If you had to describe the “average” US military knife from WWII, it would be a bowie pattern blade with fullers (aka blood grooves) between 5 and 7 inches long made of a high carbon steel, usually 1095, which was through hardened (possibly tempered) with a stacked leather handle. This “average” knife would be made in New York. I guess the next most average knife would be a dagger pattern, or half dagger pattern, with similar metallurgy and handle composition between all the M3 and similar knives like the V42.
WWII Came at the tail end of the Great Depression and the War Department had to outfit the three branches of the military, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, with kit ranging from uniforms to combat knives. The vast majority of the fighting knives used by the US military in WWII were built in New York by companies such as Cammilus (from the town of the same name), Ka-Bar (Olean, NY), the Utica Knife Company (in Utica, NY), and Cattaraugus knives, in Cattaraugus County where the Ontario Knife Company also made its home. The Case knife company was relatively close by in Pennsylvania (and founded by the Case brothers who had worked at Cattaraugus). The PAL knife company of Chicago purchased the Remington knife line and produced a large number of the “Remington PAL” knives for WWII (and PAL operated at least one factory in New York). The Marbles company, of Gladstone, Michigan, saw a number of privately purchased “Ideal” knives used in WWII, as did the Western Cutlery Company of Colorado. But, all of the outside NY companies were rather minor players compared to those in NY.
Of course the most famous knife of WWII is the US Navy Mk2 Combat Knife, which has becomes synonymous with the Ka-Bar company due to good advertising on behalf of that company. The “USMC Fighting Knife” pattern has been produced by Remington PAL, Cammilus, Ka-Bar, Ontario, and many others.
But this post is not about the famous “Ka-Bar” pattern, it is about the Cattaraugus 225Q or the Case 337-6-Q knives (almost visually identical to each other). These have less of a “fighting knife” profile and a much more obvious “sporting” profile as the Q has a sufficiently deep belly for skinning, and a fifth of an inch thick blade for sturdiness, although the “blood grooves” are tiny and do very little to lighten the blade. The “three layered pommel” which is unique to the “Q” knives has given rise to the urban legend that the purpose was to hammer nails on crates by the Quartermaster corps (a legend somewhat supported as the son of the Cattaraugus president served in the US Army Quartermaster Corps and was given a custom 225Q by his father), alternately the “Q” was supposedly because the Quartermaster Corps was tasked with specifying a combat knife. My take on the matter is that the three layers of steel pommel were chosen to properly balance the blade, putting the center of gravity behind the guard rather than in front.
It is not definitively known whether the 225Q or 337-6-Q knives were official issue or a substitute official issue, although one guy stated that 1.2 million of the 225Qs were issued across all services although he didn’t leave a convenient citation for me to investigate. One soldier, who served stateside as an MP his entire WWII career wrote down that he acquired his 225Q at a local hardware store for 25 cents (at a time when a Marble’s Ideal knife was marketed for a buck twenty five) as the knives had been rejected from service (aka, “seconds”) and that the handles on those knives often needed sanding down which indicates that the 225Q was accepted by the Army for official issue. Another reported that his father purchased his 225Q from the “ship’s store” and carried it through the Pacific campaign, which indicates that the 225Qs were available but not standard issue.
The Case 337-6-Q knives had a different stacked leather handle configuration which didn’t have the same reputation for needing a good sanding. Despite the identical blade geometries the Case variant goes for a lot more on the market as there are more Case collectors than Cattaraugus collectors. A lot of the Q knives came with a “left handed sheath” and no one seems to know why, my guess is that is just how the stamping machine to make the sheaths was originally set up and no one saw anything wrong with it at the time. A more practical option is that if you have a gun in your right hand (most people shoot right handed and right eyed) then if you need to get your knife you should probably do it with your left hand, but whatever the real reason was it has been lost to history.
Still, the 225Q is shorter than a Ka-Bar by an inch (despite using almost three more ounces of steel to make, much of it in the thicker blade and pommel), with a better belly for skinning, and a better blade design for standard camp chores or “bushcraft survival.” Like the Marble’s Ideal pattern knife, it’s a solid choice to carry with you out into the great unknown. It’s a tad heavier than other options, but if you want a truly lightweight option a Mora Companion is really the best choice rather than something that can double as a pry bar in a pinch.