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Lot #319
Japanese Sword and Pistol Surrendered by Col. Hitoshi Masaki

Historic Japanese officer's pistol and heirloom sword surrendered at war's end in 1945

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Estimate: $6000+
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Historic Japanese officer's pistol and heirloom sword surrendered at war's end in 1945

A Browning Model 1910 pistol and 350-year-old wakizashi sword surrendered by Col. Hitoshi Masaki of the Imperial Japanese Army, the commander of the Japanese garrison on Hahajima, to American Col. Presley M. Rixey in October 1945.

The Browning Model 1910 pistol is serial #367423, 7.65mm (.32 ACP), 3 1/4″ barrel with a fine, bright bore that has some minor freckling within the grooves. This Liege-proofed pistol has matching numbers on the frame and slide with the metal retaining 75-80% of the original commercial blue finish that has gray fading along the raised edges and areas of dark freckling along the sides of the slide, as well as on the top radius. The checkered “FN” composite grips are in fine shape with some mild flattening of the points and a few minuscule handling marks and scratches. Additionally, the right panel has warped slightly and now has a narrow gap at the heel of the butt on the right side. The pistol comes with two “FN” marked magazines, and is housed in a private purchase Japanese military flap holster with single belt loop and brass shoulder strap rings. The leather is scuffed, but still flexible and intact, and a small wooden identification tag is tied to one of the strap rings. This transfers as a modern firearm.

The wakizashi is an heirloom blade, not an issue or Showa era private purchase, and measures 31″ overall with a 20 1/2″ blade, signed on the tang by Banshuu-Juu Fujiwara Katsuuji (swordsmith in Harima and Osaka from 1661-1673). The sword mountings are not military and have ornate Kashira and Menuki (the Fuchi is covered by a military style leather collar with double snaps for securing the blade in its scabbard), as well as an iron Tsuba with abstract ‘cloud’ embellishments. The blade has numerous spots of freckling and minor scratches and blemishes along both sides, and is housed in a leather covered, wooden military scabbard. The leather has shrunk slightly and so the snap keepers are now slightly out of alignment. Attached to the hanger ring is a cloth identification tag with both Kanji and romanized information (including the name of the owner: “Colonel Hitoshi Masaki”).

The sword and pistol were surrendered to Col. Presley M. Rixey, USMC, who took the surrender of the Japanese garrison on the Bonin Islands (Chichijima, Hahajima, and Anijima) in 1945. The actual signing of the surrender documents occurred on board the USS Dunlap on September 3, but the formal surrender ceremony did not occur until October when Col. Rixey and a detachment of USMC Police landed on Chichijima. There they accepted the surrender of about 14,000 troops, including the commanding officers: Vice Admiral Kunizo Mori (IJN) and Lt. General Yoshio Tachibana (IJA). About a week later, Col. Rixey traveled to Hahajima and held the surrender ceremony for its 6,500-man garrison.

A large group of original photographs is included in the lot, one showing Col. Rixey delivering a speech to the Hahajima garrison on its departure for repatriation on the Home Islands. Col. Masaki is standing behind him, and a typed note to his son (who aspired to become a USMC officer upon growing up) on the back reads: “Japanese Cadet translating my speech at evacuation ceremony Haha Jima, 10 December 1945. The Jap Commander, Colonel MASAKI presented his sword to me—and I am keeping it for you, another Colonel! This sword is 300 years old.”

The Bonin Island garrison had a particularly gruesome wartime history. Future president George H. W. Bush narrowly escaped capture after being shot down on a bombing raid targeting the radio towers on Chichijima on September 2, 1944. Nine other men who successfully escaped their burning aircraft on the raid were captured, executed, and their livers eaten by some of the officers. Col. Rixey and his staff first uncovered evidence of this grisly crime, and a formal investigation was conducted. Tried for war crimes afterwards, both V. Adm. Mori and Lt. Gen. Tachibana (along with two other junior officers) were convicted and hanged by Allied Occupation Authorities as punishment.

Accompanied by a notarized affidavit of provenance signed by Presley M. Rixey IV (Col. Rixey's grandson), dated December 8, 2011, confirming the above information. A spectacular and historic World War II grouping boasting excellent provenance.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: August
  • Dates: #533 - Ended August 08, 2018