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Focus on the M1917/M1941 Cutlass

by Rick Wagner

In Mike's collection on this web page, there is a picture of what The American Sword lists as an M1917 Naval Cutlass. Many call this style a variation of the true M1917 pattern, and with the cut out guard it is an exact copy of the Dutch model 1898 Klewang. However, as far as the name of the American version goes, it could more accurately be called the Model 1941 cutlass instead of the M1917. It was produced in unknown amounts by various contractors during WWII, but since few seem to have marked them it is often impossible to distinguish unmarked Dutch models from the American ones.

The M1941 cutlass seems to have been issued to some enlisted port personnel in the Pacific Theater as possibly a badge of authority, and it was issued to both Army and Navy personnel. The were also many Dutch Klewangs in the Dutch possessions at the start of WWII which the Japanese used, and I assume the Allies did also if they came across a sizable amount. After WWII the use of the cutlass seems to have been used for ceremonial or ROTC duty. The last contract may have been let in 1956.

Like the M1941, the original U.S. Model 1917 was also a copy of the Klewang. However, at the time it was probably cheaper not cut out the guard. I have an example of the '41 in my collection with a khaki scabbard, and U.S. marked on the leather fastener, so variations from the description in The American Sword may be encountered.

The bible of U.S. Naval edged weapons in my mind is Boarders Away Vol.I by William Gilkerson. It's a detailed book but also a good read and I highly recommend it to collectors interested in naval weapons.

Click here for a picture showing the two hilt styles