Vietnam War Donald L Brown Type 2 Vietnam Bowie Prototype

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Original Vietnam War Donald L Brown Type 2 Vietnam Bowie Prototype.

Extremely Scarce; 1967 prototype featured in Knife World Magazine, 2007. The magazine/newspaper is included. 

Donald L. Brown began his knife making career during World War Two, making fighting knives for fellow soldiers. Don received his paratrooper wings in the 101st Airborne Division, but jump injuries sidelined him. He sustained fractures to both legs in one jump and later his back was broken in a military train crash. The Army then reassigned him to the 8th Air Force and there Don served as a top turret ball gunner on a B-24 bomber. He once remarked that the skills learned while hunting game birds in Pennsylvania with a shotgun served him well in the ball turret. After World War Two, he continued to make knives on a limited basis until the Vietnam War, when he greatly increased his production. In May, 1970, A.G. Russell and eleven knifemakers met in Tulsa, Oklahoma and formed the Knifemakers Guild. The Guild's goals were to: promote handmade knives and their makers, to encourage a professional attitude to the commerce of knifemaking, to provide technical assistance to makers, and to sponsor an annual show and Guild business meeting simulta-neously. A.G. Russell was selected Honorary President and R. W. Loveless was named the Secretary. Donald L. Brown was a member of the Knifemakers Guild and became good friends with W. D. "Bo" Randall, with whom he exchanged copious correspondence; he also visited him in Florida as well as at Bo's summer cottage in Michigan. In addition, Don had cordial relationships with Dan Dennehy, Walt Kneubuhler, and Ralph Bone. Brown's name was listed as a knife-maker in the 1973 book The Custom Knife by John Bates and James Schip-pers. Brown's knife-making career ended because he suffered greatly from back pain and, even after numerous surgeries, was not able to continue working on knives.

Mr. Brown produced about 250 Vietnam Bowies for military men serving in Southeast Asia. Early in the Vietnam conflict, he was contacted by a paratrooper bound for Vietnam who wanted Brown to make a combat knife in the form of a large bowie. The soldier wanted a tough working knife that would perform well under the rigors of jungle warfare. Knives were designed, tested, and found to be successful. Don conducted torture tests of his own on the Vietnam Bowie when he went on various camping, hunting, and fishing trips and its use as a camp knife was something to behold. No axes, shovels, or other implements were needed if you had your Brown Bowie! Don also relied on the feedback from soldiers in the field to make adjustments to his knives. Hence, the alterations made between the Type I and Type II Vietnam Bowies occurred as a natural evolution in the field evaluation of the product. Advertisements were placed in the Saigon Post and other publications with an eye toward attracting elite fighting unit customers. In 1965, the first shipment of twelve knives made their way to Vietnam.

Initial orders placed knives. in the hands of Special Forces, U.S. Marines, and other men serving in combat zones in Southeast Asia. Found in Mr. Brown's effects was a copy of an advertisement for the Type II Bowie that would have appeared in 1967. Unfortunately, the only copies left at the time of his death were old photocopies that had begun to fade. Digital enhancement by a specialist in these matters has made the new copy of the text legible and the photo-graph, although poor, is shown in the 2007 Knifw World article that is included. Sadly, a group of photographs and letters sent from soldiers who carried Brown knives in Vietnam were lost in a fire at the maker's home.

The Vietnam Bowie was a 100% handmade knife using the finest 3/16" 1095 carbon steel for the blade, shaped by the stock removal method. A solid brass guard 3/16" thick and a 5" handle of American walnut completed the pack-age. The 1095 steel and brass were acquired from the same source that "Bo" Randall used for his knives, as he provided the information to Don Brown. Walnut for the grips was obtained locally from a cabinet maker, so the walnut could be personally selected and cut to Mr. Brown's specifi-cations. Scabbards were also locally manufactured from two sources that are unknown to me. The knives were marketed under his company name of Northwestern Ohio Firearms Company. Cost of a Vietnam Bowie with a hand-made, heavy grade cowhide scabbard that was stitched and riveted was $35.00; if you wanted only the knife the cost was $30.00.

There were two types of Vietnam Bowies made during the Vietnam War. Type I Bowies had a blade of approximately 11-1/2" with a diamond shaped 3/16" brass guard and a 5" grip made of two 3/8" walnut slabs held by pins of bronze welding rod and brass hex nuts that were peened and countersunk into the wood. This procedure made for a nice looking and sturdy handle. Type I models appeared around 1965.

Sometime in 1967 or early 1968, as production increased and specifications became more set, modifications to the Type I became standardized. The Type II was born. The blade specifications remained the same except for a reduction in the length to 9-1/2" and a rough brushed finish to reduce reflection in combat situations. Guards remained unchanged but the grip was another story. A totally new solid block walnut handle was grooved to receive a specially designed tang. The larger 5-1/2" grip was secured by epoxy bond and the grooved internal portions of the tang would receive the epoxy and form several internal rivets for added strength. Without the slab grips and brass rivets, the free form handle with its distinctive knob was treated to numerous hand-rubbed oil finishes. The grip could be shaped as desired by the owner with greater ease and was more ergonomic for the user. Most knives, if marked at all, have a simple pair of arrows engraved on the ric-asso of the blade, one pointing to the north and the other to the west, referring to the company name - Northwestern Ohio Firearms Company. The Type II scabbards purchased with the knife were made of heavy grade, brown cowhide that was stitched with nylon brown thread and secured with seven nickel plated brass rivets. The keeper strap has an unmarked nickel plated brass snap. A 2-1/2" wide by 3" leather belt loop with Gl hanger was pre-sent. The Type I scabbards differ from the Type II only in size and shape, lack of rivets, and a larger leather belt loop 3" wide by 3" long which was provided with a military belt hanger so the owner had the option of how he wanted to carry his knife.

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Collections: Archive Tags: Edged Weapons, USA, Vietnam War