Museum Talk

Tuesday, July 22, 2014
World War II bayonet knife on display at BI Museum.

A World War II bayonet knife was recently donated to the Buffalo Island Museum by Henry Dean Finch. It belonged to Gene Gardner. It is complete with its scabbard and belt. The scabbard was made by the Beckwith Manufacturing Company of Dover, N.H., which only made these scabbards from January 1942 to February 1943. The scabbard is olive green fiberglass with a steel top with a double steel hook to attach it to the belt.

The M1 Garand bayonet was made by the Utica Cutlery Company from April 1942 to May 1943. It is 10 inches long and made of carbon steel with a parkerized finish.

John Garand was a designer for the Springfield Armory. He designed the M1 rifle. In 1936 the M1 was accepted as the standard U.S. infantry rifle. The M1 bayonet was made to fit the rifle. These original bayonets were 16 inches long. The bayonet was used as a knife as well as the attachment to the rifle. It made it more versatile and easier to use as a tool or to maneuver in close quarters.

By early 1939, war clouds were gathering over Europe and the United States War Department started its "Protective Mobilization Plan." The leftover WW I bayonets were to be supplemented with 100,000 to 300,000 new bayonets, and the contracts started in late 1941. This was found to be very important planning, as in December there was the attack on Pearl Harbor. Six civilian firms made 1,540,578 new bayonets from April 1942 to May 1943. In order to produce a more practical weapon and to conserve steel, the 16 inch bayonets were converted to 10 inches. The blades were cut down and the points reground. The Utica Cutlery Co. was one of these firms that obtained a contract, and made the bayonet at the museum.

The first documented military use of a bayonet dates back to 1640 when French troops were armed with muskets and bayonets during the Thirty Years War. Bayonets have been used through the ages, but a period after World War II, infantry rifles were produced without the ability to mount a bayonet. But in the mid 1950s, that was changed. Every rifle adopted by a major army once again has a mount for a bayonet.

Buffalo Island Museum is open from 1-4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission is free. We are having a special exhibit of vintage hats which will run until the end of September. The museum will hold the annual Quilt Show Sept. 27. We love the designs and especially love seeing the old quilts. The annual quilt show is the museum's opportunity to display the lovely and unusual quilts of this area. For more information, check out the museum's Facebook page.

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