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Colt Model 1911A1 U.S. Army .45 ACP - Serial Number 721974 (ca. 1940) - Issued to Lt. Melvin Roach, USNR

Private Collection

Colt 1911A1 serial number 721974 (ca. 1940) with Coltrock stocks and accessories as issued to US Navy pilot Lt. Melvin Roach. Coltrock stocks are not commonly encountered on these pistols as Coltrock proved to be too brittle for military use. It is a 1940 production pistol that was part of the second Army contract for that year.  The second order ranged from sn 719753 to 721977 inclusive with deliveries beginning in October. This pistol was delivered to the Commanding Officer, Springfield Armory on December 27, 1940.  Serial Numbers 721963 thru 721977 inclusive were then delivered January 23, 1941 to Naval Operations Base, Norfolk, Virginia.

Lt. Roach with his aircraft "Little Betty" named after his wife. Caption on the back to his
wife, "This is my own plane how do you like the name of it?"

Lt. Melvin Roach was from Oilton, OK. He graduated from Oklahoma A&M with a degree in Chemical Engineering.

Lt. Roach was a Hellcat pilot assigned to the Yorktown, Saratoga and Essex, squadrons VF-5, VF-6 and VF-15. He
fought at Guadalcanal, The Solomon Islands and Coral Sea.

Being awarded the DFC at the Philadelphia Shipyards.

Ensign Melvin C. Roach was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism in the Battle of Midway, June 4-6, 1942 and posthumously awarded the American Legion Gold Star.

Original Distinguished Flying Cross citation presented to Ensign Melvin C. Roach, United States Naval Reserve signed by Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox.  The Citation reads as follows: "For heroic achievement in aerial flight as a pilot of Scouting Squadron SIX in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Battle of Midway, June 4-6, 1942.  While engaged in combat patrol, Ensign Roach, at great personal risk made a daring attack against enemy aircraft approaching the U.S.S. YORKTOWN and assisted in the destruction of at least one enemy airplane.  His skill as an airman, his courageous perseverance and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

As a member of "The Fighting Five" Squadron VF-5, they were responsible for shooting down 98 enemy aircraft.
Lt Roach was credited with four kills and two unconfirmed kills.

Chicago Sun newspaper article

Lt. Roach shot down an enemy reconnaissance aircraft during the Battle of Guadalcanal but not before return fire shot out his oil line and seized his engine. He ditched and swam 25 miles to a Japanese held island and hid in a sea cave until his rescue four days later.

Out on the town in Chicago while on leave from the war. Caption on the back "A boy from Texas
and myself having a big time in a nite club here". The other pilot is Lt Mark Bright.

After Guadalcanal, the squadron flight surgeon diagnosed several of the pilots with flying fatigue and were awarded
30 days leave. During that time, Lt. Roach and four other VF-5 pilots toured the US in an effort to sell war bonds
and broadcast their war stories on CBS radio, Chicago.

July 27, 1944 - Newspaper article of Lt. Melvin Roach's death.

On June 12, 1944, he volunteered to take the place of a fellow pilot who fell sick. The mission was to attack a
Japanese convoy on the island of Saipan. Lt. Roach launched off the Essex in Hellcat (plane #34) which was
normally flown by his squadron mate, and according to witnesses, the plane went down about a mile directly in
front of the ship. The plane exploded upon impact. No one knows what happened and his body was never recovered. A destroyer was dispatched but no remains were recovered.

Model 1911A1 Serial No. 721974 - right side.


There is a P proof on the top of the slide, in front of the rear sight and also a P on the left side of the frame near the magazine release button.  The barrel in this gun is a Springfield replacement barrel with S and P stamps on the lug.

Right Side close-up.

The initials of Major Charles S. Reed, Officer in Charge of Outside Inspection, were stamped on all M1911A1 pistols manufactured in 1940 and partially into 1941, signifying government acceptance of the pistol.  His initials were stamped on the left side of the receiver below the slide stop in accordance with Ordnance drawings. 

The initials C.S.R. were also stamped on the top of the receiver near the disconnector hole to indicate provisional inspection, replacing the previous letter "R" within an oval.

Colt 1911A1 serial number 721974 (ca. 1940) - matching numbered slide.

Period Storage Pouch: left and right side of leather pouch gun was stored in for over 70 years. "Ensign Roach VF 5" on one side.

"Guadalcanal 1942" on the other side.

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August 2021

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