Springfield Armory Museum - Collection Record

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Maker/Manufacturer:HYDE, GEORGE
Date of Manufacture:1942
Eminent Figure:
Catalog Number:SPAR 780
Measurements:OL: 14.6CM 5 3/4" BL: 10.1CM 4"

Object Description:

Manufactured by Guide Lamp Division of General Motors, Anderson, In. in 1942 - Mass produced and inexpensive ($1.72) single-shot smoothbore pistol made during WWII for use by resistance groups in Europe. Stamped construction. Nickel finish. Muzzle velocity 820 fps. Weapon weighs approximately 1 pound unloaded. One million of these pistol were made in 13 weeks in 1942 at a total cost of $1,712,767.30., but they are now considered scarce. Developed under the sponsorship of the United States Joint Psychological Warfare Committee. For security purposes weapon referred to as "Flare Projector." There was also a two shot variation made.

No visible markings.

Exhibit label: "'LIBERATOR' FP-45 .45 caliber, 1942, c 1,000,000 made. In less than three months the Guide Lamp company mass-produced almost a million of these single shot pistols for use by clandestine forces in Nazi-occupied countries. It is likely that the 'Liberator' was the last of the single shot military pistols, and is the only weapon that took less time to make than to load and fire. Developed by George Hyde."

Notes: "In 1942, General Motors manufactured the single-shot '.45 Flare Projector' designed for air drops to resistance groups. Over one million were made in three months (or, one pistol every 7.5 seconds) - the only known case of a gun being made faster than it can be reloaded!" - Hogg & Walter

"The Inlander," Inland, Ohio, 04/02/1965 - "The fantastic and heretofore untold World War II story of how Inland engineers designed the ugly - and very deadly - 'Little Monster' was recalled by the recent death of Britain's famed wartime leader, Sir Winston Churchill.
The 'Little Monster' is a wicked-looking .45 caliber pistol barely weighing a pound. It carries a mean punch. One FBI agent tried to see how often he could fire the Monster on the range. After 10 repeated shots, he carried his arm in a sling for a week.
But we are getting ahead of the story which began, we are told, during Sir Winston's visit to the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt just before the invasion of Europe.
The colorful Briton arrived in a zippered cover-all 'Brownie' suit, carrying only a bagful of his favorite cigars and beverage. After several days of intense conferences that exhausted all of Washington, Sir Winston, cigar in place, glass in hand and minus his zip-suit, is said to have come to President Roosevelt's bedside at 4 a.m. one morning. 'What we need, Franklin, is a two-dollar pistol, about a million of them,' he is quoted as having said. 'It shouldn't weigh more than a pound.'
When a sleepy President Roosevelt inquired what this was all about, Mr. Churchill explained that he wanted to airdrop these deadly small arms to underground fighters both in Europe and Asia.
Wheels began to turn quickly after this nocturnal meeting. The Inventor's Council got the top-secret project the very next day. Then the Pentagon's Small Arms development group took over and Col. Rene Studler, the group's chief, decided that the job fitted Inland because of its experience and success on carbine and other weapon development work.
Col. Studler called Inland's General Manager John O'Brien who sent Fred Sampson, then Inland's chief engineer, and George Hyde, Inland's wartime gunsmith to Washington.
Mr. Hyde, an accomplished gun designer, and an inventive gun maker, who came to Inland for help on his version of the carbine, started sketching on the train. Back at Inland, he rolled up his sleeves, started his usual tuneful whistling, and went to work. After a week of day and night effort involving all other people in Inland's experimental engineering gun shop, a wicked looking weapon emerged, literally hewn from solid steel. And it worked!
The Army took one look, tried it and liked it. Like all new things, it had it shortcomings: too heavy, too expensive and too complicated.
From this point engineers with sharp pencils took over at the drawing boards, and the 'Little Monster' project began to roll.
One day, a young Lt. Thacker showed up with aThe first production guns were fired at the Guide Lamp Division, which then went on to produce one million guns in the next three months. Local GM divisions helped to produce many of the parts...."

"...The origins of this pistol appear to have begun with a request in early 1942 by the exiled Polish Military Attache for an arm to be used by partisans operating behind German lines in Europe. A design for a crude and extremely inexpensive single-shot pistol chambered for the U.S. .45 ACP cartridge was rushed into production. Approximately 1 million of these guns were manufactured at a cost of about two dollars apiece by the Indiana-based Guide Lamp corporation from June to August of 1942. Such a high production rate in a short period of time was possible due to the simple stamped and welded construction of the pistol.
The guns, called 'Flare Projectors' for secrecy's sake at first, were packed in a paraffin-coated cardboard box with ten rounds of .45 ACP, a wooden dowel to manually eject the fired cartridge cases and an illustrated instruction sheet. The instruction sheet allowed someone to learn how to use the pistol without being hindered by language barriers or even illiteracy. The general idea behind the Liberator was to allow an otherwise unarmed partisan to dispatch an enemy soldier with it and then take his adversary's more efficient conventional arm for his own use. Many of these guns were utilized in the 'CBI' (China, Burma, India) Theater by OSS teams.
A new book, THE LIBERATOR PISTOL, by Ralph Hagan (available from Target Sales, Dept. AR, P.O. Box 5222, El Dorado Hills, Ca. 95762), details the history, production and use of the Liberator and sheds new light on an oft-misunderstood World War II firearm. It also debunks myths associated with the pistol." - Bruce N. Canfield, AMERICAN RIFLEMAN, October, 1997.

All these pistols were supplied with a comic-strip set of graphic instructions so that language barriers - or even illiteracy - were no bar to understanding how the thing worked or what to do with it. The cartoon work for the project was handled by Walt Disney.
In O.S.S. circles this was referred to as a "Woolworth Gun," an obvious reference to the store where inexpensive items can be purchased.

Weapon not subject to NFA but is a "firearm" as defined by GCA and should be handled accordingly.

Flayderman, Norm. FLAYDERMAN'S GUIDE TO ANTIQUE AMERICAN FIREARMS...AND THEIR VALUES. Krause Publications. Iola, Wi. 1998.
Hagan, Ralph. THE LIBERATOR PISTOL. Target Sales. El Dorado Hills, Ca. 1997.
Hogg, Ian V. & John Walter. PISTOLS OF THE WORLD. 4th Ed. Krause Publications. Iola, Wi. 2004.
Office of the Chief of Ordnance, SMALL ARMS AND SMALL ARMS AMMUNITION. Vol. 2. Book 3. Washington, D.C. 1946.

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