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Press Release - June 13, 2016

The U.S. Flag that led D-Day invasion June 6, 1944, brings $514,000 at Heritage Auctions

Purchaser, Dutch Art Collector Bert Kreuk, who lost family in World War II, plans to display the flag publicly to "make sure that the important story this flag represents will be kept alive."

Highlight Video: The 48 Star Flag that Led the First Americans to Utah Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944

The 48 Star Flag that Led the First Americans to Utah Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944
DALLAS — The 48-Star U.S. flag that led the first American troops to Utah Beach in France on D-Day, June 6, 1944, replete with a bullet hole from a German machine gun, realized $514,000 at Heritage Auction in Dallas, TX on June 12, 2016. It was sold as part of Heritage Auctions' Arms & Armor/Civil War & Militaria Signature Auction. It realized more than five times the pre-auction estimate of $100,000+.

The flag was purchased, amidst spirited bidding, by Bert Kreuk, a Dutch art collector who lives in Switzerland and New York. Mr. Kreuk, long a collector of Contemporary and Impressionist Art, purchased the flag for purely personal reasons:

"This is one of the most important historical American Flags ever to come to auction," Mr. Kreuk wrote in an email, "a symbol of our freedom. And with our freedom I mean that of Europe in particular.

Last year I visited Normandy in person with an uncle of mine. This was a very emotional trip; family members of ours were killed during the bombing raids on Rotterdam in 1940. Those who survived suffered hardship beyond belief, especially because of hunger during the 'hunger' winter of 1944."

"These family members survived thanks to the liberation made possible by all of those who participated," he continued. "We owe a lot of gratitude to all those nations, but in particular the United States. Once I heard that this special flag was coming to auction, I knew I had to buy it. Not only because of our personal family history, but more important because of all those young and brave Americans who gave their lives so we in Europe can live in freedom."

"I believe it was fated that the flag had to come to our family, especially after our emotional trip to Normandy last year. My uncle (whose family members died in the war) was with me during the bidding. After I told him that we were the successful bidder, he cried. This was so emotional and special. With the purchase of this flag our family history has come full circle. I am going to publicly show the flag and make sure that the important story this flag represents will be kept alive."

The flag was flown from the stern of U.S. Navy vessel LCC 60 — the sole guide boat at Utah Beach — and was retained by its skipper, Lieutenant Howard Vander Beek, for more than six decades before his death in 2014.

In the fog of war, both literal and figurative, LCC 60 missed its initial mark, leading the first invasion wave to a debarkation 500 yards from the "x" on the map. The error, however, proved an extraordinary stroke of good luck. The new landing point found a soft spot in the German defenses, whereas the fortification at the intended entry point had survived the pre-invasion shelling intact. Lieutenant Vander Beek and his LCC 60 crew were relieved of their primary control duties at 1400 hours, after seven-and-a-half hours in Rommel's Death Zone and 19 charges to the beach.

"This flag is easily one of the most significant artifact of the D-Day invasion that exists," said Marsha Dixey, a Historical expert and Consignment Director at Heritage Auctions. "We all commend Mr. Kreuk for his purchase and for his commitment to keeping the memory of this most important day alive. The fact of this flag's very survival is amazing and the new owner's commitment to its history will ensure that future generations know of the incredible sacrifices that it represents. They will also, hopefully, understand the freedoms it secured then and the freedoms it continues to secure to this day."

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