Life-Saving Knife Scenarios

Real life incidents in which people have saved their own lives with knives are probably more common than we realize, but they aren’t always widely reported in the media. Below are several accounts in which people have saved their lives using different varieties of knives (in some instances the sources of the stories are not known since they were picked up over many years of “cursory” reading). The main “lesson” in this article is that it’s usually a good idea to carry a knife, especially if you find yourself in a crime-ridden section of a city, or about to embark on an adventure that may involve precarious situations.

Our first case concerns a mountain man by the name of James Beckwourth. His life-saving knife event occurred during the Fur Trade era in the early 19th century. While traveling one day he ran upon a dangerous grizzly bear and tried to kill it with his rifle but only succeeded in wounding the powerful animal. The bear became enraged after being shot and charged Beckwourth, but since his rifle was only a single shot muzzle-loader, he was forced to draw his knife, which was a large bowie type model. Beckwourth stabbed the blade repeatedly into the bear’s vital organs until he put the grizzly down. He survived the dangerous ordeal but suffered many deep lacerations in the process. The noise of Beckwourth’s initial gunshot and the bear’s loud roaring attracted the attention of a hunting party of Crow Indians, who took Beckwourth back to their village and nursed him to health. Beckwourth’s battle with the grizzly was so impressive to the Indians they made him an “honorary” member of their tribe, and over time he ascended to become ‘War Chief’ of the Crow Nation (keep in mind, other accounts differ from this grizzly bear story and claim the Crow Indians merely caught Beckwourth trapping on their territory and captured him, after which he married many Crow women and became part of their tribe).

Another remarkable case of a man saving his own life with a knife involves an assassination attempt made on the life of General Nathan Bedford Forrest. After the General had been wounded at close range by a Civil War era revolver, he grabbed the assassin’s gun hand and struggled to keep the revolver pointing away from him. As he controlled the man’s gun, the General quickly pulled out his pocket knife with his free hand, opened it with his teeth, then stabbed the blade repeatedly into the assassin’s stomach to kill him.

Our next knife related incident occurred in Africa shortly after the Boer War, by an unknown individual whom we will refer to as “Sven.” While riding his horse in the Transvall Province of South Africa one day Sven’s horse suddenly veered and he felt something strike him in the back. He fell off the horse and soon found himself staring up into the face of a huge lion. The lion clamped its teeth onto Sven’s left shoulder and began walking off with him, dragging Sven along, intending to take him into the bushes where he would enjoy a long lunch. While being dragged away, Sven found that he could move his right hand and quickly reached down and felt for his knife, which was in its ‘antelope hock’ sheath. Sven’s body was positioned directly underneath the lion as it dragged him and Sven took his knife and began stabbing the lion over and over again near its shoulder as hard as possible. But the lion was so tough it simply continued walking and dragging Sven through the brush. But Sven did not give up. He only stabbed harder until the continuous thrusts soon caused gurgling noises to emanate from the lion’s throat. Shortly afterward the lion let go of Sven and ran away.

The knife that saved Sven’s life was a common butcher style variety with a six inch blade and wooden slab handles made by the Sheffield Knife Company in England. Sven first saw the knife at a local mercantile shop laying next to a block of cheese. He noticed the Sheffield marking and realized it was better than the knife he had in his possession so he decided to make a trade. Sven waited until the store owner was busy and placed the knife from his scabbard next to the cheese and took the Sheffield knife. Many years later Sven paid a visit to the Sheffield Knife Company and told the president and other workers that he’d actually killed a lion with one of their knives. But the men simply looked at him in disbelief and didn’t respond.

During WWI another life-saving occurrence took place, involving a Corporal Strong of the U.S. Army and his bolo knife (bolo knives were issued to U.S. troops from 1909 to 1917 and came in four different sizes with the largest having a 14-inch blade). Corporal Strong was seriously injured when a blast of artillery fire caused several large boulders to fall into his foxhole. He was knocked on his back by the barrage and one of the boulders landed on his arm, crushing and pinning him to the ground. After regaining consciousness and suffering in a painful position for many hours, Strong finally decided he’d been abandoned by his comrades in the heat of battle and had to either resign himself to a slow painful death or make a struggle to stay alive. So he removed his belt and cinched it tightly around his arm to form a tourniquet, then he removed his bolo knife from its sheath and proceeded to hack through his pinned arm so he could get free. After suffering excruciating pain from cutting through his own arm, Strong climbed out of the foxhole and began searching for his lost platoon. He traveled only a short distance when he spotted some enemy soldiers of the German army walking along. He drew his pistol and approached the men and ordered them to drop their rifles. Because they were caught off guard and probably had little training, they immediately obeyed. Later Corporal Strong found his platoon and rejoined them while marching four enemy prisoner’s of war in front of him, one of which was actually carrying Strong’s severed arm that he’d cut off earlier in the foxhole.

Another live-saving incident involved a Native American by the name of Skeeter “Grey Otter” Vaughan, who was serving in the U.S. Army during WWII. Vaughan was initially trained to be a radioman but soon became a drill instructor. He was assigned to the 18th Cavalry and sent overseas to participate in the Allied invasion of Europe. After several months of combat Vaughan’s commander, Lieutenant “Dutch” Herderich, formed a secretive unit known as the Moccasin Rangers which was composed of six Native Americans and included Sergeant Vaughan as the leader. For one of their missions they were sent into the Ardennes Forest behind enemy lines to obtain enemy information and they discovered an enemy bunker that had only one sentry guarding it. They knew shooting the sentry would alert the enemy, so Vaughan studied the situation for some time and unsheathed his knife, threw it at the sentry, and killed him instantly. Throwing a knife accurately enough to take out an enemy isn’t easy, but Vaughan was not a novice at knife-throwing, having had experience throwing tomahawks and knives to hunt small game ever since he was a child. When the War ended Vaughan worked in the film and entertainment industry as a stuntman, weapons expert, and performer. Later Vaughan even appeared on the ‘Circus of the Stars’ television show exhibiting his weapon-throwing skills. 

Our last incident involves a woman by the name of Lisa Fairchild. One night she was working late at an advertising agency, finishing up material for a client. When she finished it was nearly midnight and she searched for a security guard to follow her to her car, but she couldn’t locate one. Finally Miss Fairchild decided to go alone, but before doing so she took a small dagger from her desk and placed it in her coat pocket. When she left the building she walked through the parking lot, holding her purse in her left hand as her right hand stayed in her pocket firmly on her dagger. While walking she noticed a man coming toward her in the darkness. The man got closer and Lisa noticed a malicious smile on his face. She removed her dagger and held it ready against her coat. The man reached out for her and Miss Fairchild simply slashed his hand with the dagger. The man looked at the blood pouring from his wounded hand, then reached out for her again. But every time the man would try to grab her, she would simply slash him again. Finally the assailant fled and Miss Fairchild managed to get to the safety of her car where she drove away.

So there you have a few life-saving knife scenarios. Remember, it’s always a good idea to carry a knife since you never know when it may save your life.