Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1516: U.S.M.C. Colt 1911, Documented Iwo Jima Photographer Sidearm

Auction Date: June 6, 2020

Historic U.S.M.C. Colt Model 1911 Semi-Automatic Pistol with numerous accessories Documented as the Service Gear of an Iwo Jima Combat Photographer, Sgt. Arthur Kiely

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $35,000 - $55,000

Historic U.S.M.C. Colt Model 1911 Semi-Automatic Pistol with numerous accessories Documented as the Service Gear of an Iwo Jima Combat Photographer, Sgt. Arthur Kiely

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: 1911
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 45 ACP
Barrel: 5 inch round
Finish: blue
Grip: checkered
Item Views: 5111
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 354
Class: Curio & Relic Handgun

Historic U.S.M.C. Colt Model 1911 Semi-Automatic Pistol with numerous accessories Documented as the Service Gear of an Iwo Jima Combat Photographer, Sgt. Arthur Kiely . This specific colt 1911, serial number 215883, is a highly desirable documented U.S.M.C. 1917 shipped pistol, inspected by Gilbert Smith, with a flat top rear sight short after marked trigger, “R”, two tone magazine and replacement conjoined HP barrel, 45 ACP cal. 5 inch round bbi. Blue finish, checkered grips. Per the included documentation , this Colt 1911, Iwo Jima map and the included gear were the personal equipment of Arthur J. Kiely Junior of West Hartford, Connecticut. Born in 1918, Kiely was already a photographer in civilian life when he volunteered for the Marine Corps. Assigned to Pearl Harbor in 1943 following training, he met the legendary Lt. General Holland M. Smith of the U.S.M.C., who took a liking to the young photographer and brought him onto his staff. From there on they established a close bond and friendship. For the General there were two things that were calming : his constant cigars and Arthur Kiely’s observations. Dubbed ‘Howling Mad’ in his younger days and a veteran of action in Latin America, Belleau Wood and the Rhine in WW1, Smith’s leadership in World War II marked him out as one of the top minds in the field of amphibious warfare, responsible for landings in the Aleutians, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima. Under General Smith’s command Kiely documented conditions in some of the roughest areas of America’s “Island Hopping “campaign. Additionally, many of the photographs of General Smith taken during the war, including his meetings with other high-ranking members of the American war structure, were by Kiely. His military effects remained in his possession until 2001, when they were sold to a collector. Art Kiely’s most prized piece was the “Iwo” map, with all its annotations, given to him by H.M. Smith towards the end of Iwo Jima battles. The map, prepared later in 1944, featured in great detail a 1:10000scale, 27 ¾” wide and 39 ¾” long historic map, an incredible document with an “overview” of the epic battle. The map is marked within its border as “secret” and in another place “special”. It was updated for installations as far as October 15th and further updated for the intelligence section, Amphibious Forces, Pacific, 12 November 1944. Many other statements for color codes, air and ground targeting, with over 30 defense symbol keys that identify likely installations, bunkers, artillery, machine guns, etc. Arrows on the map showed which unit went where to avoid jams. Yet, when the Marines assaulted the beaches, it became a nightmare. It would be a long campaign and the Marines suffered heavy losses. Smith himself would credit the enemy planner of the defenses as “one smart bastard”. Also featured on the map are the color-coded landing beaches on the southern and western sided of the island, with a number of hand annotations on the southern beach, where the main thrust of the American landing took place, as well as areas in the vicinity of Mount Suribachi, site of the famous flag raising by the U.S.M.C., the most iconic image of WWII. By April 1945, Smith was given the title as the Commanding General Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. A number of photographs of Kiely are included, both as a young man kitted out for action and circa 2001 with the contents of the lot, along with signed statements regarding his ownership and his combat service. Kiley's photo collection is extensive, falling chiefly into five categories; reconiassance photos of Iwo Jima itself, Kiely's shots of General Smith in action, Kiely's pictures of Marines in action, shots of Kiely himself, and copies of documents relevant to Kiely's career. The recon photos (not explicitly marked as Kiely's, documenting Iwo Jima's defenses was among the actions for which he received citations) chiefly feature the landing zones designated Red 2, Blue 2, and Yellow 1, dated for 27 November 1944, and annotated with the same symbols as the key on the Iwo map. The shots of General Smith feature quieter moments like cutting the cake for his birthday and the final, official flag-raising on Iwo Jima after the island was fully secured, along with many shots of the General, helmet on and carbine in hand, inspecting the battlefields of Guam, Saipan, as well as shots of Smith with other leading American figures, including a picture of Smith and Secretary of the Navy Jame Forrestal approaching Iwo Jima via landing craft. Kiely is featured in a number of the photos, taken both in quieter times (such as in training at Parris Island and Quantico), and in the field; in many he is readily identifiable, both by looks and by a satchel prominently bearing in his name, though in others, like a candid shot of him moving through a field on Saipan with a dead Japanese trooper in-frame and an American tank stuck in the ocean in the background, he is only identifiable by a helpful arrow marked "me". His own shots feature a variety of Marines at work in the islands of the Pacific, as well as a number of more artistic shots, featuring ships at sea and a shot of the final flag raising at Iwo Jima framed to feature the site of the Mount Suribachi raising at the center. Three notable reproduced documents are also included, namely the citation for Kiely's Bronze Star for action in the Marianas in the Summer of 1944 (in which he was noted as having personally killed three enemy soldiers while taking pictures in the live combat zone, distinguishing himself "not only as a front line photographer, but also as a fighting Marine" per Smith), a commendation for action on Iwo Jima (again from Smith, who credited Kiely as having "contributed greatly to the overall accomplishment of reporting the battle of Iwo Jima to the American public."), and a 1946 dated letter from Smith to Kiely, thanking him for a set of clippings from an article published in the Hartford Courant, in which the General said "You were faithful and loyal to me in the Pacific and I enjoyed having you with me wherever I went. I shall always hold you in high admiration. Your courage was of the highest order.".Also included are a number of photos of battle damage at Pearl Harbor (not taken by Kiely, but from his personal collection), a copy of the November 11, 2001 edition of Northeast magazine (featuring Kiely’s combat images in a prominent two-page center fold spread), and the book “Iwo Jima Legacy of Valor” by Bill Ross (which features a number of Kiely’s shots, with Kiely receiving special thanks for sharing his personal photo archive in the acknowledgements). Also included are a U.S.M.C. uniform cap, pith helmet (marked to Kiely), early model fixed bale M 1 helmet with camo cover (liner and cover marked to Kiely), U.S.M.C. uniform shirt in green herringbone twill, web belt (with holster canteen, first aid kit and two extra magazines, multiple parts marked to Kiely), mess kit with silver ware, tan leg gaiters (marked to Kiely), four canvas gear bags (3 marked to Kiely) and a glass topped case containing a set of sergeant’s chevrons, an Imperial Japanese collar rank tab, a badge from the 19th Infantry, a marksmanship scorebook made out to Kiely and Kiely’s certification as an entrant into the Imperial Domain of the Golden Dragon ( having crossed the International Date Line on a USN ship).

Rating Definition:

The pistol is very fine, with 85% of the original blue finish, showing a mixed brown and gray patina on the grip straps and trigger guard, bright edge wear, and mild spotting and handling marks overall. The refinished grips are very good, with some dents and tool marks on the screws. The modified, refinished replacement trigger sticks a bit, otherwise mechanically fine. Wear and tear appropriate to age and field use is present on the accessories, showing tearing and staining on some pieces. The map is in fine shape, with some creasing, staining and wear, as well as some old hand notations regarding the landing zones.

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