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The Yarborough Knife: Symbol of a legacy

Written by:
Aleks Nemtcev
Updated:
October 11, 2022
yarborough knife

Our article provides an in-depth exploration of the distinguished Yarborough knife, featuring exclusive content, comprehensive reviews, and practical advice. Tailored for collectors, enthusiasts, and professionals, this piece fosters engagement within the custom knives community and facilitates a thorough exploration of the vast world of knives.

What is a Yarborough knife?

While Special Forces Soldiers are known for their prowess with many weapons, one weapon in their arsenal stands out in particular and that is the Yarborough Knife.

The Yarborough knife is a special award given to graduates of the U.S. Army Special Forces Qualification Course. Named after Lieutenant General William P. Yarborough, a major player in the U.S. Army Special Forces history, the idea for this unique knife was introduced in the 1960s. Yarborough felt that Special Forces soldiers should have a symbol for their elite status. And so, the Yarborough knife came into existence and continues to be awarded to graduates today. But here’s a fun fact: even though every Green Beret gets one, not all of them actually carry it during missions. It’s more of a symbol of the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to become a Green Beret.

Yarborough knife

Image Credit: RR Auction.

Chris Reeve and William Harsey co-designed a knife featuring a 12.5-inch total length and a 7-inch spear-point blade. This blade utilizes elite CPM S35VN steel and receives a KG Gun-Kote finish. The handle comprises a gripped canvas Micarta, enhancing durability and grip.

Official Special Forces Yarborough Knife

Lieutenant General William P. Yarborough

Brigadier General William Pelham Yarborough was a distinguished officer in the United States Army, whose contributions significantly shaped the U.S. Army’s airborne operations and special forces. His legacy is not only defined by his military service but also by his innovative mind, which left a lasting impact on military equipment and the special forces community.

Brigadier General William Pelham Yarborough

Early Life and Military Career
Born in Seattle, Washington, Yarborough enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1931 and was later appointed to the U.S. Military Academy in 1932. Upon his graduation from West Point in June 1936, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant by General John Joseph Pershing. His early career saw him serving in various infantry regiments, including the 57th Infantry Regiment, Philippine Scouts, and the 29th Infantry Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia. His deep interest in airborne forces led him to volunteer for the newly formed 501st Parachute Battalion, where he eventually took command of Company “C.”

Innovations and Contributions
Yarborough’s creativity and foresight brought about significant advancements in military equipment and attire:

Parachutist Badge: He designed the iconic U.S. Army parachutist badge, a symbol of expertise in airborne operations.
Paratrooper Boots: His contributions to the design of specialized paratrooper boots ensured their comfort and functionality.
Airborne Jump Uniform: Yarborough played a critical role in developing the distinctive uniform for airborne troops.
Aerial Delivery Containers: He held patents for several innovative containers designed for aerial supply drops.

Father of the Modern Green Berets
Perhaps Yarborough’s most enduring legacy is his role as the “Father of the Modern Green Berets.” His vision and leadership were instrumental in the development of the U.S. Army Special Forces, shaping them into the elite special operations forces recognized today. His influence extended beyond tactics and training, contributing to the creation of a distinct identity for the Special Forces.

The Yarborough Knife
In addition to his numerous contributions, Brigadier General Yarborough is associated with the Yarborough knife, a 12.5-inch combat utility knife named in his honor. This knife originated from a conversation about the need for a standard Special Forces knife between Yarborough and Lieutenant General Doug Brown. Yarborough’s vision was for Special Forces Soldiers to possess an excellent edge blade weapon akin to those their predecessors had during World War II, emphasizing the importance of tradition and capability in the field.

Final Resting Place and Legacy
After a distinguished career that spanned over four decades, Brigadier General Yarborough passed away on December 6, 2005, in Southern Pines, North Carolina. He is interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, Section 4, Gravesite 3099-D1234, where he rests in honor.

Brigadier General William P. Yarborough’s contributions continue to resonate within the U.S. military. His legacy lives on through the soldiers he inspired, the innovations he introduced, and the enduring symbols of airborne and special forces excellence he helped create.

Yarborough
Brigadier General William Pelham Yarborough (May 12, 1912 – December 6, 2005)

Since August 2002, every soldier who graduates from the Special Forces Qualification Course at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School has received a Yarborough knife. The knife had its own serial number and each soldier had to sign in a special ledger along with most of the elite members of the United States Army, including that same Yarborough. The knife was originally also available for current Green Berets and Special Forces veterans.

The issuance of Yarborough knives was discontinued in 2004 after about a thousand custom knives were produced. Maj. Gen. Thomas R. Csrnko, USAJFKSWCS Commander, reinstituted the issue of the knife and he was the first to sign up for the new blades in 2008. Moreover, each knife now contains not only the serial number but also the limited edition number of its blade.

Yarborough knife

The moment every Green Beret takes the stage after SFQC, they are receiving the legacy of the Brotherhood of Special Forces, signing the pages of an illustrious history that is accessible to a select few. Just a few years after its inception, the honor of the Yarborough knife has become almost as much of a Special Forces legacy and tradition as the Green Beret itself and also has been shared with a small number of dignitaries such as President George W. Bush.

hunting knives

Serialized Yarborough Knife

The knife had its own serial number and each soldier had to sign in a special ledger along with most of the elite members of the United States Army. LTG Yarborough was the first to receive the knife serial-numbered 001 hand-delivered to his home.

Beginning in August 2002, every soldier who graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC), part of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, was issued the Yarborough Knife with its own serial number and signed a special record book. Since 2008, when the issuance of the Yarborough knife was resumed, each knife now contains not only the serial number but also the limited edition number of its blade.

serialized yarborough knife

Navy Seal Yarborough Knife

There is the Navy SEAL version of the Yarborough knife called the “Neil Roberts Warrior”. It was designed by Bill Harsey with input from Chris Reeve to commemorate Neil Roberts, the first U.S. Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan in 2002. This knife is made of the same steel and steel processing as the Yarborough knife given to each graduate of the Special Forces “Q” course. A numbered edition of 184 knives is reserved for the Navy SEAL community – as Neil Roberts graduated from Class #184.

navy seal yarborough knife

 

Chris Reeve Yarborough Knife

A version of the Yarborough knife branded as the Green Beret Knife, is available at Chris Reeve Knives. It was designed by renowned knifemaker Bill Harsey with function and manufacturing input from Chris Reeve. The reliable, hardworking tool fully copies the looks and the operational factors of the original Yarborough knife – except that the civilian model has no “Yarborough” inscription or serial number on the blade.

chris reeves yarborough knife

Yarborough Knife Sheath

The Yarborough knife, as well as the Chris Reeve’s Green Beret Knife, comes with an American-made nylon sheath with a Kydex insert that helps guard the blade. The nylon outer and the Kydex lining make a great combination to protect the famous knife from the influencing factors it may be exposed to.

yarborough knife sheath

Yarborough Knife Certificate of Authenticity

The Yarborough Knife Certificate of Authenticity is a crucial document that verifies the genuine origin and quality of the Official Special Forces Knife. It provides detailed information on the knife’s manufacture, including its design specifics, and the collaboration between Chris Reeve and William Harsey. This certificate serves as a guarantee of the knife’s authenticity, ensuring owners possess an original piece, vital for collectors, enthusiasts, and professionals who value the integrity and history of their knives.

Yarborough knife certificate of authenticity

Image Credit: RR Auction.

Yarborough Knife Display Box

A Yarborough knife is an achievement that you would like to display. It looks great when displayed in a case designed specifically for this symbol of the fortitude of mind and body. The Yarborough knife box holds the Yarborough securely in place. Black Velcloth enables easy attachment of velcro-backed tabs. Stained alder or oak frame offers a choice of colors. 

yarborough knife box

Green Beret Knives – Review and Test

Green Beret knives, designed for and often used by elite military personnel, epitomize robustness, versatility, and precision. These knives feature high-grade steel, typically offering superior edge retention, corrosion resistance, and structural integrity. Manufacturers often design them for a range of tasks, from survival and fieldwork to close-quarters combat, making them a favored choice among soldiers and survival experts. The ergonomic handles, durable sheaths, and rigorous testing under extreme conditions ensure that Green Beret knives meet the demanding standards of professional use.

Get a comprehensive understanding of the Green Beret knife with a video review and test. Learn about its features, pros and cons, and what makes this knife special for your tactical needs.

Video Credit: Dutch Bushcraft Knives.

Yarborough Knife Price

The knife is made in Boise, Idaho, and is available in different models. The 7-inch model is priced at $400.00 (plus shipping, if applicable) and comes with a green nylon sheath.

The original Yarborough Knife, a special piece with significant historical and collectible value, achieved a final auction price of $1,709. This knife, distinguished by the collaboration of Chris Reeve and William Harsey and twice signed by William P. Yarborough, is a notable item among collectors, especially those with an interest in U.S. Special Forces memorabilia. Its sale price reflects its rarity, craftsmanship, and the prestige associated with its namesake and the Special Forces community.

Yarborough Knife storage bag

Image Credit: RR Auction.

handmade knife

FAQ’s

 

How is the Yarborough Knife designed and who manufactures it?

The design of the Yarborough Knife is a blend of functionality and tradition, crafted to meet the demands of modern warfare while paying homage to its historical roots. It is manufactured by Chris Reeve Knives, a company well-regarded for its high-quality craftsmanship and precision in knife making.

What are the distinguishing features of the Yarborough Knife?

The Yarborough Knife boasts a robust construction with a blade made from high-grade stainless steel, ensuring durability and sharpness. Its ergonomic handle offers a solid grip, while the blade’s design ensures optimal performance in various combat and survival scenarios. Each knife is serialized for authenticity and is a tangible link to the legacy of the Special Forces community.

How can one acquire a Yarborough Knife?

Acquiring a Yarborough Knife is a mark of honor as it is traditionally issued to graduates of the Special Forces Qualification Course. However, similar designs might be available for purchase through authorized dealers or from Chris Reeve Knives directly, albeit without the Yarborough insignia and serial number that make the issued knives unique.

Conclusion

As we trace the edges of history, the Yarborough Knife stands as a symbol of honor, precision, and unyielding excellence. It’s more than a mere tool; it’s a tradition carried in the pockets of America’s elite warriors, the Green Berets. The name Yarborough, associated with a lineage of bravery and distinguished service, finds its match in the meticulously crafted steel of this iconic blade.

The Yarborough Knife is not just a bearer of a rich legacy, but it’s a testament to the indomitable spirit of those willing to tread where few dare. Each knife, with its unique serial number, tells a story of valor, echoing the audacity of the fearless.

The craftsmanship encapsulated in the Special Forces Knife is a blend of tradition and modernity. Its design, honed over decades, reflects a deep understanding of what a combat knife requires, resonating with the ethos of readiness and reliability.

Owning or merely beholding a Yarborough Knife is akin to touching a significant part of military lore. It’s not just about the sharp edge or the balanced weight; it’s about the essence of honor and duty encapsulated in metal. As you grip the handle of a Yarborough, you grip a piece of history and the spirit of excellence that drives the Green Berets to be the best among the best.

As we conclude, the Official Special Forces Knife remains not only a practical tool for those in the line of duty but a symbol of a heritage that continues to inspire courage, discipline, and an unyielding quest for excellence. The blade may cut deep, but the legacy it carries pierces through the annals of time, reminding us of the valor that safeguards freedom.

Share your thoughts, leave a comment, or pitch a burning question — we’re all ears and eager to chat.

And for those with a discerning eye for exceptional craftsmanship, why not treat yourself? Step into the online knife store and embark on a journey through a myriad of custom knife options, each telling its own story. Whether you’re an expert collector or just starting your knife journey, there’s a blade waiting to capture your imagination.

Author: Aleks Nemtcev | Connect with me on LinkedIn

References:

U.S. ARMY SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND HISTORY OFFICE website.

William_P._Yarborough en.wikipedia.org

Gen William Yarborough Washingtonpost

 

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  • Terry Schaefer

    When were Green Berets issued this knife? I was in Special Forces from 1969 to 1971 and never saw one. I bought a Gerber Mark II at Fort Bragg.

    Noblie

    The Yarborough Knife began to be issued to graduates of the Special Forces Qualification Course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 2002. This would explain why you didn’t see this knife during your service from 1969 to 1971. Instead, the Gerber Mark II, which you mentioned purchasing, was a popular choice among U.S. troops during the Vietnam War era, including those in the Special Forces.

    The Gerber Mark II, introduced in 1966, quickly gained popularity for its durability and design, making it a preferred personal purchase for many soldiers at the time.

  • Jw

    What civilian would carry a knife that could be traced back to him/her? God forbid you have to defend yourself and sliced and diced your attacker you drop your weapon and keep walking. Carrying a serial numbered weapon begs for prison time.

  • Casey Turner

    Great insight into the history and significance of the Yarborough knife. For someone interested in obtaining a Yarborough, are there any specific authentication marks or features to ensure its genuineness?

  • KnifeEnthusiast_91

    Can a civilian buy a Yarborough knife?

    Noblie

    While the Yarborough knife presented to graduates of the U.S. Army Special Forces Qualification Course is a unique symbol of their hard-earned status, civilians can indeed purchase a knife of the same design. However, it’s important to note that the version available to the general public won’t carry the specific serial number or the exact markings found on the knives awarded to Green Berets.

    Chris Reeve Knives, the manufacturer, offers a civilian version called the ‘Green Beret Knife.’ It’s essentially the same knife in terms of craftsmanship and quality, but without the specific distinction the Yarborough holds within the Special Forces community. So, if you’re interested in owning a piece of this storied craftsmanship, you definitely can, even if you’re a civilian!

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