Admiral Halsey’s historic WWII saddle on loan to Silver State
December 21, 2012
A saddle crafted in Nevada that witnessed the Japanese surrender in 1945 was returned, on loan, in time for Nevada’s 150 birthday in 2014.Gov. Brian Sandoval on Thursday wielded a power drill to open the crate that Admiral William “Bull” Halsey’s saddle arrived in from Annapolis, Md. In the Silver State on a three-year loan, the saddle will be restored, before going on a statewide road trip. The saddle was originally commissioned by the Reno Chamber of Commerce in support of its war bond drive. It was a gift to Halsey to mark the surrender of Japanese forces in World War II. Halsey said the Japanese emperor’s palace was not a military target, adding, flippantly, “I’d hate to have them kill Hirohito’s white horse, because I want to ride it,” Washoe County Judge Chuck Weller, wrote in an essay on the history of the saddle.Weller uncovered the history of the saddle and set the cogs in motion to bring it back to Nevada for a time.“I’m proud that the people of Nevada in 1945 did this,” Weller said.The saddle was brought to Nevada through the work of Peter Barton, the Nevada Division of Museums and History administrator, the Reno Navy League’s Kai Wallis and financial support from the E.L. Cord foundation.The one flippant add-on about the emperor’s horse lodged itself into the minds of the Reno Chamber of Commerce, who commissioned the saddle. The Pyramid Lake Pauite Tribe also crafted a pair of gloves for the saddle, although they have been “lost to history,” Weller said.He wrote that Reno’s plan to give Halsey the saddle drew national attention, appearing in National Geographic Magazine, Western Horseman Magazine, Life Magazine and many more. The saddle’s return was not happenstance but not guaranteed, either, Weller said.“It’s here because of a confluence of events,” he said.After the war, the saddle was donated to the U.S. Naval Academy where it was on display for half a century before being retired to four wooden walls, before being shipped to Nevada, to breath in the desert air for the first time since 1946.“I just think what they did back then was a wonderful expression,” Weller said, looking into the distance of the Nevada State Museum’s gallery.