ROTTERDAM (Reuters) - A rare D-Day flag that flew on a U.S. Navy ship leading the allied advance at the beaches of Normandy nearly 75 years ago will be returned to America after going on display in the Netherlands on Monday.
The 48-star "Normandy" flag was on the U.S. Navy's LCC 60, one of just three advanced fleet vessels directing troops onto Utah Beach in German-occupied France on June 6, 1944.
Howard Vander Beek, who commanded the vessel as a Navy lieutenant, kept the flag throughout the war, brought it home and kept it in his basement until he died in 2014. It was sold at auction by his family two years later and bought by Dutch collector Bert Kreuk for $514,000.
"It was pierced by German machine gun bullets and ripped by the wind," said Kreuk. "The flag will be going home."
Kreuk, who ran a business in the United States for 20 years, wants to donate it to the American people and hopes that U.S. President Donald Trump will come pick it up in the Netherlands.
Dozens of U.S. and Dutch soldiers stood at attention as the tattered flag, stained by diesel fumes and dirt, arrived at Rotterdam's Kunsthal museum in a military convoy headed by a U.S. Sherman tank.
Rotterdam's orchestra played "Fanfare for the Common Man", written in 1942 by U.S. composer Aaron Copland, as the flag was laid into a display case by soldiers.
U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands Piet Hoekstra said he has discussed the flag with high-level U.S. government officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
"We are making sure that the White House is aware of this opportunity," said Hoekstra. "Vander Beek carried it in his backpack across significant parts of Europe until the end of the war. They are all special, this one is maybe a little bit more unique," Hoekstra said.
The flag will be on display in Rotterdam until Feb. 17.
U.S. ambassador Pete Hoekstra unveils an American flag from Navy ship LCC 60 that led the U.S. invasion fleet at Normandy's Utah Beach, during the 75th anniversary of the D-Day flag in Rotterdam, Netherlands, February 4, 2019. (Reuters/Eva Plevier)
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