DALLAS – An American flag believed to be the first planted when Allied forces stormed Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944 is being offered in Heritage Auctions’ Arms & Armor, Civil War & Militaria auction June 9 in Dallas, Texas. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.
The first American flag planted on the Normandy Beachhead (above) has an opening bid of $25,000. It was placed there by 1st Sgt. John E. Horvath. A bartender-turned-Army engineer, most likely a member of the 121st Combat Engineer Battalion, attached to the 29th Infantry Division of V Corps (the moniker given to the Fifth Corps of the Army), Horvath appeared in a newspaper clipping (believed to be from The Columbus [Ohio] Citizen-Journal) headlined “First Flag on Beachhead in Normandy Arrives Here as Souvenir of Battle.” The article includes a photo of Horvath’s wife with the flag, and quotes a letter he had placed inside a package that she had received just days earlier: “Take care of the flag. It’s the first one which went up on the beachhead, two hours after the invasion started. I had to use my tent pole to raise it.”
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a collector to acquire one of the most famous flags in U.S. history,” Heritage Auctions Arms & Armor Consignment Director David Carde said. “The Allied invasion at Normandy is one of the most famous military confrontations of all time, one that has been recounted in history books and in movies. Considering the significance of that invasion in World War II, it is impossible to overstate the significance of this flag.”
Flags are definitive national symbols, and military flags have long produced top prices among collectors. The battle-scarred banner measures approximately 32½ inches by 43 inches, with 48 embroidered stars. The flag’s distinctive appearance allows for a definitive match to the newspaper image of Horvath’s wife posing with it, and to a different photograph from the same shoot, which also is included. The lot also contains the aforementioned dog tags, Horvath’s Purple Heart and Good Conduct medal, and various ribbons as follows: Presidential Unit Citation, WWII Victory, and a Purple Heart/Good Conduct/European Theater ribbon bearing four Bronze Stars and an Arrowhead Device.
A Union corporal’s forage cap and frock coat (below) identified to Corp. George Schmultz will require an opening bid of $15,500. The set was pictured on pages 20-21 in The Illustrated History of American Civil War Relics (1978) by Stephen W. Sylvia and Michael J. O’Donnell, one of the earliest reference books for Civil War collectors. Schmultz enlisted in February 1864 as a corporal and served for nearly two years. The cap includes its original brass lettering denoting Schmultz’s unit with a “G” over “188” over “PV” – which stand for “Co. G, 188th Pennsylvania Volunteers.” The cap, which retains all original insignia, also includes an “18th Corps” badge. Schmultz’s enlisted frock coat is a top-of-the-line rarity with original corporal’s chevrons and brass shoulder scales.
A rare Winchester single “W” model 1890 cartridge board (opening bid: $12,500), housed in a golden oak frame, features all of the original bullets and cartridges sold by Winchester. It is one of the less common variations on the “Single W” design, with geese in the center, Indian hunters to the left and a cowboy taking position beside his horse on the right.
An engraved London Boss & Co. double-barrel shotgun (opening bid: $12,500), Serial No. 6996, is a 12-gauge with 28-inch blued barrels. It features a finely checkered walnut straight stock and splinter fore-end. The elaborately scroll-engraved case-hardened receiver is marked “BOSS & CO.” Boss & Co. was founded in 1812 by Thomas Boss, who apprenticed under his gunmaker father, William, from 1804-12 and later established himself as an independent gun maker who has produced some of the world’s finest shotguns and rifles.
An important relief carved pre-Revolutionary War flintlock Kentucky rifle by John Philip Beck has an opening bid of $10,000. Approximately .57-caliber, it has a 47¼-inch octagonal to round barrel, the top of which is signed J P BECK. The classic Kentucky rifle with maple stock measures 63½ inches long. George Shumway, the author of Kentucky Rifles & Pistols 1750-1850, called it “one of the earliest, if not the earliest, surviving examples of (Beck’s) work.”
The sale features nine lots from the estate of actress and ambassador Shirley Temple Black, including a rare captured Japanese-used Geweer M. 95 (Dutch Mannlicher) bolt-action rifle and bayonet, which were captured by her husband, Lt. Charles A. Black, whose efforts earned him the Silver Star from the U.S. Navy.