When Gens. Omar N. Bradley, George S. Patton and Dwight D. Eisenhower retired, they purchased the pistols they were issued when they were on active duty.
And still today, when general officers retire they can buy the pistols they were issued.
The General Officer Pistol Team, of the TACOM Life Cycle Management Command Rock Island's Weapons Product Support Integration Directorate, oversees the process for the active Army, National Guard and Army Reserve.
The GO Pistol Team has records of issue on the original three by five cards dating back to World War II, said Sid Kemmis, Associate Director, Weapons Support Group.
Title 10, USC Section 2574 allows each active duty general officer to receive a general officer model M9 pistol on loan and purchase it when he or she retires, he explained.
The pistols are special in that they are procured especially for general officers, with serial numbers prefixed with the letters "GO," explained Tara Octaviano, logistics management specialist
Jodie Creen Wesemann, museum technician at the Rock Island Arsenal Museum, said the first General Officer Model RIA M15 .45 caliber pistol produced at the Rock Island Arsenal is in the museum's collection. According to museum records, it was produced in 1972, and is a modified version of the Ithaca Gun Co. M1911A1 made in 1943.
According to "The Colt U.S. General Officers Pistol" by Horace Greeley IV, the pistol's original GO1 serial number was hurriedly changed to GO178 to discourage a visiting dignitary, who asked to see the new pistol, from taking the weapon.
The practice of issuing pistols (the Colt caliber 380 pocket model) to general officers began in 1944 during World War II (Greeley). It was replaced by the shorter-barreled M15 in the 1970s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M15_pistol) followed by the more modern M9 9mm pistol in 1984 (http://tri.army.mil/LC/cs/csi/satoc.htm#M9).
"When a general officer requests a pistol he has to either go through the GOMO office (General Officer Management Office) or come through us with a request to receive the pistol," Octaviano said.
Octaviano then verifies the requester, assigns the pistol and logs the request into a database, which notifies Anniston Army Depot personnel who ship the pistol to the general.
"Because it's a loan, the general needs to confirm annually that it's in his or her possession," said Kemmis. "All of the transactions, which include the purchase request and annual inventory certification, are automated and web based." There are 650 pistols issued according to current records.
"In addition to the pistol they get a flag, belt buckle, holster, magazine, cleaning rod and brush and other accessories," said Kemmis. The pistols cost $497.
Most general officers purchase their pistols when they retire, said Kemmis. "They are general officers after all, and we give them exceptional service. We try to take really good care of them."