United States Marine Corps History and Information

Learn about the Traditions and Customs of the USMC

Mameluke Sword, Sword Care, and Sword Knot

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Marine Corps Mameluke Sword NCO

The Mameluke Sword for Marine NCO's

Marine Corps history states that a sword of this type was presented to Marine First Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon by the Ottoman Empire viceroy, Prince Hamet, on December 8, 1805, during the First Barbary War, as a gesture of respect and praise for the Marines’ actions at the Battle of Derne. Upon his return to the United States, the state of Virginia presented him with a silver-hilted sword featuring an eaglehead hilt and a curved blade modeled after the original Mameluke sword given him by Hamet. Its blade is inscribed with his name and a commemoration of the Battle of Tripoli Harbor.

Perhaps due to the Marines’ distinguished record during this campaign, including the capture of the Tripolitan city of Derna after a long and dangerous desert march, Marine Corps CommandantArchibald Henderson adopted the Mameluke sword in 1825 for wear by Marine officers. After initial distribution in 1826, Mameluke swords have been worn except for the years 1859-75 (when Marine officers were required to wear the U.S. Model 1850 Army foot officers’ sword), and a brief period when swords were suspended during World War II. Since that time, Mameluke swords have been worn by Marine officers in a continuing tradition to the present day.

Instructions for Sword Care and Maintenance for your Mameluke Sword

Stainless steel, thought by many to be invulnerable to corrosion, is not blemish proof. With stainless steel, one must be more cautious because of the evidence of corrosion does not show itself as quickly as it does on carbon spring steel. If the blade is touched with a finger and merely wiped off with a soft rag, that finger print will be permanently etched into the steel forever! In time, the print will become more and more visible and pronounced.

To prevent this from happening. Keep Fingers Off the Blade! In fact, keep the blade away from any bare skin as skin is very acidic. It is this acid that will eat away at the metal and the only way to stop it is by giving the blade a thorough cleaning.

All metal parts of your sword, including the wire wrapped handles, should always be covered with a light coating of oil to prevent rust. Apply a light coat of oil or a silicone spray. You can also wipe it with a silicone coated gun/reel cloth. In many respects, the gun/reel cloth is preferred as there is less tendency for dust to accumulate and trap oxygen to cause pitted areas in the blade. Instead of applying WD-40 to the blade, you may choose to use a good metal polish periodically.

Do not swing any edged weapon carelessly. Remember, this is a real weapon and must be treated with the same respect you would give a loaded firearm. When you wish to experience how it feels for warriors to wield these weapons in battle, make sure you are well out of reach of anyone. These weapons are very heavy and could slip out of your hands. Be careful not to endanger yourself or others when you manipulate these swords

Leather scabbards and sheaths as well as leather covered handles should be treated with a good paste wax. The scabbard can also be treated with neatsfoot or mink oil for waterproofing, although this is not recommended for gripping surfaces. Do not store your sword in its scabbard for long periods of time since the leather traps moisture which can produce rust spots on the blade.

Mameluke Sword Knot 

Mameluke Sword Knot Illustration

a. The service sword knot is braided of black leather or approved synthetic material, with a simulated large knot, two sliding keepers, and a hook and eye closure. The sword knot will be attached to the sword at all times.

b. The knot is attached to the sword by passing the small end through the eye in the pommel and securing it to the hook above the large end of the knot. One keeper will be drawn taut immediately below the pommel; the other immediately above the large end of the knot. Both strands of the knot are then looped in a clove hitch over the rear hilt at the cross guard, next to the acorn, and drawn taut so that the large end of the knot hangs free and does not fall below the upper brass rings of the scabbard. The clove hitch “crossover” is worn inboard.


3031. Marine Officer Mameluke Sword and Accessories.

Mameluke Sword for Marine Officers

a. The sword may be prescribed with all uniforms except the evening dress and utility.

b. Sword blade lengths are available in a range from 26 to 35 inches. The regulation sword length for an individual is determined with the sword at the carry position. The tip of the blade will fall not more than one inch above or below eye level.

c. The sword blade is a cut and thrust blade of stainless or forged steel. The sword blade has prescribed etched ornamentation and a scroll on each side bearing the words “United States Marines” reading on the right side from hilt to point, and on the left side from point to hilt. The sword blade has a double channel from the bottom of the etching to the point of the blade, and all exposed surfaces are either polished stainless steel or heavily nickel-plated on a copper base, then polished.

d. The Mameluke-type grip of yellow metal with leaves of ivory or ivory-like plastic is secured by 2 five-pointed star rivets of yellow metal. The pommel has an eye of yellow metal through which the loop of the sword knot passes and a straight cross with acorn design on the ends.

e. The owner’s name may be engraved on the sword at the individual’s option. If engraved, the owner’s name (reading from point to hilt) will be etched or engraved on the scroll on the left side near the hilt. A Marine officer who inherits/purchases a sword previously engraved with another Marine’s name may wear and maintain it as long as the sword remains serviceable. Removing the previous owner’s name is not required.
This should answer the questions:

What is the name of the sword carried by Marines?
What is a sword knot?
Are the NCO and Officers Mameluke swords different?

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