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ARLINGTON, Va. — It took more than a year and a judge’s order, but Charlie’s finally got his gun.

On Nov. 25, Army veteran Charles Honeycutt unpacked a commemorative Colt .45-caliber pistol given to him by Esther “Kitty” Bradley, wife of Army five-star Gen. Omar Bradley, but which had become tied up in bureaucracy.

Honeycutt, 68, was a personal aide to Bradley, best remembered for commanding American invasion forces on D-Day in Europe.

In a telephone interview from his home in Desert Hot Springs, Calif., Honeycutt said he handled transportation arrangements for many of the general’s effects to the foundation established in his name, the Omar N. Bradley Foundation.

The foundation is managed by the U.S. Army Military History Institute in Carlisle, Pa.

Honeycutt’s respect for and diligent handling of the historically valuable mementos, such as Bradley’s original planning map for the D-Day invasion, gained the five-star’s trust.

“Gen. Bradley liked the way I did things,” Honeycutt said.

Honeycutt said that before the general’s death in 1981, the general asked him “to take care of my wife.”

He agreed, serving as Mrs. Bradley’s unpaid personal assistant until her death in February 2004.

In 2001, Kitty Bradley agreed to allow Virginia commemorative firearms maker America Remembers to contract with the Colt Company for the issue of a limited “West Point World War II Tribute” series of 500 pistols that include Bradley’s image etched in gold plate.

America Remembers gave the second pistol to come off the assembly line to Mrs. Bradley, who in turn gave it to her trusted aide, Honeycutt said.

The widow signed the pistol — which is a working firearm — over to Honeycutt in accordance with federal law.

However, Honeycutt said, he agreed to let Mrs. Bradley display the pistol on a bookshelf in the living room of her Rancho Mirage, Calif., home, along with “dozens” of other mementos.

After Mrs. Bradley’s death, Army officials came to her home to collect her estate, all of which she had willed to the Bradley Foundation.

Honeycutt said he specifically told an Army official that the weapon belonged to him, and to leave it behind.

“I told him, ‘don’t inventory that item, it belongs to me,’” Honeycutt said.

But when movers came to load the estate for transport to Carlisle Barracks, the commemorative pistol went back to Carlisle Barracks along with everything else.

When a maid told Honeycutt in August 2004 that the pistol was gone, he contacted Carlisle Barracks to ask for its return.

A stream of e-mails to Carlisle officials produced no results, he said.

Frustrated, Honeycutt turned to Arizona-based Web site, for assistance.

The site’s editor, retired U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Glenn MacDonald, wrote about the incident on his site and also recommended an attorney who specializes in military matters to Honeycutt.

Before the attorney could file a federal lawsuit, however, the probate judge ruled in Honeycutt’s favor.

And the day after Thanksgiving, the faithful Bradley aide got his pistol back.

“It brought tears to my eyes to finally get it,” Honeycutt said.


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