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Pilot Sword


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This is why I find so interesting the Japanese WW2 blades: unlike the western sabres (with the rare exception of those issued to cavalry mounted troops), which are essentially uniform/dress adjunct, they were intended to be used in the field, and saw actual, extensive use in every battleground, even in the air!

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 Use the search terms, crew  or pilot sword on this forum........ There is a lot of discussion. To date I have only seen photo's of pilots with full size swords rather than the shorter ones, and lots of photo's of ordinary line officers with the so called crew gunto.   

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Nice find, Neil! I know I'm one of the worst when it comes to speculating on the unknown, and the "aircrew/tanker" gunto is one of the best examples of why we should avoid doing it. Book writers and website hosts (Ohmura) helped create this myth. They are just waki's fitted for WWII. Matt's video is a good example - guys just bought what they wanted, or brought what they had from home. Although, Ohmura admits that crews didn't always pick waki: "However, crews did not necessarily choose a short Guntō. A large majority of crews were doing the carrying of the Johsun-Guntō so that it might understand also with the upper photograph." His site has pics of submariners and aircrew carrying full sized gunto, though he does have a picture of a tanker & and aircrew with shorties.

Another term we used, and I've used it often, that I wonder about is the "combat saya", the leather-covered wood saya. Is that really a term from WWII Japanese? Ohmura calls them "formal" and "informal" saya, but I doubt that was truly their style names to the soldiers carrying them, as many, if not most, of the "formal" saya we see today were collected on the battle field.

 

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Nice find, Neil! I know I'm one of the worst when it comes to speculating on the unknown, and the "aircrew/tanker" gunto is one of the best examples of why we should avoid doing it. Book writers and website hosts (Ohmura) helped create this myth. They are just waki's fitted for WWII. Matt's video is a good example - guys just bought what they wanted, or brought what they had from home. Although, Ohmura admits that crews didn't always pick waki: "However, crews did not necessarily choose a short Guntō. A large majority of crews were doing the carrying of the Johsun-Guntō so that it might understand also with the upper photograph." His site has pics of submariners and aircrew carrying full sized gunto, though he does have a picture of a tanker & and aircrew with shorties.

 

Another term we used, and I've used it often, that I wonder about is the "combat saya", the leather-covered wood saya. Is that really a term from WWII Japanese? Ohmura calls them "formal" and "informal" saya, but I doubt that was truly their style names to the soldiers carrying them, as many, if not most, of the "formal" saya we see today were collected on the battle field. 

The leater cover for metal saya called "Combat Leather Cover"野戰革履,The leather-covered wood saya called 略裝 "Informal" Koshirae/Outfit

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 In British parlance the different scabbards, metal v wood and leather, are referred to as  "Dress" and "Field" scabbards. An officers sword was often purchased with both types, and the carrying case that came with the order had an extra section for the other scabbard. Of course this was not invariable, and in wartime, economies were made....

 

 I would not be surprised if there was a similar protocol in the IJA, quite apart from those rapid remounts for war use that we are familiar with. Some Gunto in "Field mounts" are well made and show little in the way of short cuts so familiar from those other swords described below.

 

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I would say the majority of the field or informal pattern mounts are generally of lower quality but you do see good quality ones that only differ in some minor hardware. I have one with the "field scabbard", usual locking system, normal Type 98 pattern Haikan but plain iron band and end cap. It was covered in what would've been a quality leather cover before it entirely disintegrated.

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I love the short swords with leather sayas... I own two.  However, I agree with the comments above and I bought them because I liked the sword - I blow off the stories (marketing) and speculations of usage by pilots or submarine crews, etc..   

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I love the variety and the "extremes" of war time swords. It doesn't make it all that easy to determine where everything was and "used" for. I remember reading about a program the Japanese government had buying swords for the war effort, I wonder if the pressures of war caused more short swords to be used in the military due to this program and the reduced production of the gunto.

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Matt,

 

As far as I know, they were always short of the needed gunto. Good article on this here: http://www.warrelics.eu/forum/Japanese-militaria/family-short-blades-gunto-688110/

 

I had always assumed the same thing as you, that our bombing and war materiel shortages had decreased production by the latter years, but this chart on NCO type 95 production seems to say quite the oposite. I don't know about officer gunto production though.

 

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 I think we need to be aware of the difference between a standard Shin-Gunto/Katana in field mounts, and the sometimes much shorter Wakizashi in leather covers and their varied levels of conformation to regulations. Pilot sword might be a selling label, but it does nicely describe a certain type of sword that turns up on the dealers table.

 

 Myself, I think a lot of these were an individuals weapon, distinct from the regulation requirement for a sword. Much as Allied troops can be found carrying Kukri and Bowie knives, I think the shorter "Pilot swords" were non regulation personal  weapons, and perhaps  even carried by people with no requirement or right to bear a sword.. The closer to regulation mounts the more likely to be an authorised sword, and the further from regulation, the more likely to be something else.

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Interesting point Dave. I wonder what kind of attitude officers would have towards personal carrying swords when they had no business doing so. To me it could be seen as undermining the officers authority since they "earned" the right to carry the sword, maybe the variation between regulation and high quality mounts is a monetary one, I believe officers had to finance their own gunto and maybe less wealthy officers or those chosen to replace the ones lost in combat didn't have the money to kit out a full gunto.

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 There is evidence for unauthorised swords, and for wakizashi in particular being carried as "backups". I think the demarcation would be as it was before, when wakizashi were for non samurai and katana for the samurai. In this photo the wakizashi is not being carried as a rank symbol, but more like an infighting blade. Captain Okuyama Michio is on a one way commando mission to Okinawa. There is an interesting discussion on the subject of wakizashi in WW2 here. http://www.warrelics.eu/forum/Japanese-militaria/civilian-wakizashi-use-wwii-how-common-739325/

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Thank you Dave. I have stayed out of this conversation but follow it intently. I believe that in any type of conflict or war NOTHING is cut in stone and if you believe it is you are missing out on a large part of the collecting field. Please take the time to look at this 6 minute clip of a Japanese film on YouTube-Imperial Japanese War Movie “ Kato Hayabusa Sento-Tai “. Sorry I couldn’t figure out a way to put a link to it. In the very beginning if you look closely you will see a paratrooper with what looks like a short sword tucked into his belt. When they land the Japanese soldier in charge definitely has a short sword as do others in the clip. I have a couple signed short, Wakizashi length swords in military mounts that I feel are totally original. A couple Armies and one that I call my Tanker. Everyone has their own opinion and what they feel is “ right”, all I am saying is when it comes to collecting keep a open mine and never say never. And always remember just because you read it in a book dosent mean that there are no exceptions.

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Hiya Micheal, is this the clip you mean... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0llB--aUnIc . (To share a clip or link... Left click the address bar, so that it turns blue. Right click to open menu, left click "copy". Go to other page and right click "paste", and there you have it.)

 

  An interesting clip for all sorts of reasons, civilian passenger aircraft as a Para' transport, and as you point out short swords  definitely shown as used in the field.... Along with standard Shin Gunto.

 

 The conversation is not about if these blades went to war, they absolutely did, and is not even if they went into 'planes, tanks and submarines, because they certainly did. The conversation was about if such were exclusively or specifically used as crew weapons,.... and there are too many pic's of them in other circumstances for that theory to hold water.

 

 Many thanks for the title of the film, it's a stunner.... even if, as I think, it's a propaganda melange of  different clips.

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It depends on what you are trying to prove I guess. Were there wakizashi in military mounts? Of course. We have the documents to show that the military was asking for donations of wakizashi due to a shortage of swords. And cheap katana too. These were all low quality swords and mounted for the war effort. I guess the majority of them were put into regular size gunto koshirae.
Then you also had soldiers (maybe higher ranking ones) taking their swords to war. Depending on what and who they paid, they could have them in military mounts, custom mounts, or half-half. We see a lot with civilian tsuka and combat covers.
Then, for those who could afford it, I guess you could pay to have your civilian wakizashi put into scaled-down shin-gunto koshirae. Anything for a price.

But...if you are asking whether the military actually made short Gunto for issue to pilots or tankers or who-ever, as a standard pattern, then I am firmly in the "nope" group.
I am of the belief that all those we see are custom done as individual orders, with no set pattern.

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