Embellished Steel and Heavy Metal: A Guide to the May 2023 Premier Auction
Tanks and Blank. Rock Island Auction Company’s May Premier Auction features a second round of offerings from the Norman R. Blank Collection and a
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Humanity’s fascination with villains goes back almost as far as written language itself. Names such as Herod the Great, Nero, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Vlad the Impaler, and Macbeth have been indelibly written in the pages of history. Even today, people are fascinated with Disney villains and The Joker. The sheer number of documentaries in recent years shows a great and growing interest in the Third Reich, earning one unfortunate network the moniker “The Hitler Channel.” Certainly one does not wish to glamorize the men associated with the following weapons, however, neither can one ignore the impact they have had on history and the world. We display the following weapons without any admiration for the company they kept, but merely present them as historical items that we feel will be of great public interest in our upcoming September 2013 Premiere Auction.
At Rock Island Auction Company, we get it all. In this auction we even have guns that a noted Walther expert attributes to Adolph Hitler. Its journey started, of course, in Nazi Germany, but in an abrupt turn of events ended up in the hands of an official of the U.S. State Department. Our item description says it best when it states that this official, “with the cooperation of the U.S. and British governments, helped himself to a myriad of German treasures after the formal surrender of the German forces on May 8, 1945.” This official apparently got to go where ever he wanted! He had access to Hitler’s yacht, the Aviso Grille, while it was moored at Runsted Kanal, Schleswig-Holstein. He no doubt perused the untold treasures at Goring’s 200 acre estate/hunting lodge north of Berlin, and at the homes of Himmler, Speer, Borman and others. All artifacts he “recovered” were shipped to the U.S. under diplomatic immunity. The pistol is reported to have been in storage in the U.S. since 1946. There is also a signed letter of provenance from noted Walther author and expert James Rankin describing the pistol and its attribution to Adolf Hitler. It also mentions the engraving having been possibly done by the same engraver that engraved the Adolf Hitler Walther PP pistol. The letter states that this pistol along with other firearms and pieces of memorabilia were purported removed from an area of Adolf Hitler’s home at Obersalzberg.
The pistol itself is quite different from most engraved pistols intended for higher-ups in the Nazi regime. While it seems that Walther PP/PPK pistols are usually the weapon of choice (Hitler had one of those as well), this weapon is a Walther Model 9, a vest or pocket pistol. It borrowed heavily from their popular and successful Model 8, but with a few design modifications to accommodate the new, smaller size. Unique to this pistol, is the engraving design. Both this Walther and the known Hitler PP are a departure from the deeply engraved, oak leaf pattern typically seen on Nazi presentation pistols, instead featuring a floral scrolling with an incorporated lion’s head on the slide right above each ivory grip. It also has the same gold plating as the Hitler PP and both are in the usual style of gold plated engraving utilized by Walther. The enamel medallions on each grip relay the pistol’s manufacturer (“CW” stands for Carl Walther) and the caliber (“6,35”).
If you’ve been alive in the last 20 years, then you’ve already seen our next rifle, and if not simply look at the above photo. The rifle in itself doesn’t stand out especially. It’s your run of the mill Ruger M77 with standard features, markings, .243 caliber, though it does have an atypical Mannlicher stock. The only clue to its dark history lies in some Arabic engravings on the top of the barrel. Those engravings list the date of the rifle’s presentation and the name of one of the Middle East’s most brutal dictators, Saddam Hussein. Ruger won’t disclose who initially bought the rifle, but it’s safe to say we know where it ended up. This rifle was taken from the Presidential Palace in Mosul, also known as the “Palace of Swords,” by a group of Sufi Islamic militia members.
The Presidential Palace was a 2.2 square kilometer site that inspectors were long denied access to during the conflict with Iraq. It was a campus that held several palaces, VIP residences, guesthouses, hardened underground bunkers, date palms and other fruit trees, a palace for Saddam himself, 3 lakes, and man-made waterfalls. The rifle was turned over to a CIA officer in March of 2004 and eventually transported to CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, where it was kept until our consignor received it as an honorarium for his 29 years of clandestine service for the CIA. The rifle comes with a league of documents and affadavits detailing this rifle’s history, journey, and deacquisition from the CIA. How this rifle escaped life in a museum is a small miracle in itself, but we’re happy to be bringing this historic and well known rifle to the gun collecting public.
The Dalton Gang is known for being one of the last bands of outlaws in the Wild West and for their inglorious end at the hands of angry townsfolk in what was later dubbed “The Coffeyville Raid,” which took place on October 5, 1892. Initially employed as lawmen, the three Dalton brothers became outlaws after having their reputations sullied in a series of events. They recruited a handful of other men in late 1890 and became known as the Dalton Gang, an outfit infamous for robbing trains and banks. It would only be two years later that Bob Dalton would suggest that they “beat anything Jesse James ever did – rob two banks at once, in broad daylight.” His desire was rooted partly in ego, but also in part to avoid capture. Deputy U.S. Marshall Heck Thomas was tirelessly pursuing the gang and always hot on their trail. By robbing two banks, the gang hoped to steal enough to live off for a while after leaving the territory until the pressure had subsided.
To turn a long story short, the bank robbery did not go well for a host of reasons: they were recognized by townspeople despite their false beards, they chose to tie up their horses in an alley after their original location was found to be under construction, a bank teller cleverly lied about the safes being on time locks thus delaying their escape, citizens utilizing a close-by and well-armed hardware store, and it took place in the light of day. Anytime they name something “Death Alley,” because of how poorly it went, you know it was a catastrophic failure. After the smoke had cleared from the ensuing gun battle with citizens, four of the five Dalton Gang members were dead, four townsmen had been slain and another four wounded. Emmett Dalton did not die, but took 23 slugs to the body for his troubles. He was sentenced to life in prison at the state penitentiary in Lansing, Kansas, but was paroled after 14 ½ years due to a diseased portion of bone in his arm, the result of a Winchester ball he received in Coffeyville. During parole, Dalton was so well-spoken, genuinely polite, well-behaved, and kind that an outpouring of public support for his full pardon was directed to Governor Edward H. Hoch, much to the chagrin of the Coffeyville banks. However, Hoch was in Washington when Dalton’s parole expired, so Dalton returned himself to the prison unescorted. His sentence was fully commuted on November 3, 1907. After being pardoned, Emmett made the following statement with trembling voice to the Governor, “Governor, the trouble is that there is no way to express my gratitude. But I certainly thank you with all my heart and soul. I wish to say this, however, that you nor anyone else will ever have occasion to regret what you have done today. I shall do everything in my power to live a useful life and be a good citizen.” He did not disappoint. Dalton would move to Oklahoma to become a peace officer before a moving to California, marrying Julia Johnson, dabbling as an actor, becoming involved in real estate, and passing away quietly at the age of sixty-six in Hollywood, California on July 13, 1937.
The gun being the original property of Emmett Dalton, was given to his physician Dr. Tilman H. McLaughlin sometime in the 1920s-1930s as payment for his services. The revolver was inherited by McLaughlin’s daughter Lucille, who later would pass it down to Dr. McLaughlin’s grandson, Merrill H Deal, Jr. Included with this revolver is a notarized letter from the grandson’s wife, Marilyn, a letter from the Smith & Wesson factory signed by noted Smith & Wesson Historian and author Roy Jinks, along with several documents and photos of Dr. McLaughlin. It still has over 85% of its original nickel finish and is a fine example of a S&W .44 Double Action First Model.
Hermann Wilhelm Göring was Adolph Hitler’s right hand man, literally. He had been with Hitler since his rise to power and eventual Chancellorship in 1933. When Hitler took power, Göring became the second-most powerful man in Germany. He was personally responsible for founding the Gestapo in 1933, was appointed commander of the Luftwaffe in 1935, and in 1940 had found so much favor with the führer that Hitler appointed him Reichsmarschall, the senior commander of all the German armed forces. 1941 Hitler went one step further and declared Göring his successor. All that of course ended in April of 1945 when the Russians fought their way through the streets of Berlin, capturing it for the Allies officially on May 2 when the Germans surrendered the city.
This remarkable, one of a kind pistol was acquired by Bronze Star recipient, 2nd Lt. Frederick Weisenberger directly from the Walther plant manger Conrad Mueller in May 1945. Weisenberger had been assigned the task of Captured Materials Officer of the Walther plant, a job that required inspecting and seizing any war materials. At that time the young Lieutenant was given a tour of the plant by the cooperative Mueller, who took great pleasure in showing the American the facilities. Just before the U.S. personnel were to leave, Mueller revealed that he possessed a hand engraved Walther PPK made especially as a presentation piece for Reichsmarschall Göring. However, the end of the war prevented such a presentation and the pistol remained at the factory. Mueller, forbidden from possessing the pistol, expressed his desire for Weisenberger to have the pistol as a memento – from a German to a German descendant. The pistol is accompanied by a notarized certificate of retention, customs declaration, and a signed letter of explanation from Lt. Weisenberger. Eventually, this pistol would find its way into Volume II, of “Walther: Engraved, Presentation and Standard Pistols” of noted Walther expert and author James Rankin. An appearance in this definitive work is yet another testament to this gun’s beauty, rarity, and provenance.
The gun remains in immaculate condition inside of its leather, red velvet lined case and features a non-traditional vine engraving, another departure from the more commonly seen heavy, oak leaf motif. Its surface is 98% covered in engraving, even the underside of the barrel continuing around the trigger guard, and it was no doubt completed by a senior Walther Master Engraver, whose skill would be emblematic of Göring’s status and rank. The gun lacks the slide legend or markings on either side; only the Walther banner is present, further evidence that this PPK was certainly non-standard and likely pulled directly from the production line for the Master Engraver. Its case also holds three nickel plated dummy cartridges, a spare magazine with finger extension, and a nickel plated cleaning rod. This is an exquisitely engraved gun whose craftsmanship surpasses many others of its kind.
This gun was procured in the same way that Saddam’s rifle was (a CIA honorarium), but it still has details all its own. This Browning High Power has had quite an adventure, most of which takes place squarely in the lap of luxury. To start its life, it was sold in April of 1981 to a representative of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia, who immediately shipped it to Master Engraver Ken Hurst. Hurst has over 50 years of experience to his name and has worked as a Master Engraver for Colt and Winchester. He has also worked for Ruger, Thompson Center, Walther, and Harrington & Richardson. He engraved the piece, including the name on the backstrap, signed the work, and sent the pistol on its way. Its surface is 98% covered with the floral pattern and punch-dot background and, as you can see from the photos, is quite the work of art. It is safe to assume that the Saudi Royal Family then presented this arm to Gen. Hussein Kamel al-Majid. Kamel, the Minister of Industry and Minerals and former Director of Iraq’s Military Industrialization Corporation, had full responsibility of all of Iraq’s weapons programs. He would defect from Iraq in 1995, be granted asylum in Jordan, and would begin pouring important intelligence to UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission). Iraq, nervous at what Kamel might be telling the UNSCOM, began confessing all sorts of sins and revising previous admissions, in one instance even turning in vast amounts of documentation that had been hidden on a chicken farm.
Eventually Kamel, his brother, and their spouses, who had all defected, were convinced into returning to Iraq by messengers of Saddam Hussein under the guise that all was forgiven. Immediately, the brothers were divorced by their wives (or forced to divorce them) for treason and branded as traitors – undoubtedly a capitol charge at that time in Iraq. Three days after they returned, the two men refused to surrender themselves and were shot and killed after a 13-hour gunfight at a safe house. Some sources say that Saddam’s Security Forces were the ones who killed the two, while others say that it was other cousins of the family who were trying to win back their clan’s honor for Saddam. In any case, the pistol remained in Iraq where it was recovered by Iraqi insurgents after the fall of the Iraqi Government. It was eventually acquired by the CIA and sent to CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA.
Despite all the travel, warfare, overthrown governments, and treason, the gun’s condition remains excellent. It comes from a lesser-known name in that conflict, but is from someone who played a fascinating part in its history on top of being wonderfully decorated.
The name Nikita Khushchev doesn’t come up a lot when speaking of notorious heads of state. However, Khrushchev not only tried to put nukes on the United States’ doorstep during the height of the Cold War, he also served under Stalin both before and during WWII. He supported and assisted Stalin’s “purges” (i.e. mass political killings) so much so that he is quoted as saying, “Everyone who rejoices in the successes achieved in our country, the victories of our party led by the great Stalin, will find only one word suitable for the mercenary, fascist dogs of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite gang. That word is execution.” Not a great guy.
So how did this gorgeous pistol become associated with such a contemptible man? That story starts with an American businessman simply trying to grease the wheels of foreign relations. Have you ever tried to do something nice for someone and just have it blow up in your face? Ever have it happen on a national scale at the peak of the Cold War? Probably not, but that’s exactly what happened to poor Romaine Fielding. Mr. Fielding was President of Romaine Fielding & Associates, an export company he founded with his own two hands. He leaned fluent Russian in the years following World War II and became a welcome business partner to the Russians. Fielding would make his living and fortune selling small machinery to Russia: washing machines, dryers, sheet metal manipulation, electrical equipment, and other appliances. Fielding, in an attempt to show his immense gratitude to the Russians, and probably to kiss up, had a pair of Colt revolvers made for Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. As you can see from the photos, this was no ordinary Colt.
Fielding had these guns engraved and gold inlaid by renowned Master Engraver Alvin A. White. It is liberally covered with White’s distinctive “foliage style” engravings and highlighted with numerous arabesque gold border lines. Even the backstrap is marvelously decorated and features a silver wire in the shape of the “onion domed” Russian landmark, Saint Basil’s Cathedral. The famous building is also referenced in two deep relief, gold inlaid depictions on the recoil shield and the top of the back strap. Fielding was truly going all out for Khrushchev and White’s ornate designs more than met the mark. However, it was the height of the Cold War (or just prior) and everybody was more than just a little suspicious. Khrushchev and his people were no different. The amazing gift was objected to by Khrushchev’s personal security believing that the revolvers were booby-trapped or possibly contained listening devices. These amazing firearms remained in Fielding’s collection and eventually entered the collector’s market. Good for collectors, bad for Fielding. This revolver also comes with letters and newspapers articles about Fielding, one of which is even written by then Vice President Richard Nixon!
This is a lot of guns owned by some morally inferior men, but they are not an exhaustive list of what will be appearing in this auction! We have items attributed to Helmut Gommlich, the Nazi Chief of Police; known Ponzi schemer Alonzo Follett, Nazi higher-up Max Amann, Butch Cassidy, and others. We also have plenty of weapons from the good guys like Norman Schwarzkopf Sr., USMC sniper Steven Reichert, fascinating Nevada lawmen, Civil War soldiers and surgeons, stage coach drivers, and others who have helped make this world a better place to live. Go on and take a look to see who has the better weapons, but don’t be afraid if you like the bad guys’ guns a little more. As this article shows, good guys don’t always get all the good guns.
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