While the Vietnam War didn’t feature as much close combat as World War II, knives served a number of valuable roles in the war. Interestingly enough, edged weapons may have saved as many lives in the war as they took—the standard issue bayonet or knife was something that no soldier on either side wanted to be without.
American Armed Forces Bayonet Usage
Both sides of the Vietnam War used rifle mounted bayonets, with them being standard issue with the American M1 Garand and other rifles. The frequent guerilla nature of the war made ambushes a constant fear; US soldiers often turned to their bayonets when the enemy snuck up on them. Bayonets were also helpful for detecting and disarming booby traps, as well as for negotiating dense jungles.
Knives Used by American Armed Forces
Fixed blade utility, combat, and survival knives were used by the military in the Vietnam War for an array of tasks. The Vietnam War did feature some hand to hand combat, in which knives, machetes, shovels, or any other immediately available weapon could make all the difference. The Ka-Bar style combat knife was the most widely used model in the war; forces praised its durability, sharpness, and ability to resist damage from the intense humidity in Vietnam. The Ka-Bar remains a popular knife with collectors and is still used by military forces today.
Non-Combat Usage during the War
A Ka-Bar or other knife was one of the handiest tools that soldiers had during the war. On any given day a knife could be used for anything from removing leaches to opening C Rations. A sharp knife was essential for clearing areas and building camouflage, as well as fixing rifle jams in a pinch. In rare circumstances combat and utility knives were used for emergency medical attention when other, more appropriate equipment was unavailable.
Knives also served as personal mementos and good luck charms during the war. Many soldiers carried knives they brought with them to the war or had shipped over, including folding blades, machetes, shaving razors, swords, and much more. Some soldiers carried knives that were used in WWII and previous wars, both out of tradition or superstition. Regardless of the knife, they all served a vital role in the war, making them an important part of military history.