Colt Model 1903 Owned By Brigadier General Joseph Stilwell Jr.


How I got General Joseph Stilwell Jr’s personal Side Arm?

How I got General Joseph Stilwell Jr’s personal Side Arm

Hey guys and welcome to another Walk-in Wednesday. Today I have a gun that I've actually owned for over a year. I'll assume it came in on a Wednesday. But I've owned this gun for over a year and it's the personal side arm issued to General Joseph Stilwell. Now when I saw this gun coming up on auction, I did buy it at an auction, gun auction, and I saw it coming up, I got all excited. Because as soon as I heard the name General Joseph Stilwell, I recognized the name right away and I said, I know the guy that carried this pistol. And it turns out it was Joseph Stilwell Jr.

Yes! I’m obsessed with German Guns, So Don't Judge!

Yes! I’m obsessed with German Guns, So Don_t Judge!

So the father - Joseph Stilwell Sr. was actually famous in World War II. I'm going to talk about both men and I'm going to talk a little bit about this gun as well. In this video, I'm going to address a couple of issues. One issue, I get a lot of comments from the viewers about why do you do so many German guns? We love the American army. Why don't you do more about American guns? And I am a patriotic American, however, I don't collect American weapons, and therefore I have less variety and I know less about these guns. If I only did videos on things that I'm an expert on, I wouldn't do very many videos. But what I enjoy doing is I'm going to present this gun to you, tell you what I know about it. And then I welcome your comments. As always, your respectful comments are encouraged. 

The Model 1903 Colt

The Model 1903 Colt

This actually is a model 1903 Colt, the patent date was '03. They began making them soon after 1903. So 1904, 1905 are among the earliest ones I've seen. You can see a picture of one here, it looks exactly like this one, except it has a high polish blue finish, and the early ones had a black grip. I happen to have both of these on my site.


The .32 Caliber Colt

This one is an earlier Colt. They came in .32 caliber, the 1903 - model 1903 came in .32 caliber. You see the Colt grip, later they went to a wood grip. This one was made in 1944 and it has a parkerized finish, again, .32 caliber.

Is this Colt actually parkerized blue?

Is this Colt actually parkerized blue

Speaking of things that I don't know everything about. If you look at the factory letter you will see it was shipped in December of 1944. So right at the end of 1944, and in fact, it's listed as having a blued finish. And you can clearly see that this is parkerized. So one of the things I don't know, did the factory consider this a parkerized blue? Or was it actually issued in blue and then later went back because it was not issued to General Stillwell until April of '61.

How can I spot one of these Colts?

How can I spot one of these Colts

On the original factory letter they don't tell you what General it went to. But if you find one of these guns, and if you look at the right hand side, you do see US Property marked. They all have wooden grips, they do make them a model 1908 in 380 Auto, but they're far less. They sell for a little bit more because they're far fewer. But for those people who prefer a 9mm or 380, they do make the 1908. But all they say on the factory letter is that it was issued to the military or some of them were issued to the OSS, which was the intelligence branch. So many of these went to Officers as side arms or OSS, but again, they weren't issued until the end of the war. And then later they were issued in Korea and Vietnam.

Brigadier General J. W. Stilwell used this gun!

This one in particular, we know from Springfield research, there are books where you can look this up, but in particular, we were able to get the Springfield letter that specifically says that it was issued to Brigadier General J. W. Stilwell and that was in April of 1961. He used this gun in Vietnam, by the way, and we're going to talk about that after a little bit more background information.

Details on the Colt

Okay, so for those of you who have never seen one before, you can see on the left hand side there is the serial number and they all fall within a specific range, the wooden grip, you see the medallion, the Colt Stallion Medallion. On the right hand side, you of course see the Colt legend. But then also under it, what makes it special is US Property, which means it went to the US military.

Seems like the Officers preferred the .45 caliber Colt

Seems like the Officers preferred the .45 caliber Colt

Again, at the end of World War II they were intending them to go to Officers, but the fact is Officers already had the Colt 45, the 1911 .45 caliber, and I think they must have preferred that because very few of them actually ended up taking these. I do have record of some of them going to the OSS.  I know they were issued and used in World War II.

The 1903 Colt was mostly used in Vietnam and Korea

But I don't believe very many officers used them in World War II, instead, they were most often used in Korea and Vietnam as I said previously. The bottom you can see the magazine and it is marked 32 Colt. The major difference between the 1903 and the 1908 is of course the bottom will say 380 Auto. So, the 1908 just has the higher caliber, but otherwise it’s basically the same gun. 

Vinegar Joe vs Cider Joe

Vinegar Joe vs Cider Joe

Okay, so now let's do a little bit of background, which I always find the history of these guns to be fascinating. In order to go over the history of this gun I want to talk about both Stilwell’s, the father and the son. What you'll find if you go to Wikipedia, go to the internet and you look up General Stilwell, you will hear all about the father. Over my shoulder, he's on my left shoulder here looking over me. He was actually famous, really tough dude. In fact, his nickname was Vinegar Joe and his son was Cider Joe.

Who was Vinegar Joe?

Who was Vinegar Joe

Vinegar Joe, they said was very caustic, a real rough rider and tough guy. He started his military career in World War I, where he achieved a lot of success. Between the wars he was stationed in China. It says that during that period of time, he actually learned Chinese pretty fluently. And so when the war started, he was assigned to China. He was actually in charge of China, India and Burma. That [inaudible 06:27] of war he was the General in charge of that sector. That area was all occupied by the Japanese, very dangerous area, by the way, and the only way to fight both the British and the US just had defeat after defeat, and were leaving the area. Stilwell, was the General who set up the guerrilla campaign which fomented an insurgency against the Japanese using native people. So Vinegar Joe was quite a colorful character and one of the reasons I said I knew him right away is I've told you before I love war movies.

Vinegar Joe was also a Movie Star

And two of the war movies that feature him, is Operation Burma and then also Merrill's Marauders. I think Robert Stack portrays General Stilwell in that. He was kind of famous for being a Soldier Soldier. Meaning he was in on the marches and camped out in the woods and participated in the guerrilla warfare. So, just like his son later on, he was very much a ground troops on the front lines, a fighting General. And Vinegar Joe, he was a tough dude. So not only was he fighting a guerrilla warfare, but he became an adviser to Chiang Kai-Shek, who was the head of all the Chinese forces fighting the Japanese. So he distinguished himself in World War II, and later served in Korea.

Now the details on Cider Joe

Now the details on Cider Joe

Now his son also, General Joseph Stilwell was actually born in 1912, so right before World War I started. His dad went off to war probably soon after he was born. If you look at a picture of Joe Jr, they look a lot alike but even more so they had a similar personality. They both were hard driving Generals. I think that the son was a little less caustic because they called him Cider Joe. And if you were given a choice of drinking vinegar or cider, cider is a little smoother. And so his nickname was Cider Joe and he started his military career in Korea and he served in the same unit as his father, so he served under his father. Later he was given his own division in Korea and distinguished himself in battle. Just like his father, he was known for getting down into the trenches into the dirt and mud, sleeping outside in the tent and participating with the other soldiers in battle. After the Korean War, Joe Jr. or Cider Joseph Stilwell went to Vietnam. And it was in Vietnam, 1961 where he was issued this weapon.

Way more information available on Joe Senior

Now his dad, the records say if you go to Wikipedia, go to the internet and you google General Joe Stillwell, you will see probably twenty pages just on Joe Sr. But when you google Joe Jr. you'll find one page.

Both Stilwell’s were heroic

Both Stilwell’s were heroic

As I read their records, and I look at the awards that they both got, they both served distinguishably and heroically. But I think part of the issue and this is just my opinion, and certainly you can disagree, but the popularity of World War II and Joe Sr. coming home and hailed as a hero was a lot different than Joe Jr. who went to Vietnam and nobody really wanted to hear about his exploits. He was actually in Vietnam put in charge of the Special Forces. He actually led the Green Berets with this as his side arm.

Joe Senior Carried the 1903 Springfield Bolt Action

Joe Senior Carried the 1903 Springfield Bolt Action

Interestingly, when you read the volumes of information about Joe Sr. it said he did not carry a sidearm but instead preferred the 1903 Springfield Bolt Action. And that's what he carried throughout the jungles of Burma.

Joe Senior was impressive!

Joe Senior was impressive!

In a minute we're going to take a look at Cider Joe's awards and you'll see what I mean when I say how impressive he was. But again at age 50, he decided to become a paratrooper. He earned his paratrooper wings and was involved in many drops. In fact, one of his Purple Hearts was in a training mission. He had a parachute malfunction, took a hard landing, broke his heel, his pelvis and his back. So one of his wounds was from a malfunctioning parachute. And again, he did all of that at age 50, headed up the Green Berets. And much to the chagrin of his overseeing officers he would ride in the helicopters, he would fly the helicopters even though he was not a pilot per se. They reported that he would fly helicopters in the combat and when he wasn't flying the helicopters, he was the door gunner with a machine gun in the helicopter door. And he went many missions with his men. [Video Clip 11:20 -11:36]

Why didn’t General Stillwell Jr.'s gun sell?

Why didn’t General Stillwell Jr._s gun sell

So from what we can see, he was one tough dude and again, very understated. I never knew about the son, of course, movies about actually Steven Spielberg did a whole TV series about Stillwell, which was a documentary early in his career. So he got a lot of accolades as opposed to Joe Jr. which I knew very little about. And that might be why this sat on our...I did put it on the website, I priced it pretty high, because I really didn't want to sell it. I really liked the gun and the story behind the gun. We had it on for about a year and it didn't sell, which was fine with me. But it's time for all good things to come to an end and so I decided to put it on gun broker. Another reason I'm bringing you this video now. This gun is on gun broker right now as soon as we can get this video uploaded and out to you, it'll be on for another week. Right now it's sitting at $3,500 which is obviously a phenomenal bargain. If this had been Stilwell Sr., General Stillwell Sr.'s personal sidearm, it could easily go for $15,000 - $25,000 just because he's a well-known person. But again the son is less well known. 

Cider Joe’s Awards 

Cider Joe’s Awards

So let's take a look at some of the honors that Cider Joe Stilwell received as a result of his service in both Korea and Vietnam. I've already mentioned the paratrooper wings, he earned those by becoming a paratrooper at age 50. These are actually his awards. The family kept the actual medals, but these are his service ribbons and actually you see his name written on the back of the service ribbons. So these again come with a gun. They are the actual service ribbons that he received. Along with the paratrooper wings, all of these were his personal property and came with the gun. So that Distinguished Service Medal we can see, Legion of Merit with one oakleaf cluster, a Distinguished Flying Cross, so he must have been actually a pilot I said, I didn't think he was but he must have been, Distinguished Flying Cross. Soldiers medal, we see a bronze star with three oakleaf clusters and valor, the V is for valor. They've mentioned a couple of times where he carried wounded men off of the battlefield. Again, as a general being in charge of Special Forces, carrying men off the battlefield at his age.

The only American General to be wounded in Vietnam

A Purple Heart, I mentioned the one wound that he received but he also was wounded in battle. The only American General to be wounded in Vietnam. So that shows how much he was involved with the troops on the ground just like his dad. His dad would have been very proud. He got a Presidential Unit Citation. He also got a citation from the Republic of Korea. And then you see a variety of other honors that he received, spanning many decades of service. Joe Cider Stilwell served his country with bravery and tenacity over a long period of time, but very sadly he died in a plane crash over the Pacific.

The crash that took out General Stilwell Jr – Cider Joe

The crash that took out General Stilwell Jr – Cider Joe

He was actually on his way to Vietnam with a layover in Hawaii. On the way out to Hawaii, his transport plane went down. And again, from there, it was going to go to Thailand and then Vietnam. So he was serving his country right up until his death, which was in July of 1966. They said that two battle cruisers and the USS Yorktown went to the area to search for the wreckage. So that shows how much they revered him, an aircraft carrier and two battleships went looking. They never found the trace because of all the battles and scrapes that he had been through and he just came out of it. There was several times when his parachute wouldn't open and he hit the ground, people thought he was dead and he still went on living. They said long after he was gone and they never found a trace of the plane, they expected him to walk into the barracks one day and say, hey guys, I'm here. So his friends tell that story very fondly about him. 

Hats off to the Stilwell’s!

So thank you to both Stilwell’s, father and son who served the country bravely and to all of the vets especially Korea and Vietnam who are overlooked by many in the mainstream who seemed to value their service less. We here at Legacy Collectibles and for you YouTube supporters, I know you don't feel that well and their honor is well deserved. 

Thanks for Watching! 
Hey, thanks for watching if you go to gun broker again, it only has a week left. If you're interested in this treasure, please check it out. Could be a once in a lifetime opportunity for you to own a gun that would be the highlight of your collection. Thanks for watching. Make sure you like and subscribe to our channel and hit the notification bell so you are aware of when I do another video.