These special guns have been owned by paratroopers, combat pilots and noted collectors. The fascinating stories behind each of these pieces has landed them in the pages of history. Take a look at our top five high-flying favorites.
Jumping into Normandy on D-Day, paratrooper Jack Agnew and his platoon had shaved their heads into fierce ”Mohawk” haircuts in preparation for their assault. This semi-automatic was part of Agnew’s armament as he made a successful descent under miserable weather conditions—helping to relay coordinates to aircraft supplying the besieged American forces with vitally needed ammunition, food and medical equipment. Throughout the war, this .45 was never far from Agnew’s hands.
Marine aviator Joe Foss relied on his trusty .45-caliber pistol throughout his many missions in the South Pacific. This refinished 1911, bearing a Remington Rand slide, was with Maj. Foss when he commanded Marine Fighting Squadron 121 (VMF-121) and received credit for shooting down 26 enemy aircraft. Foss received the Medal of Honor from President Franklin Roosevelt in 1943, and later went on to become the 51st president of the National Rifle Association.
John Cameron Hume-Storer went to war as an officer in the Canadian army, serving in France ferrying munitions to and from the front lines. By his side was his Colt .45 Government, a privately purchased pistol hand-engraved with his name and regiment. Accepted by the Royal Flying Corps, Hume-Storer climbed into his biplane on Feb. 17, 1917, and took off into a wintry morning sky for a patrol from Ramsgate to Dover—never to be seen again. No trace of his plane was ever found, and only his .45 pistol remains. Was it something he had left behind or given to a friend?
Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager’s 64 combat missions during WWII resulted in victories over 13 German aircraft—with five of those engagements in a single day—earning him the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross. After the war, Yeager became the first man to break the sound barrier in 1947. This gold-washed Beretta Model 1935 was a presentation to Brigadier General Yeager by a Cuban minister of defense. The 7.65 mm semi-automatic is elaborately engraved and fitted with polished rosewood grip panels.
Famed journalist Horace Greeley enjoyed widespread notoriety as a nationally renowned collector of fine Colts, especially General Officer’s semi-automatic pistols. Less well known were the finely embellished Colt single-action revolvers that Greeley commissioned from the world’s best engravers to mark memorable achievements and events. One such gun, fitted with factory gold medallion ivory grip panels, is mounted with a finely carved set of gold paratrooper wings inset into the backstrap and bears the unique serial number H.G.I.V.