General George S. Patton called the M1 Garand rifle the “greatest implement of battle ever devised.” But these rifles represent more than weapons of war to the men who used them to defend freedom. To veterans like Florida resident Dick Cowell, the M1 Garand represents powerful memories from all over the world, memories the unite generations around bravery, honor, and service.
The Palm Beach Daily News interviewed both Cowell and his son, Richard, who found the rifle for his father.
“It’s my baby,” Cowell said of the rifle. “I am very appreciative that Richard was able to find it after 73 years.”
Richard told the Daily News that he found a white piece of paper with the word “Springfield” written in cursive followed by the serial number “3594593” in his father’s desk. From there he was able to track down the rifle on an online firearm auction site, where he outbid a tough competitor.
He declined to name the exact price, but said he would have been willing to pay more than the “pretty penny” he did.
“It didn’t matter the cost. The rifle was a piece of history and it is part of him,” Richard said. “I was going to buy it even if I had to mortgage the house.”
Richard says his father has always told stories about his time in the Marine Corps, but seeing and holding his M1 Garand seems to have opened his mind to even more memories.
“(Finding) this rifle opened up an entirely new life for this family,” Richard said, looking at his dad. “My father has remembered things from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s that we’ve never heard before.”
“He has so many stories,” Richard continued. “I wanted this one to be recorded.”
Cowell says he shared a powerful bond with the rifle. He told the Daily News that his drill sergeant forbade his fellow soldiers from calling the rifle a “gun.” Their M1 Garands were their girlfriends, their wives, and their friends. Any Marine caught calling the rifle a “gun” would be forced to stand naked in front of the company.
Cowell says he made the mistake only once.
“When I first fired this weapon, I tell you, it was something else,” Cowell said.
He recalls taking target practice from a trench, shooting at white paper targets with black bull’s-eyes. Cowell was apparently a good shot. He earned two Sharpshooter medals during the course of his service.
Now the rifle sits in Cowell’s office, where he uses it to teach his son and grandson about his experience serving his country.
The rifle is believed to have also seen service in the Korean and Vietnam war following WWII.