Lonely Navy Yard Sentry Post Began 'Mr. Pistol's' Career


SAN DIEGO - Two years ago a champion Army pistol shooter who dominated the National Matches at Camp Perry for five consecutive years was asked who he considered the most promising pistol shot. He, without hesitation, pointed to a tall blue-eyed lieutenant sighting in at a nearby target.

That lieutenant is today's "Mr. World Pistol" - Capt. William W. McMillan - who without question has more than lived up to Army MSgt. Huelet "Joe" Benner's prediction.

Amid plaudits and acclaim, the captain reached the pinnacle of pistol match competition in August at Moscow when he was proclaimed World Pistol Champion.

HOWEVER, a scant decade ago, as a young Pfc., McMillan wasn't a qualified pistol shot. He had the dubious honor of walking the only rifle sentry post on a bleak, wind-swept pier in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

"I was the only one at Marine Barracks not qualified with the pistol so that was the only post I could stand," he explained.

His lonely vigil on that pier was soon to come to an end.

As an expert rifleman, the Pennsylvanian was selected to help represent the barracks in the 1949 Eastern Division Matches at Quantico.

WHILE THERE, the sage advice "shoot the pistol in the afternoon or pickup brass" was passed on to him by a CWO Whittiker, who was familiar with range procedure. The captain shot a respectable 285x400 to become a pistol marksman.

The following year, 1950, the one-man pistol team returned to Quantico as a rifle coach, teaching marksmanship to "requals" and future officers.

During his spare time McMillan practiced, practiced and practiced some more, firing an average of 60 rounds daily with the pistol.

HE EARNED his fired gold medal during the Eastern Division Matches of 1949 and placed fifth in the National Pistol Matches in 1952.

Like most Marines at that time, Korea beckoned. He now fired his sighters with heavier hardware, a 75mm recoilless rifle. McMillan was Anti-Tank Assault Infantry Unit Leader, serving with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines.

Having discarded SSgt. stripes for a commission, the captain returned to the states in 1953 and two years later found himself proclaimed winner of the coveted Lauchheimer Trophy at Parris Island.

He remained at that East Coast base, serving as a recruit company officer until his assignment to the newly-formed Marksmanship Training Unit just two years ago.

SINCE THAT TIME McMillan's name has appeared in print almost weekly as he won match after match and broke record after record.

Though he met and outshot the best pistolmen throughout the U.S., Mexico, Venezuela and Europe, he considers a local match last year as the highpoint in his shooting career.

Shooting in the Southland Pistol Matches here in San Diego, McMillan blasted the .22, .38 and .45 aggregate record of five years standing and held by Benner with a 2645x2700, one-point better than that set by the Army shooter.

Mr. World Pistol, in later matches, bettered his mark by seven points, and last year became the first Marine in match history to hold simultaneously the Custer Trophy and Harrison Cup, the nation's two top pistol awards as well as winning the NRA Pistol Championship.

Benner was the first to congratulate him.

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