- Robert E. Petersen Collection
- Ancient Firearms - 1350 to 1700
- Road to American Liberty - 1700 to 1780
- A Prospering New Republic - 1780 to 1860
- The American West - 1850 to 1900
- Innovation, Oddities and Competition
- Theodore Roosevelt and Elegant Arms - 1880s to 1920s
- World War I and Firearms Innovation
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General Bruce Palmer, Jr.'s U.S./Colt M1903 Semi-Automatic General Officer's Pistol
This pistol (SN 567326) was presented to General Bruce Palmer, Jr., U. S. Army. Army general officers have been issued special pistols since the Second World War. The reasons for this are obscure. Some indicate that this was done as a badge of rank, others believe that these officers required a personal defense arm that was small enough to be carried unobtrusively and would not interfere with their movements, be it in and out of aircraft, jeeps, or other modes of transport. Typically, Army general officer pistols have been John Browning-designed Colt Pocket Automatic Pistols in .32 or .380 caliber.
General Bruce Palmer, Jr., son and grandson of career soldiers, was born in Austin, Texas on April 13, 1913. His grandfather, George Henry Palmer, served as a cavalryman during the Civil War, and on March 10, 1896, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for gallantry at the Battle of Lexington, Missouri in September 1861. He also served in the Spanish-American War, and retired with the rank of Major on February 27, 1899. While stationed at Fort Wallace, Kansas, his son, Bruce, was born on July 27, 1878.
In 1898, Bruce Palmer followed his father's footsteps and enlisted in the cavalry. In 1900, he received a commission as Second Lieutenant, and served in France as a Lieutenant Colonel with the American Expeditionary Force during the First World War. He retired from the Army on June 30, 1942 with the rank of Brigadier General, and during his career, he earned both the U.S. Distinguished Service Medal and the French Legion of Honor, as well as numerous campaign and battle awards. Bruce Palmer, Jr. attended Kansas State University before entering the United States Military Academy in 1932.
While at West Point, he excelled academically and was also a key player on the Academy's championship polo team. Graduating sixth in the Class of 1936, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Cavalry and served with the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Bliss, Texas. He also served at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia as a troop squadron commander with the 6th Cavalry Regiment (Mechanized), one of the first armored units in the Army. Shortly after his graduation from West Point, Lieutenant Palmer married Kay Sibert, daughter of Major General F. C. Sibert, U.S. Army-Retired, a member of the U.S. Military Academy's Class of 1912.
Between March 1942 and late 1943, Palmer was assigned to the Operations Division of the War Department General Staff. During this assignment, he also served on temporary duty with various units in North Africa and the Middle East. In January 1944, he became Chief of Staff, 6th Infantry Division, and participated in three assault landings during the Division's campaigns in New Guinea and Luzon, Philippine Islands. After the Japanese surrender, he took command of the 6th Division's 63rd Infantry Regiment in Korea, where he remained until returning to the United States in 1946.
After tours with Headquarters, First Army and as a member of the faculty of the Infantry School, he graduated from the Army War College in 1952 and served in Germany, both on the staff of U.S. Army Europe and as commander of the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. After returning to the United States in 1955, he served on the faculty of the Army War College, then returned to the Army General Staff for a second tour of duty. In July 1959, he was promoted to Brigadier General and was posted to the Army War College as Deputy Commandant.
In July 1961, he served as Assistant Division Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Promoted to Major General in 1962, he served in Korea as Chief of Staff, U.S. Eighth Army, until August 1963. After a third tour with the General Staff in Washington, he served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Military Operations, U.S. Army, with the rank of Lieutenant General effective July 29, 1964. During the Dominican Crisis of April 1965, General Palmer deployed with Headquarters, XVIII Airborne Corps, and later assumed command of U.S. Land Forces in the Dominican Republic. He was U.S. signatory for the Act creating the first Inter-American Force, later Inter-American Peace Force, and served as its first commander until relieved in May 1965.
He retained command of U.S. Forces in the Dominican Republic until January 1966, when he returned to Fort Bragg at both Post Commander and Commander, XVIII Airborne Corps, which consisted of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, Corps Artillery, and other support troops. In the spring of 1967, General Palmer served in Vietnam as Commander, II Field Force, consisting of the 1st, 9th, and 25th Infantry Divisions, the 196th and 199th Light Infantry Brigades, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, and II Field Force, Vietnam Artillery. He also served as Senior Advisor to the Commanding General, II Corps, Republic of Vietnam. In May of that year, he became Deputy Commander, U.S. Army, Vietnam, a force of 350,000 soldiers from seven different divisions, 4 brigades, and various support units.
On August 1, 1968, Palmer received his fourth star and was appointed Army Vice Chief of Staff. After the June 1972 retirement of General William C. Westmoreland, General Palmer became Acting Chief of Staff during the interim period ending October 12, 1972, when Creighton W. Abrams became Chief of Staff. Palmer continued to serve as Vice Chief of Staff until assuming command of the U.S. Readiness Command, a joint services command headquartered at McDill Air Force Base, Florida. General Palmer retired on September 9, 1974 after 38 years on active duty.
Among his awards are the Army Distinguished Service Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army Commendation Medal, the European-African-Middle East Campaign Medal with Battle Star, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with Arrowhead and three Battle Stars, and the Vietnam Service Medal with 4 Service Stars. After his retirement from active service, General Palmer continued to serve his country in several defense- and military intelligence-related advisory positions. He has also authored two books, The 25-Year War: America's Military Role in Vietnam, and Intervention in the Caribbean: The Dominican Crisis of 1965. He is also editor of and contributor to Grand Strategy for the 1980s, and he authored "U.S. Security Interests and Africa South of the Sahara," a publication of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, where he also served as co-editor of AEI Defense Review.