The Model 1911 and 1911A1 pistols have become legend in the hands of our fighting men. The finest and best combat pistol in the world, in the right hands, has performed amazing feats.
The 7th Bomb Group, equipped with the B-24 Liberator bombers was based northwest of Calcutta, India. On March 31, 1943, the 7th BG’s 9th Bomb Squadron mission was to destroy a railroad bridge at Pyinmana, in Burma. One B-24 was piloted by 1st Lt. Lloyd Jensen the copilot was 2d Lt. Owen J. Baggett. On that mission, Lt. Baggett was to earn a distinction believed to be unique in military history, and became a legend.
B-24 Liberator in Action
Lt. Baggett’s B-24 was hit by attacking fighters and heavily damaged. He signaled the gunners to bail out. He next remembered floating down with a good chute. He saw four more open canopies before the bomber exploded. The Japanese pilots immediately began strafing the surviving crewmen, apparently killing some of them and grazing Lieutenant Baggett’s arm. The pilot who had hit Baggett circled to finish him off or perhaps only to get a better look at his victim. Baggett pretended to be dead, hoping the Zero pilot would not fire again. In any event, the pilot opened his canopy and approached within feet of Baggett’s chute, nose up and on the verge of a stall. Baggett, enraged by the strafing of his crew members, raised the Model 1911A1 .45 automatic concealed against his leg and fired four shots at the open cockpit. The Zero spun out of control and crashed.
Model 1911A1, Holster and Belt.
Later a fellow POW told Baggett that a Japanese colonel said the pilot Owen Baggett had fired at was thrown clear of his plane when it crashed. The Japanese pilot was found dead of a single pistol bullet in his head.
Other evidence supports Lt. Baggett’s account of that day: No friendly fighters were in the area that could have downed the Zero pilot. The incident took place at an altitude of 4,000 to 5,000 feet. The Japanese pilot could have recovered from an unintentional stall and spin. There appears to be no reasonable doubt that Owen Baggett performed a unique act of pistol marksmanship and personal valor. The greatest generation, uncommon valor was a common virtue.