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Carrying flags into battle seems like a vestige of a bygone era, something you may associate with heraldic knights or 19th century cavalry charges. Yet flags played an important part in the battles of WWII, and one of those rare icons is up for auction.

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This 48 star US flag was carried by US troops on the historic D-Day invasion. The story behind the flag is part of the mystique. It has been protected and kept by US Navy Lieutenant Howard Van Der Beek, Captain of Landing Craft Control 60the boat that landed the first troops on to Utah Beach on June 6, 1944.

‘This flag is easily one of the most significant artifact of the D-Day invasion that exists in private hands,” said Marsha Dixey, the 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.”

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The flag, which shows signs of battle, is torn and tattered. There are even holes in it, reportedly from a German machine gun.

Heritage Auctions expects the flag to sell for upwards of $10,000. It measures 30 feet by 57 feet. US Navy Lieutenant Howard Van Der Beek brought the flag back when he returned from Europe at the end of the war.

After returning to civilian life, Van Der Beek became an English professor and has chronicled  the moments before they charged the beach in his memoir: Aboard the LCC 60: Normandy and Southern France, 1944.

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“At some point I looked astern and saw what lay at sea behind us: the greatest armada the world had ever known, the greatest it would ever know,” Van Der Beek wrote.

It seems miraculous that any of the men on those landing craft should have survived the the invasion–much less on the first craft to have hit Utah Beach. That the flag has also survived is a testament to the sacrifices of all of the Allied forces during WWII, and something we’ll never be able to put a price on.