The latest came up at auction on June 11 at Heritage Auctions (19.5% buyer’s premium) of Dallas. Lieutenant William L Willhoit’s battle-scarred flag took top lot honours in the Arms & Armor, Civil War & Militaria Auction, selling at $55,000 (£43,310).
The flag flew on LCT 540 during the invasion on Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944. Many such flags are consigned by family but this one came from Ensign Wilhoit (later lieutenant) himself, described by Heritage as “a true American hero who, we are glad to report, is alive and well”.
Jason Watson, Heritage arms and armour consignment director, said: “This flag is not only memorable because of the pivotal days it was flown, it is momentous because of the story that comes with it.
“Ensign Wilhoit assumed command of the LCT 540 after his officer-in-charge was killed in the first moments of the assault. Despite his young age, Wilhoit persisted and continued to fight and lead for the next four days of the landing.”
The 3ft (91cm) long flag was tattered along the right side and stained with diesel oil.
A series of strong auction results for D-Day flags seem to have prompted vendors to dig them out for consignment.
On January 28 a Utah Beach landing craft flag offered at Milestone Auctions in Cleveland, Ohio, sold for $75,000/£59,520 (estimate $40,000-80,000). It was a 48-star American battle flag from LCT 595, one of the first US Navy vessels to land on Utah.
It was recovered by Boatswain George Edward Rudisill after the landings and consigned by family.
In June 2016 the first American flag to arrive at Utah during D-Day was bought by Dutch art collector Bert Kreuk. His phone bid secured the relic for a premium-inclusive $514,000 (then about £360,000), at Heritage.
The flag had flown above Landing Craft Control 60, which guided the invasion into the beach in 1944, and was retained by its skipper, Lieutenant Howard Vander Beek, for more than six decades before his death in 2014. The flag was consigned by his estate.