The first Army bolos were limited issue, for Hospital Corps troops who had a need to clear brush and cut poles for tents or litters. As a direct result of the experience of U.S. troops in the Philippine Insurrection, the Army developed the Model 1904 Bolo Knife, a heavy curved knife that proved useful in the jungles for cutting through dense, tangled vegetation and as a weapon.
The Model 1904 Army bolo had a smoothly curved 12" blade with rounded end, and brass riveted wood grips on curved handle. The crossguard was "S" shaped. It's sheath was heavy leather. The Model 1904 bolo remained in production through 1915.
Model of 1909 Bolo Knife
The M1909 was a less expensive revison of the first bolos, intended for use by all types of troops. Description: Relatively straight back, sabre curve to the wide 14" blade ending at a sharp point, overall length of 19 1/4 inches. Brass rivited wood grips on curved handle, straight cross guard, leather sheath. With few U.S. troops operating in jungle areas, this knife saw little use.
Model of 1910 Bolo Knife
The Model 1910 bolo (top photo on page), with its 10 1/4 inch blade with a double-edged spear point, was an attempt to make a lighter, easier to carry version of the Model 1909. It had wood grips and pommel in "bayonet style" and a straight cross-guard. The scabbard for this bolo consisted of a white-pine body covered with tubular woven olive-drab cotton duck and rawhide at the tip and a metal throat with a catch that holds the bolo to the scabbard. The scabbard was equipped with M1910 wire hooks so it would attach to the then-new pistol belt or cartridge belt, or to packs with the eyelet attachment points. The 1910 bolo was well made at Springfield Armory, although in limited quantity.
Model of 1917 Bolo Knife
U.S. Army Bolo Knife, Model of 1917.
Virtually identical to the Model 1910, but the scabbard catch has been eliminated. It has the same canvas covered wood sheath, metal throat with leaf spring to grip the knife, and a leather tip. This is the wartime version, 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. A relatively rare variant of the Model 1917 will be stamped with CT under the date.
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.
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.
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