Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1441: 1941 Production World War II U.S. Colt Model 1911A1 Pistol

Auction Date: August 27, 2022

Exceptionally Fine Documented 1941 Production World War II U.S. Colt Model 1911A1 Semi-Automatic Pistol Attributed to Col. William Patteson Thorington, a Bomber Pilot in the Pacific Theater

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $15,000 - $25,000

Exceptionally Fine Documented 1941 Production World War II U.S. Colt Model 1911A1 Semi-Automatic Pistol Attributed to Col. William Patteson Thorington, a Bomber Pilot in the Pacific Theater

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: 1911A1
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 45 ACP
Barrel: 5 inch round
Finish: blue
Grip: plastic
Stock:
Item Views: 865
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 319
Class: Curio & Relic Handgun
Description:

An included notarized statement with this pistol states that it was purchased in 1998 from the daughter of Colonel William P. Thorington, which along with the other items in the lot was found in his footlocker and was believed to have been there since 1945. William "Pat" Patteson Thorington (1917-1998) attended the University of Virginia, where it appears he was part of an ROTC like program and later attended flight school for the U.S. Army Air Corps in Texas. Two framed photos of these flight school classes are included, one of which pictures him with his name listed at the bottom, and the other appearing to picture him but is unlabeled. After flight school it appears that, then lieutenant, Thorington was assigned to the 19th Bomber Group (squadron unclear), which was first assigned to Hawaii and later the 30th and 93rd squadrons assigned to the Philippines. These squadrons along with the 14th, which later followed, were present at Clark Field and Del Monte when the Japanese carried out their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Around noon on 8 December 1941, Clark Field was brutally attacked, with all but one of the B-17s helplessly on the ground. This attack quickly cut the 19th BG's number of aircraft in half, with most of those still operational being stationed at Del Monte. Over the following days, the remaining B-17s of 19th BG, along with their crews carried out desperate missions against the Japanese invasion fleet in an effort to slow their advance. With these early B-17 "Flying Fortresses" not nearly as heavily armed as their late-war counterparts and the massed defensive formation tactics used later in the war not dreamt up yet, these early crews suffered staggering losses, some reports claiming two-thirds of the 19th being killed, captured, or wounded. Eventually the 19th was forced to retreat to safer airfields, these being first in Australia, and then Java. From there missions were continually flown against Japanese forces, often with short-handed crews, and insufficient supply. Between April and June of 1942 the 19th flew approximately 60 sorties, including at least 18 attacks against the heavily defended Japanese port at Rabaul, where they destroyed many Japanese ships, aircraft, and ground personnel. Not long after this much of the battle weary and depleted 19th was transferred back the the United States where it was eventually deactivated, however many of its members, including Thorington, appear to have transferred to the 43rd Bombardment Group to continue fighting the Japanese in the South Pacific. Newspaper articles indicate, that around this time, Thorington was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal, the latter two being included with the lot. It appears, that for the remainder of the war Thorington, who was at some point promoted to captain, served with the 64th Bombardment Squadron of the 34th BG. Through process of elimination, the writer believes that Thorington may have been the pilot of the B-17E Flying Fortress with the serial number 41-2649, which was later photographed at Patteson Field in Ohio and identified with the nickname "My Oklahoma Gal" by the New York Journal-American, though there is no evidence it bore this nickname during its time in the Pacific. Photographs of the nose of the aircraft indicate that it was involved in the sort of action that Thorington is often cited as being a part of, including "kill marks" for eight enemy ships and six enemy aircraft. A 27 April 1943 dated article from The Birmingham News states "During one of the raids, eight Zeros attacked, but Thorington's formation remained in order and bombed so accurately that four ships were sunk or badly damaged. Three of the Zeros were shot down." Thorington went on to serve in the Korean War, eventually reaching the rank of colonel, serving at and commanding various air bases around the country and the world. Manufactured in 1941, the Robert Sears inspected Colts marked the transition point from Colt's high polish blue to the parkerization treatment that would become the standard for the rest of the war, with this example receiving the "brush" polish blue. Clawson's "Colt .45 Service Pistols: Models of 1911 and 1911A1" lists this pistol in a shipment of 3,150 pistols on 30 April 1941, on p. 396. The left side of the matching numbered slide has the two-line, two-block, patent dates and address with the Rampant Colt between, and the right side of the slide is devoid of markings. The right side of the frame has the U.S. property marking, serial number, and model designation, with "99" on the trigger guard. The left side of the frame has the boxed "R.S." Robert Sears inspection mark, "P" proof, and "P" over "VP" proof on the trigger guard. The top of the slide also has a "P" proof. The blued barrel is marked "COLT 45 AUTO" on the bottom left, "P" on the left of the lug, and "G" on the bottom in front of the lug. Fitted with blade and notch sights, wide checkered hammer, short checkered trigger, long grip safety, arched checkered mainspring housing with a lanyard loop, an unmarked two-tone magazine, and checkered walnut grips. Also included are the previously mentioned medals and photos, a flight wings pin, a World War II victory medal, an Army Air Corps patch, an Army Air Corps marked leather pilots navigation kit bag, other pictures and articles related to Thorington, an extra magazine, a framed certificate of membership to the Order of Daedalians naming Thorington, and an assortment of what appear to be World War II era .45 ACP cartridges.

Rating Definition:

Exceptionally fine, retains 85% plus of the original "brush" blue finish with a few scattered small patches of rough plum colored oxidation, mostly noticeably on the front left of the slide, and a speckling on the back strap. There is a light takedown mark on the left of the frame. The grips are excellent with only the slightest handling marks and crisp checkering. Mechanically excellent. The medals and navigation kit are very fine with minimal wear. An exceptionally fine, early World War II, Colt Model 1911A1 pistol, with incredible history!



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