Tag Archives: M1911

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021: The Story of an Unsinkable Carrierman, and his .45

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021: The Story of an Unsinkable Carrierman and his .45

With this month marking the Navy’s 246th Birthday, the 79th anniversary of the loss of USS Hornet (CV-8) at the Battle of Santa Cruz (a ship commissioned 80 years ago today), and the 77th anniversary of the loss of USS Princeton (CVL-22) in the Philippine Sea, I’m breaking from our typical Warship Wednesday format to bring you the story of a Colt Government model in the Navy’s archives and the resilient young officer who carried it.

The below pistol itself at first glance would seem to be an otherwise ordinary M1911A1 Colt Military, martial marked “US Army” and “United States Property” along with the correct inspector’s marks. The serial number, No.732591, falls within Colt’s circa 1941 production range.

Accession #: NHHC 1968-141 (Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command)

We often say, “if only a gun could talk,” but in this case, the voyage through history that the above .45ACP took is well-documented.

Also joining the fleet in 1941 was Ensign Victor Antoine Moitoret, a Californian who was admitted to the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1937 and graduated with the Class of ’41.

Moitoret’s first ship was the brand-new aircraft carrier USS Hornet, which he joined three months prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that ushered America into World War II.

Moitoret served as an assistant navigator on Hornet during the flattop’s secret mission to carry the Doolittle Raiders to bomb Tokyo in 1942— possibly best remembered among today’s youth as the third act of Jerry Bruckheimer’s 2001 film “Pearl Harbor”– and was also aboard the carrier for the massive naval victory at Midway (where Hornet was something of a mystery).

Flanked by torpedo boat escorts, the aircraft carrier USS Hornet arrives at Pearl Harbor after the Doolittle Raid on Japan, 30 April 1942, just five weeks before the Battle of Midway. (Photo: U.S. National Archives 80-G-16865)

When Hornet was irreparably damaged by enemy torpedo and dive bombers during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands in October 1942, Moitoret was armed with the above pistol while serving as the carrier’s Officer of the Deck on the bridge. The young officer still had it buckled around his waist when he was pulled out of the ocean more than two hours after Hornet went to the bottom in 17,500 feet of water off the Solomon Islands, carrying 140 sailors with her.

Moitoret’s pistol belt, consisting of an M1936 Belt, M1918 Magazine Pocket, and russet leather M1916 Holster. (Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command)

Two years later, Moitoret, with his relic of the lost Hornet still with him, was a lieutenant aboard the new light carrier USS Princeton, fighting to liberate the Japanese-occupied Philippines.

USS Princeton (CVL-23) steaming at 20 knots off Seattle, Washington, 3 January 1944. Moitoret was a plankowner of the new flattop, which had originally been laid down as the Cleveland-class light cruiser Tallahassee (CL-61) (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Historical Center. Catalog #: NH 95651)

In October 1944– almost two years to the day that Hornet was lost– Moitoret was on the bridge of Princeton when the ship was hit by a Japanese bomb and was wounded by shrapnel from the resulting explosion.

According to his Silver Star citation for that day, Moitoret “remained on board for a period of seven hours, fighting fires, maintaining communication with other ships in the area, preserving confidential publications and obtaining all available lengths of fire hose for use where most needed.”

Leaving his second sinking aircraft carrier, Moitoret reportedly kissed the hull of Princeton before boarding a whaleboat, one of the last men off the stricken ship.

After the war, he remained in the Navy through the Korean and Vietnam wars, retiring in 1972 at the rank of Captain. On 30 May 1999, while aged 80, he delivered the Memorial Day Address to the assembled cadets at Annapolis, continuing to serve as a proud link in the long blue line up to the very end.

Moitoret died in 2005 and is buried at Fort Bayard National Cemetery in New Mexico, next to his wife, Rowena, and son, Alan.

His well-traveled sidearm and pistol belt are in the collection of the NHHC, held in the Headquarters Artifact Collection

As noted by the Navy,

“The central theme of this year’s 246th Navy Birthday and Heritage week is ‘Resilient and Ready,’ which speaks to the Navy’s history of being able to shake off disaster, such as the loss of a ship or a global pandemic, and still maintain force lethality and preparedness. It allows the messaging to showcase readiness, capabilities, capacity, and of course the Sailor—all while celebrating our glorious victories at sea and honoring our shipmates who stand and have stood the watch.”

Happy Birthday, Navy, and a slow hand salute to Capt. Moitoret.

Back to our regular Warship Wednesday format next week.

***
 
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Back-to-Back Gulf War Champ: End of an Era

Beretta recently announced the end of an era as the final M9 pistol left the factory for bound for a U.S. military contract.

A variant of the Beretta Model 92, which was introduced in the 1970s, was adopted by the U.S. Army as the M9 in early 1984 to replace stocks of the M1911A1 that dated back to World War II. The initial five-year $56.4 million contract, to produce 315,930 units for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, ended up running more than three decades, greatly surpassing those numbers.

The famed Italian gunmaker built a plant in Accokeek, Maryland to produce the pistol, then moved production to a new facility in Tennessee in 2014.

The last U.S. martial Beretta M9, shipped last week.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Vale, Chip McCormick

Texas pro-shooting icon, gunsmith, and firearms industry trendsetter Chip McCormick has passed. He not only pioneered the “drop-in” AR-15 trigger and the “modular” M1911, but also nearly perfected the M1911 magazine.

I remember getting into shooting 1911s in the mid-1990s and, finding myself plagued with mag issues, being told by several people that Chip McCormick mags were the tried-and-true solution to that and, to my delight, that advice held true.

Almost 30 years later and that advice still holds up.

Thanks for the mags, Mr. McCormick.

Black Ice, with a few chips

For the past several months, one of the handguns I have been testing and evaluating is the Rapide (Black Ice) M1911A1 model from Kimber in 10mm Auto.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful gun– it should be at $1,500 smackers– and it is loaded with standard features that John Browning would have never imagined.

I mean just look at it.

But I did have some issues.

While reliable (I ran over 600 rounds of Sig ammo through it with zero hiccups) Kimber says the gun needs a break-in period of about that much, which I think is a big ask for a pistol that costs this much and is in such a pricy caliber. Also, the super busy G10 grips and finish show a lot more wear after what I consider basic use than a bargain bin polymer-framed striker-fired 9mm that costs 1/5th as much.

Still, it’s pretty, even after some wear and tear.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Ronin Commander

The Illinois-based Springfield Armory introduced its full-sized GI-length Ronin Operator earlier this year and is now following up with the lighter, more compact variant that offers the same features for less than $900. The pistol uses a forged carbon steel slide, lightweight alloy frame, and a forged Commander-length 4.25-inch match-grade barrel.

I gotta say, it doesn’t look too bad…

More in my column at Guns.com.

Cammies, KA-bars and GSDs

“Marine War Dog and Handler, Vietnam, circa 1970”

Note the kennels in the background with the sandbagged roof. From the Craig Spraggins Collection (COLL/4154) at the Marine Corps History Division

Of note, the WMD handler is wearing the Marine Corps’ “lowland” variant of the ERDL camouflage uniform, which predated the much better known M81 woodland BDU by more than a decade. The Marine also has a standard M1911A1 in a very non-standard holster that could be a modded M1916-style flap holster but I believe is actually just a commercial leather revolver holster, accompanied by a K-Bar fighting knife attached to the holster by a leather tie.

Another installment of the same team

Odds are the Marine has coupled the two weapons together at his strong side to be able to use either with his right hand as the dog would be controlled by his left.

Dogs get the chop

In related news, the Marines are cutting back on their military working dogs, a staple of the service since the Great War, as they aren’t needed to fight China, apparently. Currently, the Corps has 210 four-legged MWDs and 260 two-legged handlers/trainers. After the snip, that will fall to 150 and 210, respectively. Of note, once a dog enters the training program, it takes six months to get them ready for the Fleet.

The Far-Reaching UN Forces in Korea and the Things they Carried

With this month being the 70th anniversary of the rush by the Free World to help keep the fledgling Republic of Korea from forced incorporation by its Communist neighbor to the North, it should be pointed out that the UN forces that mustered to liberate Seoul and keep it so carried an interesting array of arms. Gathered ultimately from 21 countries you had a lot of WWII-era repeats such as No. 3 and No. 4 Enfields carried by Commonwealth troops as well as M1 Garands/Carbines toted by American and a host of Uncle Sam-supplied countries.

But there were most assuredly some oddball infantry weapons that were used as well.

One historical curiosity was the initial contingent supplied by the Royal Thai Army, who left for Korea in October 1950 wearing French Adrian-style “sun” helmets and armed with 8x52mm Type 66 Siamese Mausers that were actually versions of the bolt-action Japanese Type 38 Arisaka built before WWII at Japan’s Koishikawa arsenal.

Note their French-style helmets, U.S.-marked M36 packs, and Japanese Showa-period rifles. Ultimately, more than 10,000 Thai troops would serve in the Korean War alongside U.S. forces, fighting notably at the Battle of Pork Chop Hill. (Photo: UN News Archives)

More in my column at Guns.com. 

Getting a feel from some Black Ice

Since about mid-March, I have been working on a T&E on Kimber’s newest take on the M1911A1 platform– the Rapide (Black Ice). With a name familiar in Europe commonly used for a fast express train– and a popular Aston Martin model– the Rapide is billed by Kimber as a 1911 platform built for speed and is both competition and range ready.

The pistol is feature-rich including stepped cocking serrations, slide lightening cuts, a DLC coated barrel for extreme durability, extended magwell, and new V-Cut match-grade trigger. It also comes with Tru-Glo TFX Pro Day/Night sights and G10 grips. A 70-series gun with a 4.9-pound trigger pull on average, the variant I have been working with is a 10mm Auto, and I have to say, it is fetching.

The folder, btw, is a Case Gunstock in Curly Maple, which I think pairs well with the big Kimber. A blend of old and new.

More in my column at Guns.com. 

One of these things is not like the other

IF you know what these are, we can be friends.

Just kidding, we are always friends. With that being cleared up, note all the little differences between these “GI .45s”

To check your knowledge: On the left is a Union Switch & Signal company-produced M1911A1 from 1943, made for the U.S. Army in Swissvale, Pennsylvania. On the right, a Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk-made M/1914 from 1925, made for the Royal Norwegian Army in Oslo.

Don’t let the slide markings fool you, both are in .45ACP, and both likely saw service in WWII.

I recently got to handle a few of each in our vault and put together a little article on these more uncommon Government Issue .45s. Check it out in my column at Guns.com 

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