A U.S battle flag flown from the first boat to land at Utah Beach on D-Day has sold for more than half a million dollars at Heritage Auctions in Dallas.
The tattered flag, pierced with bullet holes from German machine gun fire, had flown aboard the U.S. Navy vessel LCC 60 – the Landing Craft control boat which helped lead the Allied invasion on June 6, 1944.
The boat, which was under the command of Lieutenant Howard Vander Beek, was the first vessel to hit Utah beach. Although landing 500 yards off course, the boat accidentally managed to pinpoint a weak spot in the German defences and helped turn the course of history.
The flag remained in Vander Beek’s personal collection for decades following the war, before being acquired in 2014 during an auction of his estate.
Offered with an estimate of $100,000+, the flag soared to a final price of $514,000, making it one of the most valuable items of WWII military memorabilia ever sold.
"This flag is easily one of the most significant artifact of the D-Day invasion that exists in private hands," said Marsha Dixey, a Historical expert and Consignment Director at Heritage Auctions.
"We all know the harrowing story of those chaotic dawn hours as America made its push onto the beaches of Normandy. The fact of its survival is nothing less than a testament to the irresistible force of the American will."
The sale also offered another rare piece of U.S military history in the shape of a WWI insignia from the Lafayette Escadrille – the legendary group of American pilots who volunteered as members of the French Air Service in 1916
Named in honour of the Marquis de Lafayette, the pilots signed up help defend France and rouse the U.S into joining the war, which it finally did in 1917. The squadron fought aerial battles over France, suffering numerous casualties, before being disbanded at the end of the war in 1918, and the Indian Head insignia was then adopted by the U.S. Army Air Service’s 103rd Aero Squadron.
The insignia offered at Heritage was painted onto canvas, originally from the fuselage section of a French WWI SPAD fighter aircraft, and sold for $16,250.