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GUNS Magazine August 2010 - Page 22
THE GENERAL OFFICER’S COLT MODEL 1903 This one was issued to an exceptional man. ne of my long unfulfilled firearms desires was to try out one of O the little Colt Model 1903 Pocket Pistols. Recently my desire was satisfied, but never in my wildest dreams had I thought my first shots through one would be with the General Officer’s version. Here’s the scoop… it was long practice of the US Army and US Air Force (and may still be for all I know) that when an officer was promoted to general, he was issued a Colt Model 1903 as a badge of rank. He could pick of these little semiautos of .32 ACP or .380 ACP (Model 1908 then) as caliber. They came with 3.75" barrels and weighed 24 ounces. Over the decades those issued to generals could have had blue or Parkerized finishes, checkered walnut grips and may or may not have been marked “United States Property.” Now, here’s how I came to have such a pistol briefly in my possession. At Montana gun shows I first met and then became friends with a gent named Bill Smart. During one conversation he mentioned as a young fellow he had lived in Japan. Curious, I asked how that came about. He told me his father had been a general in the Air Force and stationed there. He said he had his father’s Colt 1903, and I was welcome to have Yvonne photograph it and even shoot it if I desired. Brother did I! But there was more. Knowing how happy I had been a few years ago to have flown in a restored World War II B-17, Gen.Smartachieved4-starrankin1963. Gen.JacobE.Smart’sGeneralOfficer’sColtModel1903.32ACPpistol(above),andthe shoulderholsterinwhichheworeit.Some,butnotallGeneralOfficers’ColtModel1903pistols weremarkedthisway(below)andsome,butnotallhadtheParkerizedfinish. Bill told me his father had been a B-17 pilot, had been shot down over Europe and spent time as a POW in Germany. Bill also said he had a private manuscript his father had written for his children and grandchildren about his experience. Also, Bill said he had other papers, some of them originally classified about his father’s career. Would I like to read them? Brother would I! Gen. Jacob E. Smart lived an amazing life. Starting out in a family of modest means in South Carolina, he earned an appointment to West Point in 1927. Fascinated at an early age with aviation, after graduation he joined what was then called the US Army Air Corps. In WWII Smart served on the staff of Gen. H.H. “Hap” Arnold, the head of the then designated US Army Air Force. One of the letters in Gen. Smart’s papers was by Gen. Arnold, mentioning how he reluctantly allowed then Col. Smart to transfer to combat duty. He was sent to Italy to take command of the 97th Bomb Group, which was heavily engaged in attacking Germany’s armament factories throughout southern and central Europe. Col. Smart liked to lead from the front. On May 10th 1944 he was flying as his group’s lead pilot on what was 22 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • AUGUST 2010