Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1371: 90th ID "Tough 'Ombre" Presentation Engraved Walther PP Pistol

Auction Date: May 14, 2022

Historic World War II Walther PP Semi-Automatic Pistol Factory Engraved for Presentation for the 90th Infantry Division with Holster, Case, and Research

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $20,000 - $40,000

Historic World War II Walther PP Semi-Automatic Pistol Factory Engraved for Presentation for the 90th Infantry Division with Holster, Case, and Research

Manufacturer: Walther
Model: PP
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 7.65 mm auto
Barrel: 3 3/4 inch round
Finish: in the white
Grip: plastic
Stock:
Item Views: 1838
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 266
Class: Curio & Relic Handgun
Description:

Included with this pistol is a significant amount of research generated by a former owner, including correspondence with museums, writers, and military men, seeking information on the circumstances surrounding a series of Walther pistols bearing the "TO" monogram logo of the 90th Infantry Division, alias the Tough 'Ombres. One of the heavy hitters of Patton's 3rd Army, the 90th was one of the units to enter Zella-Mehlis as the Western Allies moved into Germany, home of the Walther factory. While eventually destined to be handed over to the Soviets per political agreements on where the borders of the occupied territories would land, for a time the Walther plant was a grand feather in the American cap, to be gone over with a fine toothed comb, both officially (the Americans and Brits coordinated tightly on projects like the "T-Force" program to learn anything they could from Nazi industry and prevent anything especially choice from landing in Soviet hands) and unofficially (no GI was looking to go through all the hassle of a World War and go home empty handed). Narratives of the occupiers of Zella-Mehlis vary; some were turned away flat out, others were allowed to pick out a souvenir under supervision, and some were able to go deep into the factory. Men of the 90th were in the latter category, and according to legend they were able to locate both the room where Walther's craftsmen did their engraving and the craftsmen themselves and were able to get a number of half-finished presentation grade pistols fitted out to their specifications. While these pistols are most famously associated with high brass (the most famous pair having been given as a gift to George Patton himself), there is also evidence that officers were able to secure these elite pistols for favored NCOs; a copy of a letter from the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor (home of one of Patton's "TO" PPs) notes that an example was known to have been given to the driver for the 90th's commander. A letter from noted author James Rankin provides additional details on this specific pistol (identified by serial number) and the TO PPs, noting that this pistol was likely made c.1943 and then was kept on hold partially finished and unproofed pending a call for a presentation pistol, and was one of many presentation-to-be PPs on hand, and would have been more or less ready to receive the name and insignia. Rankin also notes that it's likely that the magazine was engraved for the gun during the occupation and that the chamber hood was likely checkered at that time as well. Aside from the absence of "N" proof marks on the slide, chamber hood and muzzle, the external markings are proper for a wartime Walther pistol; the interior texture of the slide is a bit rough, making it hard to tell if there is a scribed number inside. Much of the surface is covered in deep cut oak leaf motifs with checkerboard accents, zig-zag and dot borders, and geometric accents on the frontstrap and trigger guard. The upper left side of the slide bears the raised name "FRED T. PENRY." flanked by the 90th ID's "TO" monograms. Information on Penry is sparse (notes in the research indicate that much of Penry's record was lost in an archive fire in the 1970s), but the notes put him as a Sergeant with the 790th Ordnance Company and a driver for the Company CO. The period correct grips are black checkered plastic with Walther banners, and the magazine is full blued with fine scroll and geometric patterns cut through the bluing. Also included is a black leather Albrecht Kind flap holster, blue leatherette factory style presentation case, a spare flat base magazine with phosphate-finished body and traces of gold plate on the base, a pair of patches for the 90th ID, and a 90th ID lapel pin. Another "Tough 'Ombre" PP (TSA51), engraved to a staff officer with the 90th ID using a late "ac" code military contract pistol as the base, can be seen in this sale as well, showing some of the interesting variations created in the grouping by the mixed inventory on hand in Walther's engraving room and factory floor.

Rating Definition:

Excellent as "factory white", showing only light handling marks and a small amount of spotting. A few areas show evidence of incomplete finishing/polishing, consistent with other known examples from the occupation-era Walther engraving room. The grips are fine, with a split forming in the front of the left grip panel and mild dings. The excellent holster and case show mild wear. A very rare presentation Walther PP pistol, one of an elite and unique set of war trophy firearms; a prize worthy of George Patton himself, and a flagship piece in nearly any collection of World War II firearms.



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