The mei looks fake. I won't look it up since it will most likely be a dead-end.
Many Gunto's (not cold-forged just tempered steel) were made during that era and now are being tossed out of china as acid-treated poor attempts to mimic a real Gunto.
Please show pictures of the blade, saya (scabbard), all the fittings and a better picture of the nakago (it looks like it has been welded but I'm not sure because of the quality of the picture, it is a bad thing though).
Well, a pic on the blade itself and a closeup on the nakago will answer it all.
Thanks for the help. I have had the sword for about 20 years. Before that it was in the possession of a friend of mine's grandfather. He was stationed in the Pacific during WW2 and took it off a fallen soldier. The nakago is not welded. It is in desperate need of a full polish but lacking the skills myself and the $$ I have not been able to do it. That's on my "to do" list this year. These photos aren't mcuh better but I didn't have time to take high quality pics this weekend. I'll take some more tonight or tomorrow but this will give you an idea of the remaining fittings. The saya is leather over wood. Other than the mei, their are no numbers or markings on the blade or any of the fittings.
That knowledge certainly makes it more interesting. The images are rather blurry however so I can't say for sure if it's spring steel that the common gunto's were made from or if it's an older sword with genuine Tamahagane.
It's basically a gamble for me to say anything with this, I will need a macro-shot on the steel portion of the sword so that I can see if it's tamahagane or spring steel.
The angles and lines on the sword are rather well-made which hints that it could be made of tamahagane, but then I look at the mountings and the bo-hi (or groove, I'll try to keep this as English as possible) and see that they're much worse.
Especially that double-groove concept is extremely rare and the popular time of that design was around 1400. If the sword were to be that old the nakago and the steel itself would look very different.
My money is on that it's a gunto, the groove is so typically fashioned since they made those grooves during ww2 with a dragging "plow" device hardened above the hardness of the steel and simply carved it out. If it was properly polished the lines would be slightly crisper too.
But none of that really matters, I say that you should be very proud of it since a person wore that sword with his life depending on it, and now it's in your hands after having been passed down in a generation.
If you want to clean it up I can help you out with more or less everything you need and at minimum cost. It will be -very- labor intensive if you wish to get all the rust gone and still keep it's proportions.
Many sword polishers like to practice on gunto's since it's first of all slightly age-hardened steel and secondly it provides them with good practice how to make the flush geometry and crisp lines that a good polish has.
Regards (and hope you find that macro function!) //Chris
edit: I found it, the yokote testifies that it's not a properly polished blade. It's the ridge where the tip tapers at the edge, where the width of the sword becomes thinner (sakihaba). I could be wrong however since it is so blurry. But the Yokote IS horrible, that much is certain
I don't think it is Tamahagane. I see no evidence of patterning in the blade. It also doesn't have a visible hamon. Of course, it also hasn't been in polish in 60 years or so. I remembered to take my photo lights home. I'll get a close up of the blade this evening and probably post it in the morning.
But as you said, none of it truly matters other than to satisfy my curiosity. I like having it around and have always been fond of it.
Glad I could help in any way. There is a phenomena with severe patina developing and hiding any effects on a 'real' gunto, not the spring steel ones. Because there were still many 'real' (or should we say traditional?) swords being made even during WW2. The sword you have is, if it's forging was proper, fully useable if restored).
That's why I didn't want to judge out completely that this sword had effect, but now that you say it yourself and ofcourse having the experience of handling it in your hands you will have a better picture of any effects, folding patterns, folding scars etc etc.
I also think it's a special sword in that your grandfather grabbed it while he was stationed in the pacifics (if it was him?), it's the same with swords that have battle marks, it always makes them stand out a little more, especially if there are any emotional ties to it.
Just don't bring it in to Jap borders! lol
The police over there have a diagram on how to snap a sword in as many parts as possible, it's a crazy country I'll give you that but the spring steel guntos are destroyed on place as soon as possible.
Just a heads up if you ever visit Jap :)
You got yourself a nice family heirloom there Keith, congratulations. Wish I had a grandfather that were there too, especially for the big sword fire the yanks laid (pull up the truck and grab as many as you can and jet away into the bamboo grooves lol). The Japs had to turn over cultural treasures from smiths like Muramasa and Masamura that represented the peak of Jap sword forging, almost mythological swords and they're now nowhere to be found, gone in history.
There were many swordsmiths and polishers comitting suicide those years, they believed the craft was sure to disappear.