Rock Island Auctions is holding their largest-ever auction this weekend (although the action starts Thursday). Over 10,000 firearms are included in many thousands of lots (some lots include up to six arms) in this Regional auction, and there’s something there for everyone. Unlike a Premier auction, which has predominantly high and very-high-end collectibles, this auction has pieces for the beginner as well as the advanced collector, and some guns for the practical shooter or gun retailer.
Ian at ForgottenWeapons.com often does videos on some of the exotica for sale at these auctions.
The Rock Island auction catalog is here online. It’s not at all hard to set up an account and bid online, but make sure you understand the payment terms, particularly the nasty little auctioneers’ convention, the Buyers’ Premium.
The Rock Island blog promotes some of the more interesting pieces. This report on a particular Japanese Type 99, tied to the Battle of Saipan by a plaque on the right side of its butt, is a tour de force. Despite the non-guarantee-able provenance of the gun, the plaque does align (as the long post proves) perfectly with the history of the invasion, and the author tracks it to a probable capture by some member of the New York Army National Guard 27th Division.
The Rifle – Japanese Type 99
By now, you may be wondering how this Japanese Type 99 is tied to the Battle of Saipan. Attached to the right side of the butt is a small brass plaque that reads,
“At 0440 on the morning of 16 June 1944, an American infantryman just landing on the shores of Charan-Kanoa Beach, Saipan, threw a hand grenade at a Japanese sniper killing him instantly. The forward stock of the rifle was damaged by the explosion. Presented by Commander Walter Bantau. USNR.”
Besides giving us a really cool story, and perhaps the ultimate tangible connection to it, the plaque also provides some very helpful information that pinpoints its place in history – where it was and what it was doing.
Of course, the dates and location are provided on the plaque, but what other clues can we obtain? For starters, based on the landing time we know that the man who threw the grenade must have been on of the soldiers of the 27th Infantry Division of the National Guard that arrived long before dawn broke on D+2, June 17. The plaque does indicate a landing on June 16, and many sources are conflicted on this information. In the research for this article, it was found that at 0330 on June 16, Marines were busy holding off a desperate second Japanese counterattack attempting to retake the beach and “push the Americans into the sea.”
We also know that in the 27th, there were only three infantry regiments: the 105th (formerly the 2nd New York), the 106th, and the 165th (formerly the 69th, a.k.a. “The Fighting 69th” and “The Fighting Irish”), so the fortunate grenadier must have been in one of those regimentss. Each of those regiments is comprised of men from the New York Army National Guard so we can say with some certainty that it was likely a New Yorker who killed the sniper on the beach that day.
The Type 99 not only has that interesting plaque (and the potted history of the Saipan campaign that Rock Island has assembled for its next owner), but it is also one of the finest examples of a bringback Type 99 we’ve seen in a long time. It’s not the usual ground-mum beater!
Good luck and happy bidding. It’s a safe bet that you’ll be bidding against us if you’re bidding on anything both rare and Czech or Czechoslovak.
Kevin was a former Special Forces weapons man (MOS 18B, before the 18 series, 11B with Skill Qualification Indicator of S). His focus was on weapons: their history, effects and employment. He started WeaponsMan.com in 2011 and operated it until he passed away in 2017. His work is being preserved here at the request of his family.