The M1911 Gets a Zero

by
posted on March 29, 2011
201133083435-a6m3_model22_ui105_nishizawa_f.jpg

In the hands of American soldiers and marines, the M1911A1 performed admirably throughout World War II. In fact, there are numerous accounts of the 1911 being used in courageous acts earning the bearer the Medal of Honor.

There are also legends about the power, accuracy and reliability of Browning’s masterpiece, which may, or may not, be true, but speak to the magnificence of a pistol design that is more than 100 years old. One of these stories took place March 31, 1943, near Pyinmana, Myanma, and was first reported July 1996 in “Air Force Magazine.”

On that fated day, the 7th BG's 9th Bomb Squadron was sent on a mission to destroy a railroad bridge, but was attacked before it could reach its target. The bombing group took heavy fire from Japanese fighter planes, wounding the squadron’s commander, Col. Conrad F. Necrason, and disabling numerous B-24 Bombers, including one carrying Lt. Owen J. Baggett.

Though the crew continued to fight, it was obvious that the plane was going to crash, so Baggett’s pilot, Lt. Lloyd Jensen, ordered the men to bail out. Along with the other members of his unit, Baggett jumped from the plane and pulled his parachute.

The Japanese pilots fired on the floating crew killing some and wounding Lt. Baggett in the arm. The story goes that when the pilot who fired upon Baggett came around for a look, the young lieutenant hung limply in his harness as if dead. The ruse worked because the fighter raised his canopy as he flew within feet of the parachute giving Baggett an opportunity. As the plane soared by, Baggett raised his M1911A1 .45 and fired four rounds at the plane, which banked before stalling and crashing into the ground.

After landing on the ground, Lt. Baggett, along with three other crew members, was captured and taken to a POW camp near Singapore. Baggett didn’t really believe that he had taken down a fighter plane with only a handgun, but Col. Harry Melton, commander of the 311th Fighter Group, ended up at the same camp telling a story about a Japanese colonel that had said that the pilot Baggett had fired upon had been thrown clear of the plane and had been found dead of a single bullet to the head.

While there is no direct evidence that Lt. Owen Baggett did in fact take down a Japanese fighter plane with a handgun, many believe it to be true. Regardless, this is a great story of a courageous man involving a legendary pistol.

After the end of World War II, Owen Baggett remained in the military eventually rising to the rank of colonel in the U.S. Air Force, which was his rank when he retired to San Antonio, Texas. In 2006, at 85 years old, Owen Baggett died in Texas, but he will always be remembered as the man who used a .45 to get a Zero.

Latest

Project ChildSafe 25th Anniversary Since 1999 handgun with lock around
Project ChildSafe 25th Anniversary Since 1999 handgun with lock around

Project ChildSafe Program Celebrates 25 Years

Project ChildSafe has raised awareness about safely handling and securely storing firearms when not in use, along with educating children about firearm safety.

I Have This Old Gun: M1/M1A1 Thompson Submachine Gun

As World War II developed, engineers found ways to simplifying the Thompson submachine gun, and later M1 and M1A1 Thompsons were easier and less-expensive to produce.

New For 2024: Legacy Sports SCSA Taipan X

A straight-pull, pump-action design developed by an Australian firearm company, the SCSA Taipan X is now being imported into the U.S. by Legacy Sports International.

2024 Optic Of The Year: Trijicon RCR

American Rifleman is pleased to announce the 2024 Optic Of The Year Award goes to Trijicon.

Review: Walther WMP

Near the end of 2022, Walther took its handgun lineup in a fresh direction with the release of the sporting WMP pistol chambered in .22 WMR, designed for field use as a "kit gun."

Rifleman Report: Individual Liberty & Innovation

When it comes to the design, manufacture and sale of innovative firearms, the intuition and innovation of unique personalities are often the common threads that result in success.

Interests



Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.