Lot 440    

*General Officer's Model RIA Owned by Lt. Gen. James B. Vaught
10/22/2013 - Fall Firearms Auction
.45 ACP caliber, 4.125" round barrel, S/N GO 127. Marked on the left side of the slide General Officers Model RIA in two lines.  Blued finish slide with top parkerized, frame finished in blue and parkerized. Frame is checkered on the arch housing and inner a grip. Target-style sights. With checkered wood grips silver Ordnance cart wheel with Rock Island Arsenal markings on the right grip and on the left grip is a nickel-plated plaque with his name, Vaught. Sold with paper work documenting purchase and ownership by LTG James B Vaught. Total 1008 produced at Rock Island Arsenal.

A singular example of a high ranking army officer’s private purchase weapon associated with the aborted April 1980 Iran Hostage rescue mission.

Lieutenant General (Retired) James B. Vaught was born in Conway, South Carolina in 1926. Following graduation from the Citadel, he was drafted into the army in May 1945 and attended Officer’s Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant of infantry in February 1946. Initially, Lieutenant Vaught served in Germany with the Army of Occupation as Platoon Leader and then as Commanding Officer, 820th Military Police Company, from April 1946 through April 1948, and finally as an infantry Platoon Leader in the Big Red One stationed in Bamberg, Germany from May 1948 to August 1949. In November 1949, Vaught returned stateside and was assigned to Fort Campbell, Kentucky as a company commander, and later regimental adjutant of the 511 Airborne Infantry Regiment, 11th Airborne Division through December 1951.

With the Korean War raging, Captain Vaught was posted overseas as Commanding Officer, Company M., 34th Infantry Regiment, a component of the hard-fighting 24th Infantry Division. He participated in the Pusan landing and was with 34th Infantry as they fought their way north towards the Yalu River having been injured twice.

Subsequently, in March 1954, he rotated to Japan as Assistant Operations Officer, Camp Drake. From November 1956 to July 1957 he served as S-3, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. Reflecting Vaught’s career fast track, a number of key staff positions followed in years leading up to Vietnam. Vaught became G-1 in Headquarters, 3rd US Army, at Fort McPherson, Georgia, and Commander, HQ Company, 1st Battle Group, 11th Infantry at Fort Benning between 1958-1960. Vaught then returned to Korea in January 1961 in the G-1 Section, EUSA. Beginning in 1963, he served as a staff officer in ODCSOPS, HQDA, and with the office of the J-3 Staff, JCS, Washington, DC.

Like most aspiring career officers Vaught went to Vietnam. During his first tour in 1967-68 he served as C/O 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry Division—the army’s innovative air mobile formation. While serving as battalion commander, Vaught’s troopers played a key role in the liberation of Hue during the desperate hours of the Tet Offensive. Later, during the epic siege of Khe Sanh, the 1st Air Cavalry was active in Operation Pegasus, a series of air assaults along Highway 9 intended to support a link-up with the besieged Marine garrison. In the follow-up Operation Scotland 2, the Cavalry conducted aggressive deep penetration assaults from Huey helicopters that kept the retreating North Vietnamese off-balance. Vaught also acted as Deputy Commander of the Division’s 2nd Brigade.

Vaught was severely injured in an auto accident and had to be transported back to Walter Reed for hospitalization. After recuperating, he returned to Washington, D.C. as the Staff Assistant, Office of the Secretary of Defense.

His second tour in Vietnam commenced in September 1970. He acted as Liaison Officer, US Army Combat Development, and as Senior Advisor to the South Vietnamese Airborne Division, MACV. Returning to Fort Bragg in October 1971, he served successively as Deputy Commander and Commander, 1st Corps Support Command, Chief of Staff, 18th Airborne Corps, and Assistant Division Commander, 82nd Airborne.

General Vaught’s next tour was in Europe with Southern Command as Chief of Staff, Allied Land Forces, Southeastern Europe based in Izmir, Turkey from August 1975 to August 1977. Promoted Major General, in September 1977 General Vaught returned home to assume command of the 24th Infantry Division headquartered at Fort Stewart, Georgia. In August 1979 Major General Vaught became Director of Operations, Readiness and Mobilization, ODCSOPS, HQDA.

The General’s most prominent role came during the waning days of the lackluster Carter administration. General Vaught was instrumental in the operational planning and tactical execution of “Operation Eagle Claw,” the ill-fated attempt to rescue the 52 American embassy hostages held by Iran that occurred on April 24, 1980. General Vaught was in overall command of the Joint Task Force charged with inserting Delta Force troops via Marine helicopters that would extract the hostages and fly them to freedom on Air Force transports waiting at a captured Iranian air base on the outskirts of Tehran. Local air cover was provided by Air Force gun ships backed by two Navy carrier battle groups cruising off shore. Marshaling deep in the dark and featureless Iranian desert, the mission was aborted (by President Carter) when the requisite number of specialized transport helicopters was reduced to five exacerbated by bad weather conditions. Fractious team leaders in charge of the component services on the ground argued to stalemate, unable to reach consensus on an improvised plan. Blinded by sand, disaster struck during egress when the rotor of one of the big helicopters hit an EC130 refueling aircraft causing a catastrophic explosion and fire that killed eight service members. Five more helicopters were hastily abandoned at the desert site.

Back in the United States the full extent of the tragedy soon played out on the nightly news. The reaction of American public —just emerging from a post-Vietnam malaise and Watergate while deeply mired in a stubborn economic slump—echoed both anger and impotence. Politicos, including the Carter administration, held that the fiery specter of skeletal aircraft abandoned in the Iranian desert virtually assured Ronald Reagan the presidency in the 1980 election. In the aftermath of the failed rescue, the compulsory official investigation produced a document called the Holloway Report that served a catalyst for the comprehensive overhaul of the Department of Defense, with particular emphasis on streamlining the command and control of Joint Operations which in theory worked to diminish inter-service rivalry.

The report did not directly fault General Vaught and, significantly, he served his final tour of duty as the high profile Commanding General of US-ROK forces on the tense Korean peninsula, retiring in 1983.

During his long and distinguished military career General Vaught graduated from the Army Aviation School; the venerated US Army Command and General Staff College, the Armed Forces Staff College, and the National War College. The General also earned a BBA from Georgia State College and MS from George Washington University. Among a host of awards and commendations, his decorations included the Silver Star (1 OLC), Legion of Merit (2 OLC), Distinguished Flying Cross, Soldiers Medal, Bronze Star (1 OLC), Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with five awards, Joint Services Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal (1 OLC), and Purple Heart.

General Vaught’s enduring legacy is that of innovator in the Special Operations community. The direct result of lessons learned from “Eagle Claw,” Congress legislated the Special Operations Command and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Combat. Vaught’s critical role in the advocacy, early formation and employment of the army’s Special Operations Forces served as the foundation for today’s elite multi-service professionals of Special Ops command. Engaged in the clandestine and usually unheralded Global War on Terror, America’s shadow warriors command respect and deference borne of successes like Operation Neptune Spear—the implausible raid that eliminated Osama bin Laden. Vaught informed the Conway area (his hometown) news community in 2011, "I am a direct lineal descendant of Francis Marion," i.e., the infamous "Swamp Fox." Guerrilla warfare ran deep in Vaught's veins.

Lieutenant General Vaught passed away September 20, 2013, aged 86.

Accompanying the pistol are photocopies of official Department of the Army transfer paperwork including a cover letter and Bill of Sale from “GG, US Army Armament Material Readiness Command, Rock Island, IL.,” dated “27 Dec. 82." The documentation shows the pistol, serial number GO 127, as originally shipped on “19 Nov. 73.”

Pistol retains most of the original blue finish with some wear to the high lines, caused from in and out of the holster. On the left side of the slide is a small area of blue wear. Overall in excellent condition with excellent bore.  Holster are excellent. Seldom does one of these great pistols that was issued or purchased by one of our great military figures come up for sale.
Sold: $7,475.00
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