Wednesday, June 16, 2004

JOHN BROWNING'S .45 AUTO, by Marine Richard Roberts

Date: Sun, 25 Apr 2004 10:08:27 -0700

I wrote this story about 7 years ago.

I tried very hard to obtain a 45 Auto while in
Marine Advanced Infantry
training in 1943. They were just about
impossible to obtain in those war
Finally one of my mother’s friends, a carpet
dealer in Hunting Park, Ca.
presented me with one just before I shipped
out. He also placed a condition
on it. I was to return it to him when I
returned with a complete history how
I used it.
I carried it all through the Pacific War in
many good times and a few bad;
it had served me faithfully.
Whenever we had a shakedown, the Officer would
always take my word on how I
obtained it.
I used it on Okinawa more than on Siapan and
Tarawa. I did a lot of guard
duty on water holes at night. The Japs got just
as thirty as we did. The
Engineers issued me a Thompson for patrol duty.
Got a few good licks with it
Was cleaning out a cave one time. I shot that
Jap square through the helmet
with my .45. Broke all the bones in his head
just like sake of marbles. We
had a saying in those days “If God wanted a
foxhole gun, he’d pick a Colt
.45 Auto.”
When I returned home from the Pacific, I
returned the .45 with a handwritten
letter of its history with me. Of course I
added a few things as Bill was a
salesman and he would enjoy bragging rights.
Bill then took me right down to the gun dealer
and presented me a brand new
.45, target grade.
To bad our government still don’t issue it. But
our politics wanted those
Italian bases, so we ended up with a Baretta
9mm. Guise they forgot why we
adopted a .45. It was to put down those Mad
Muslims. Well, it seems we have
more mad Muslims now than before.
When we finally arrived in Tiensen China after
two years in the Pacific war,
I had made a set of silver grips for it. Cost
me $50.00 A fortune for a buck
private in those days. One months pay.
It had a beautiful Chinese dragon carved on one
side with the Marine emblem
and the First Division crest carved in the
other side. My old foxhole gun
finally got all dressed up as a reward for its
years of faithful duty,
service and of course, my vanity.
I watched the Chinese craftsmen work on my
silver grips. We use engraving
blocks in the West to hold the object while we
were working on. In the
Orient they have a leather pad they put their
work on and hold the job with
their toes. The cutting tool has a wooden heel
and is held in their left
hand and bops it with their ball of their right
hand and uses their feet and
toes to manipulate the work. While we use a
straight cutting tool with a
chasing hammer and an engraving block to hold
the work and of course, get to
site on a stool. Interesting comparisons.
The biggest tourist attraction for Marines in
those days was not the Great
Wall of China, but the American Embassy in
Peking. In particular the old
Marine Barracks.
Whenever we did visit the Great Wall, there was
an old Marine Tradition.
“You weren’t a real China Marine till you
pissed on the Great Wall.”
In 1941 there was a young Marine stationed
there by the name of Bob Carlson.
When war broke out they, the Embassy felt very
isolated and frustrated. They
tried constantly to radio for instructions on
their next step on what to do?
To no avail, The U.S. had closed down the radio
receiver on them. No more
Bob never gave me the details on the final
surrender but he ended up in
Japan in a POW camp.
He got the job of making Jap signature stamps
out of bamboo. If memory
serves, the Japs called them “chops”.
Bob pretty well served out the war doing this.
An interesting side note to this story is that
when the Japs took roll call
on the prisoners, they would have alphabetical
sections and numbers. Like in
“B” row and then their number in that row. As
the POWs called out their
numbers in Japanese, the one that called out “
B29 “ always got a few good
licks with a bamboo pole from the guards if
there was a B29 raid at that
particular time.
When the Air Force dropped that giant Jap birth
control pill, a Jap guard
kept running through their barracks calling
out,” Ichi bomb, and ichi bomb.”
I hope I remember the Jap word for “one “ I
hope this is right.
I meant Bob in a GI apprenticeship job after
the war. We were cutting and
polishing a die for the “Hop-Along Cassidy cap
pistol. All you young Boots
out there, you must have played with this cap
pistol at one time or another.
It had to have a perfect finish to it so to
“Pop Out” of the die after the
injection casting. Any flaw in the cutting
would cause a “Hang Up”.
About this time I got tired of the job of
polishing out dies so went to work
for a manufacturing jeweler. I would do their
engraving and they would teach
me diamond setting. They also made me a bill
collector, which I didn’t like
very much at all. I guess my size was supposed
to intimidate people.
Couldn’t intimidate Roy Weatherbe. Just as I
was hitting him up for work
done and not paid for, he said” How do you
expect me to pay you, look they
are hauling off my chronograph for
non-payment.” About that time John Wayne
bought 49 percent off the biz from Roy. And Roy
of course, came out smelling
like a rose. Roy was a terrific salesman and
good enough to have invented
the expression “He really could literally sell
ice cubes to Eskimos”.
Weatherbe asked me “Why don’t you spend more
time on my job’s? Did you know
that last one you engraved went to the Shaw of
Iran?” I said “ROY, why don’t
you pay more money, I have instructions to work
on your stuff only for 8
hours, that’s $35.00 [I got $20.00 per day
then. Not bad wages for the
times] so if you want more detail, I’ll put
more time on it, you just only
have to pay a better price !”
Roy Weatherbe was actually a great person. He
even let me test group his
rifles in his basement range. His theory was
all wet on no rifling for the
first 5 inches, but he had the best stock maker
in the world doing his stock
work. Just beautiful wood and craftsmanship.
I could never get better than 5 minutes of
angle from his rifles. [Bench
rest] While Winchester guaranteed 2 minutes of
angel with their Model 70,
bolt action. Remmington 40X single shot
guarantied [Marine Sniper Rifle] one
minute of angle. After that it was the “Nut
behind the buttplate”
My next really big and interesting job was to
set the diamonds in Sheriff
Eugene Biscaluz police badge. All his cronies
donated the diamonds. There
was a 5-carat diamond in the center and
one-carat diamond in each star
point. The badge was made of 18Kt gold and the
center was of platinum. Of
course Sheriff Gene never had to pay a dime on
this. He was Los Angeles
County Sheriff for over 25 years.
Bob and I would go out on Saturdays and
practice our 45 cal shooting at the
Long Beach Police Pistol Rang. We shared in
purchasing expense of buying
hand-loading equipment for our 45s.
We got very good at target shooting after a
short time and the Long Beach
Police invited us to join their pistol team. We
naturally jumped at the
chance cause it meant free ammo,rang ,and entry
We both bought the High Standard 22 rim fire
target grade auto’s and shot
our 45s in the center fire and 45 cal National
Match Course’s. We became
master’s in a very short time. The Long Beach
Police sponsored our team in
the entire local NRA registered [Southern Cal.]
competitions. They
especially liked us to beat hell out of the Los
Angeles Police Team. I
continued on in various marksmanship types
shooting events for the next 30
years are so.
Just before I moved to the Puget Sound area,
Bob died a tragic death of
cancer. He was only 30 years old.
It was a great privilege on for me to have
counted this fine Marine as one
of my very great friends. I will never forget
More later, maybe.

Semper Fi RR

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By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
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