A wind tattered American flag with bullet holes from German machine gun fire that flew on the first U.S. invading ship on D-Day was returned to United States during a Thursday White House ceremony.
The flag ceremony was part of a White House visit by prime minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, who also held Oval Office talks with President Donald Trump, Reuters reported.
Before being returned to the U.S., the flag was owned by Dutch businessman and art collector Bert Kreuk, who said he always intended to return it to the United States after buying it for $514,000 at auction three years ago.
“I cannot keep it myself. It needs to go to the right institution. I need to give it back,” Kreuk said in an interview before the ceremony, where he was also a speaker.
After the ceremony, the flag will be put on display at the Smithsonian Institution.
Used during D-Day, American flag returns home 75 years later
The 48-star American flag was flown aboard the U.S. Navy’s Landing Craft Control 60, which was one of three advance ships at Utah beach off the coast of Normandy during the June 6, 1944 attack. It was the only one of the three ships to complete its mission during the bloody American landings on D-Day.
The ship was commanded by U.S. Navy Lieutenant Howard Vander Beek, a former Iowa teacher who would later bring the flag home with him after the war and keep it in his basement until his death in 2014.
“It is my honor to welcome this great American flag back home where it belongs,” Trump said, calling it a “reminder of the supreme sacrifice of our warriors and the beautiful friendship between the Dutch and the American people.”
The flag was also special to the 54-year-old Kreuk, who said it represents the American liberation effort that eventually saved members of his own family from Nazi rule during World War Two. Kreuk, who said he lost family members to German bombings of Rotterdam in 1940, said getting the flag to the proper place was important to him.
“For me it was evidence that I wanted to have this and secure it for the future,” he said.
Trump was also in attendance in Normandy at ceremonies on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.