National Air And Space Museum Winchester Shotgun General Arnold
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The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, part of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, has a remarkable collection on display. Most notably, it houses the B-29 bomber Enola Gay from the first atomic mission, and the Discovery space shuttle.

Those two are quite the sight to see, but being a gun guy, I was drawn to something I wasn’t expecting to see: a Winchester Model 12 shotgun.

Mounted in a special exhibit case dedicated to General Henry H. Arnold, the gun was a special presentation to him from Winchester in 1943 (perhaps coinciding with his 4-star promotion). Bearing serial number 1,000,000 and engraved with the “prop and wings” insignia, this high grade gun with a presentation-grade stock was the same model used by aerial gunners during WWII, albeit theirs were less fancy.

General Arnold shown shooting Winchester Model 12 serial number 1,000,000.

Arnold had quite the career, including a tremendous amount of “firsts” and most every honor that could be given to a leader of his stature.

His initial aerial training came directly from the Wright brothers in 1911. He honed his chops in WWI and encouraged the development of both the B-17 and B-24 bombers during the intra-war years.

As the commanding general of the Army Air Forces during WWII, he saw its expansion from less than 25,000 men and fewer than 4,000 aircraft to almost 2.5 million men with 75,000 aircraft. After the war, he was promoted to general of the Air Force, the first person to hold that five-star rank.

If you’re ever in the DC-area, be sure to swing by the museum and check it out.

Logan Metesh is a firearms historian and consultant who runs High Caliber History LLC. Click here for a free 3-page download with tips about caring for your antique and collectible firearms.

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    • F that. I want the broomsticks used by Mitchell’s Liberators when they dropped care packages on Hirohito.

      • The bombers were Mitchells, the raid commander was Doolittle. Liberators are 4-engined, they’d never fit on the deck.

  1. While this presentation shotgun is special, what about all the commemorative guns offered? Are they worth the “investment”, or merely the “Franklin Mint” plates of TV fame?

  2. Ah yes Arnold of “we can win the war with bombers alone” and “we hit the ground, mostly, somewhere”. Shock and awe, not.

    • Uh- Ever hear of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

      The true American “villan” of WW2 was MacArthur- all that wasted effort in the S. Pacific. Cutting them off by going through the more northern routes would’ve just starved out those down in the Solomons, New Guinea and the like, and we’d have saved a ton of Americans in the mix. IMO, of course.

        • Iwo and Tinian were needed as forward bases for the ’29s. They couldn’t wait for starvation to do its thing,

          They ‘starved out’ Chichi Jima, and that nearly resulted in Bush 41 ending up as lunch for the Japanese. But a US sub picked him up soon after he hit the water. Some of his squadron mates were eaten by the Japanese.

          Read ‘Flyboys’, by Bradley. A nice little story of wartime cannibalism.

          And *definitely* read ‘Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific’ by Leckie.

          What it took to take those islands. Like being stuck in your foxhole for over one month in the summer jungle steam smelling your dead buddies decomposing around you…

        • No it wasn’t, not completely. Because of MacArthur’s ego we invaded the Philippines as soon as we could when we could have gone straight to Iwo Jima to base our B-29’s. At the time Iwo was relatively undefended. That decision probably cost tens of thousands of American lives and prolonged the war. Montgomery in the British Army and MacArthur in the American had two of the biggest egos that they were more concerned with their public image than they were of simply getting the job done. MacArthur however did do right after the war was over. Some Allied military people wanted the Japanese Emperor hanged for war crimes and MacArthur put a stop to that. I can’t imagine a better way to destroy any hope of reconciliation between the U.S. and Japan than for that to have taken place. We would probably STILL have American troops in garrison duty there if that had taken place.

        • The B-29 hadn’t become operational yet when the island hoping campaign started. For the first half of the war the B-17 and B-24 were the work horses we relied on. They weren’t going to create a battle strategy based upon a plane that had yet to come along. I think way too many people these days judge what our ancestors did with our modern logic. Hind sight is always 20/20. 50 years from now I’m sure we’ll all be called retarded because we didn’t use the secret laser cannon DARPA invented to fry Kim Jung Un.

  3. Actual presentation firearms such as this, to people of actual status and with documentation are often worth whateve the buyer can get. All one needs to do is go to the Rock Island Auctions and it might amaze some what is worth something to a real collector. Documentation is the key.

    Back during the Clinton regime I was fortunate enough to be drawn for an M1-D in DCM’s (now CMP) lottery. $600 for a real, new M1-D with all accessories still in the wrappings with the shipping order and other paperwork. Substantial increase over the years and it’s still as it came. I see CMP is now offering them with a Chinese Leatherwood scope. I’ll keep mine…

    As foir the Franklin Mint and other commemoratives? Not for me- gaudy and the “gold work” and engraving are not hand-done, nor real inlays/overlays. Even some of the old Winchester 94 commemoratives were a crock. They were always cut off at 20K. I decided to purchase a John Wayne Comm back in the 1980s. They were so popular Winchester decided to make an additional 20K plus some others for the Canuks to the north. Mine was in the 40K serial range, still cost me the regular $400. I dumped it when I had the chance. I guess they are now bringing better money but I figured I’d hunt deer with it if I couldn’t get my money back. The deal with commemoratives like this would to be having a collection with all being the same number, like art work.

    Anyway- I’d love to have Haps Model 12…

  4. +1 for the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. More interesting than the Air and Space museum on the mall to me.

  5. That particular shotgun is priceless for obvious reasons but it’s a moot point if the gun is government property as a gift to a general officer on a list somewhere and not going to be sold. OTOH if it’s owned by Arnold’s heirs and family, and subsequently on loan, there is a chance it could end up at Rock Island Auctions some day.
    It would bring a hefty price. Model 12s are prized normally from this period, this one is above the rest, serialized at 1000000, covered in rare wood, and engraved for one of the greatest generals in the US ever.
    Obscure object of desire indeed.

  6. And when I was visiting Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio about 25 years ago they had a nickel plated Browning High Power that was carried by a U.S. Pilot shot down and chased by the North Vietnamese but this U.S. pilot knew how to shoot and with his high capacity 9×19 shot his way through them and was rescued. He donated the pistol to the museum. I must say he would have been at a disadvantage with the low capacity and looping trajectory of the .45 1911. This was most probably why he chose the Browning High Power over carrying the 1911.

  7. Its cool to see interesting things like this after reading about Hap Arnold in the PDG. Now the AF just needs some heritage service dress to honor our roots!

  8. The Airforce has no heritage, it’s younger than my dad! If it aint older than the constitution, it’s a baby service! MARINES!!!!!!

  9. General of the Air Force Arnold was the ONLY person to have that rank.

    And in terms of flight crews saved, vs lives lost, the battle for Iwo Jima was very close to a wash…

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