained in production through till 1915.

1904 Bolo
No example  

 

Model of 1909 Bolo Knife

For the M1909 a less expensive revision of the first bolos was developed. This version was intended for use by all units.

With a relatively straight back, and having sabre curved blade with a sharp point the blade was 14" long.It again use brass riveted wooden grips attached to a curved handle. A straight crossguard was used instead of the previous S shaped one. Again a leather sheath was used

With few U.S. troops fighting in jungle areas at this time, the knife saw little use.

1909 Bolo
No example  

 

Model of 1910 Bolo Knife

A redesign to a smaller more compact design, the 1910 used a hilt similar to the 1903 bayonet, including the locking catch. It used a heavier 10 1/4 inch blade with a double-edged spear point and a straight cross-guard.

 

A change was made to the scabbard, from leather it was changed to a one similar to the 1905 bayonet, i.e. a pine body, covered with a tubular woven olive-drab cotton cover with a rawhide tip and a metal throat with a catch that held the bolo to the scabbard. This scabbard was equipped with M1910 wire hooks so it would attach to the then-new service belt, or to packs which had the eyelet attachment points. The bolo was made at Springfield Armory, approximately 60,000 were made.

 

1910 Bolo
No example  

 

Model of 1917 Bolo Knife

 

The 1910 was a quality made item and with war time requirements a simplified version of the knife was developed. Virtually identical to the Model 1910 the modified bolo is often referred to as the M1917 model to differentiate it from the earlier made item. The main obvious difference was that the scabbard catch was eliminated. It had the same canvas covered wood sheath, metal throat with leaf spring to grip the knife, and a leather tip. It was made by contractors with a lower quality of materials and finish than the Springfield arsenal 1910 version. Very large numbers of these were produced in 1917-1918, Plumb (Philadelphia and New Orleans)and ACCO

Bolos were not issued to every soldier but a few were distributed to each unit in accordance with the T/O for the type of unit deployed and their mission. Machine gun squads received bolos for use in clearing their field of fire.

A further change was made to ease production, this saw the pommel and tang being made from a single piece of steel, these Bolo's were marked CT for commercial quality.

Because of its shortness, weight, and guard, the Army's bolo was an inefficient brush knife compared to a well designed machete. The M-1942 18-inch, broad-blade machete replaced the bolo knife early in World War II.

In addition to the Rock Island Arsenal scabbard, four civilian contractor scabbards are commonly seen. A metal scabbard was also made by L.F. & C. with a leather connector to a wire belt hanger. These latter scabbards are often sold as experimental etc. however large quantities of them are available still in the original WWII packaging

 

M1917 BOLO KNIFE
M1917 BOLO knife, w the later sheet steel WWII scabbard

 

M1917 BOLO KNIFE CT - Plumb Philadelphia
Plumb Philadelphia 1918 showing commercial contract construction with integrated pommel. This has a well made leather scabbard not the original cloth covered wood.
M1917 BOLO KNIFE  - Plumb Philadelphia
Plumb Philadelphia 1918 showing military contract construction with pinned not integrated pommel
M1917 BOLO KNIFE - ACCO Chicago
ACCO Chicago a commercial quality Bolo

 

M1917 BOLO KNIFE - Scabbards
Sight variations in the leather ends to the scabbard covers. This cover goes over the inner pine wood scabbard and can be found manufactured by various manufacturers
A-K-CO / 1918 / R.H.S.  has a steel washer drain in he tip, not seen on other sleeves.
CWE
BRAHUER BROS 1918
  S H   M
Steel sheet scabbard made in WWII for the 1910/1917 bolo's
U.S. / L.F.& C - 1918