A U.S. flag from one of the thousands of Allied ships that delivered troops and supplies to the Normandy beaches is among the hundreds of D-Day and other World War II artifacts being auctioned in New York City, a day before the 70th anniversary of the history-changing invasion.
The auction at Bonhams in Manhattan on Thursday also features rare print-outs of the original series of hourly Dow Jones news bulletins with some of the first reports of the fighting on France's north coast on June 6, 1944. The tattered 48-star American flag that flew aboard the U.S.-built LST 493 and the Dow Jones documents, both owned by World War II collector Rodney Hilton Brown, have pre-sale estimates of $12,000 to $18,000.
The auction also includes battlefield souvenirs, innovative wartime technology, rare documents and photographs from the war's European and Pacific theaters.
Among the higher-priced items for sale are the original designs of the Mulberry harbor, the massive structures the Allied ferried across the English Channel to use as temporary ports on Normandy's coast. The British innovation allowed quick resupply and reinforcement of the assault troops after they started advancing inland. Sketched in pencil by engineer Hugh Iorys Hughes, the nine drawings have a pre-sale estimate of $70,000 to $100,000.
"Every object in the June 5 WWII sale has an incredible story to tell," said Tom Lamb, Bonhams' business development director for the books and manuscripts department in New York. "They bear witness to the war's unparalleled turmoil, and testify to the bravery of many individuals as well as entire nations."
More than half of the 350-lot auction is owned by Brown, a military historian and collector who also owns the original 12 1/2-foot-tall version of the sculpture depicting the raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima. Inspired by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal's famous image of the event, Felix de Weldon made the stone monument seven years before his larger bronze of the flag raising was installed in Arlington, Virginia, as the Marine Corps War Memorial. The original statue failed to sell during a February 2013 auction at Bonhams.
Brown, a 71-year-old Army veteran, began collecting World War II items as a 10-year-old canvassing his Philadelphia neighborhood, telling homeowners he was collecting items from the war.
"They'd say, `Great, take them out of here," Brown said in a telephone interview.
Brown, founder and owner of the New York-based War Museum, said it was fitting to put his items up for sale on June 5 because June 6 was the day "the greatest invasion in history took place." He points out that the Dow Jones printouts from various news sources that historic day are particularly rare since they were usually tossed away or used for "ticker tape" parades.
"Somebody knew enough to clip out and save the D-Day bulletins," Brown said. "It's a unique document. I don't believe there's another one in existence."