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Pistols in the Pacific


Two classic pistols in the National Firearms Museum represent two World War II heroes of the Pacific Theater.

Marine aviator Joe Foss relied on his trusty .45-cal. pistol throughout his many missions in the South Pacific. This refinished 1911, bearing a Remington Rand slide, was with Major Foss when he commanded Marine Fighting Squadron 121 (VMF-121) and received credit for shooting down 26 enemy aircraft. After receiving the Medal of Honor from President Franklin Roosevelt in 1943, Foss went on to become the 51st president of the National Rifle Association.

While a young Navy lieutenant, Willis Lee ordered a .45-cal. pistol from Colt for target practice. Seven medals, including five gold, at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium, resulted. In 1943, Captain (later Admiral) Lee received the Navy Cross for his efforts in turning back the second Japanese invasion of Guadalcanal.

These semi-automatic pistols–the Foss pistol, which is on loan from Brian Ross, and the Lee pistol, which is on loan from William Kelley– are part of a special centennial exhibition of the Model 1911 currently on display at the National Firearms Museum.

The National Firearms Museum proudly showcases centuries of arms history and thousands of guns in galleries that tell the story of firearms, freedom and the American experience. Looking for a unique travel experience? The museum is open daily at NRA Headquarters in Fairfax, Va., with no admission charge (donations accepted). Anyone with questions can find out much more at or by calling (703) 267-1600.