Thursday, May 30, 2013

Transition M1911A1 Salvaged at Pearl Harbor

We've been able to examine a pistol SN (708117) slavaged from the USS Shaw at Pearl Harbor after the December 7, 1941 attack.  Here are the points of authenticity one of our experts has found with the pistol.  There will be more to follow.

Points of Authenticity/Verification: The following points lead to the authentication and verification of M1911A1 pistol SN 708117 as a weapon recovered from the USS Shaw after the Pearl Harbor attack.

1.       The story of the recovery of the pistol. A 1911A1 Colt Army .45 caliber pistol SN 708117, was purchased in 1984 at an estate auction in New Franklin, MO. After the sale, the previous owner provided some history on this gun. He stated he personally recovered the gun from the USS Shaw, a Navy destroyer, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December 1941. He said he took the gun to an armorer and had all of the working parts replaced.

2.       The serial number and model.  Research was done on the serial number (708117) and determined that the gun was manufactured for the U.S. Government in 1924. This production run of pistols were originally designated as Improved Model 1911 pistols, and later designated as model 1911A1 pistols.

3.       Damage to the pistol. The pistol shows three kinds of damage. First, overall the weapon is pitted from exposure to water or seawater. Very little of the original finish remains, most of the pistol is bare metal or thin blue/brown. Second, there is evidence of small impacts on the slide, this is consistent with damage caused by spall or metal fragments. Third, the weapon sustained an impact, which damaged the front of the slide and presumably the original barrel and bushing. The weapon exhibits period repairs and is currently in operable condition.

4.       Manner of repair. The parts used to repair the pistol are all of pre 1941 vintage. By 1941 standards, the long 1911 trigger and wood double diamond grips were obsolescent. The barrel appears to be a discarded match barrel, manufactured after 1937, which no longer met match specifications. The barrel bushing, extractor, magazine catch, and mainspring housing are a blue Colt parts and are consistent with pre 1942 repair or spare parts.

5.       Similar pistol in the museum. Colt transition model 1911A1 pistol SN 708104, in similar condition to 708117, was recovered in the YFD2 Drydock where the USS Shaw was berthed. It is now on display at the Museum near the USS Arizona Memorial.

6.       Practice of Navy personnel keeping salvaged pistols. It is a well know fact and documented in the book “Decent Into Darkness" by Edward C. Raymer (USN RET). CDR Raymer relates the story of 1911 pistols salvaged from the USS Arizona and kept by the divers. These salvaged pistols needed the small parts replaced, but the frames and slides were serviceable. The same manner of repair used in pistol SN 708117. The USS Shaw was one of the first ships salvaged and repaired after the December 7, 1941 attack. The USS Shaw was able to sail, under her own power, to the Mare Island Naval Shipyard on the West Coast for permanent repairs in February 1942. The USS Arizona was salvaged for usable equipment and human remains until the middle of 1943. The practice of allowing salvage personnel to keep weapons from the ship, was stopped by the Navy during the salvage efforts on the USS Arizona.


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