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The Applegate "Fairbairn" Fighting Knife (some stuff has been edited)
William L. Cassidy
Did Rex Applegate actually collaborate with W.E. Fairbairn on an improved fighting knife?
I used to think so, and indeed, I have stated as much in previous writings. Now, on the basis of new information obtained through CIA, and a critical examination of the old, I'm not so sure.
Is the Applegate-Fairbairn Fighting Knife the same design produced by the putative collaboration?
Following are some elements of information that I am still assessing (more to follow).
The date on the original drawing for the design produced by the putative collaboration is 7 March 1944.
See the notes on its "discovery," below.
Postulate 1: No known examples of the A-F exist dating from 1944.
Extract of OSS Memorandum from Fairbairn to Col. H.L. Robinson dated 5 February 1945
Although the sample F-M Fighting Knife is only a round hand-made model, it is the most scientifically constructed fighting knife that has been produced up to the present date
This knife has been produced by Mr. Millerson of Presentation, OSS, who should be contacted in reference to specifications, blueprints, etc.
Postulate 2: No mention is made of any manufacturing at MITC, where Applegate was stationed.
Excerpt of Memorandum from William J. Donovan to The Adjutant General dated 5 April 1945.
Recommendation for the Award of the Legion of Merit for Lt. Colonel WIlliam E. Fairbairn.
In conjunction with the training of military personnel assigned to the Office of Strategic Services he has developed several weapons used specially for close contact fighting. These weapons are known as the Fairbairn Sykes fighting knife, the Cosh Spring baton, the spike necklace, the Fair Sword and the Fairbairn-Millerson fighting knife.
Postulate 3: No mention is made of the Applegate-Fairbairn.
Excerpt of Letter to Cassidy from Rex Applegate dated 5 March 1976.
I just came across the other day the drawings of a fighting knife that Fairbairn and I made up to be an improvement on the FS, also a drawing of an improved smachette we worked out etc. Might have someone make them up or make some arrangements for manu. Have no firm ideas at this point.
Postulate 4: The drawings are not depicted in Kill or Get Killed, neither is the improved design. The only design depicted in Kill or Get Killed is the OSS blueprint for the Fairbairn-Sykes. It is known that a number of Fairbairn-Sykes OSS models were made at Applegate's MITC shop, but see above, Postulate 1.
Excerpt of Letter to Cassidy from Rex Applegate dated 24 June 1976.
Have looked in some old files and find that I have the drawings of both knives Fairbairn and I designed and two rough prototypes.
Excerpt of Letter to Cassidy from Rex Applegate dated 5 September 1976.
The knife must have been one I had made by a friend who had contract setting up ammo factory in Thailand. I sent him the drawing some years ago.
Postulate 5: Why didn't Applegate have any previous prototypes?
Excerpt of Letter to Cassidy from Rex Applegate dated 10 May 1977.
Note your comments on the price and blade from Sheffield and that the grip will be projected as in the original knife. It has been so long ago that we collaborated on this that I am not sure what I contributed or vice versa.
Postulate 6: Applegate could remember the dates and details of the MITC Fairbairn-Sykes manufacture, but not the collaboration.
Excerpt of Memo to Cassidy from Rex Applegate dated 1 September 1977.
I feel much more at ease now that I have decided to go ahead with the FA (or AF) design and the smatchet. I think it imperative that you get as much data as possible on the history of the smatchet if it exists, production data, use etc. This is one that I control and is in accordance with my previously expressed desires etc.
Postulate 7: This was his first mention of the "AF" as distinct from "FA." Why the specification "this is one that I control... " reference the Smatchet?
Maybe it would be better for me to slip an article in American Blade under my name, using the material you have prepared.
Postulate 8: Like and similar conduct?
Excerpt of Letter to Cassidy from Rex Applegate dated 12 September 1977.
It is my intent to see to it that you have no financial, day to day need in the way of the knife, or assassination book. This is important. As far as your participating in the take of of the sales of the AF kniofe and smatchet, I have always intended that this would be done in the nature of a percentage of sales.
Postulate 9: Cassidy was paid $6,000. for "consulting and design services reference the Applegate-Fairbairn knife project."
In fact it might be a good idea if you have a front name for correspondence and handling routine marketing.
I suggest you try to stay in the background, as I will, on commercial end of things especially in marketing and PR that is too obviously self serving.
Postulate 10: The Boker box for the Applegate knife is quite splendid, as are the advertisements, etc.
Extract of Contract between Barry Wood and William L. Cassidy dba Castle Knife Company dated 3 January 1978.
Wood shall manufacture one (1) full-scale prototype of the Applegate-Fairbairn Fighting Knife (hereafter "A/F prototype"), to specifications provided by Castle.
Postulate 11: Cassidy designed and specified a new grip, differing from the "original" drawing "discovered" by Applegate.
Excerpt of Letter from Rex Applegate to Barry Wood dated 11 January 1978.
I also think Bill Cassidy and I discussed making up another knife, anyway using the original prototype blade and the new handle of your manu.
Postulate 12: Applegate was aware of Postulate 11.
Excerpts of Note from Applegate to Cassidy dated 4 September 1978.
With respect to the Fairbairn name etc., I presume you will be in touch with the daughter when in London. I am prepared to pay a royalty of 3.00 per knife. If this is not acceptable I will go ahead and place only my own name on the blade.
Postulate 13: It appears the use of the Fairbairn name was strictly a marketing issue.
This in reality is a windfall to the estate. Probably could go ahead and do it for free as I am solely responsible for financing the project.
Postulate 14: Applegate considered not "doing the right thing," but later recanted. He did pay a royalty to the Estate.
Excerpts of Letter from Fairbairn's daughter to Cassidy, dated 24th April 1980.
Audrey [John Fairbairn's late widow] and I have received a proposal from a Col. Applegate who plans to produce a limited number of collector's copies of a fighting knife, upon which he says he and my father collaborated on during the war and which the Colonel describes as "an improvement over the Fairbairn Sykes model of Commando fame, etc." and involves "a new and completely different knife and design."
Colonel Applegate is very keen to place my father's signature along with his on the blade and he has written seeking permission to do this as he feels that "Dan's name and mine would be an appealing facet in this venture."
Please, would it be troubling you too much to let us know how we stand with you on this point? Neither of us wish to disturb our relationship with you, or to be at fault in making another business arrangement which might conflict with any arrangements made between you and John.
Postulate 15: Neither Fairbairn's daughter nor his son knew Applegate until I introduced them. Applegate's name was not in Fairbairn's address book, nor was he ever mentioned in any of Fairbairn's papers. Cassidy held exclusive rights to use of the name on edged weapons, but advised John's widow and sister to take Applegate's offer.
More to follow.