AMERICAN FLAG FLOWN BY A LANDING CRAFT AT OMAHA BEACH ON D-DAY
A most historically important relic of Operation OVERLORD, the June 6, 1944 Allied invasion of Normandy, an American flag from a landing craft that brought ashore a company of the valiant 115th Infantry Regiment. The same landing craft would make a total of 26 trips back to Omaha Beach, ferrying soldiers to shore onto the precarious Allied beachhead on the European continent. The 48-star United States flag, measuring approx. 46" x 62", is constructed of thirteen separate stripes of red and white wool bunting, with a dark blue wool bunting canton at upper left. Each white cotton fabric star is separately sewn onto the canton, and the upper and lower hoist corners are reinforced with extra squares of bunting. The hoist itself consists of a strip of white canvas folded and sewn over the edge, and pierced by four oxidized metal grommets. The hoist is unmarked. The fly end of the flag is well-frayed from high winds, and the flag bears dark staining overall from exposure to diesel fumes and smoke. This flag was flown from the mast of the USS LCI(L)-413, a Landing Craft Infantry (Large) which landed a company of men of the 115th Infantry Regiment on the Easy Red section of Omaha Beach during the second assault wave, beginning around 10:00 AM, while American forces were still pinned-down on the beach and in dire straits. The LCI was piloted during the landings by U.S. Navy Quartermaster Carroll Key Wood, the father of our consignor. A Charleston Gazette-Mail article published on the 60th anniversary of the invasion, present with this lot, contains Wood's account of his participation in the landings, in part: "...I was on the helm on the morning of June 6, 1944, as we approached the Normandy beach landing on what was called Omaha Beach... The skipper chided me a couple of times for letting her sideslip. But really there was little I could do except to keep heading at the spot I was aiming at on the beach. We dropped our anchor and charged ahead at full speed plowing up sand as we went and touched dry land with the nose of the ship. We dropped our ramps and our 200 soldiers ran off on dry land and charged up the hill to accomplish their mission. After all the troops charged ashore, we started engines full-speed astern and started winching in the anchor to help pull us off the sand. The man on the anchor winch telephoned the skipper that he thought the anchor was fouled, as he was pulling up cross ties and timbers. The skipper told him to speed up the winch and try to break the cable. This he did, the cable broke, and with the momentum we had ... we were able to get off the beach, return to England and make another 26 trips back to France, carrying troops to reinforce the beachhead and overall offensive. But later, two sailors who were on the stern of the ship told me that after we landed they could see a mine within 6 feet of either side of the ship. I'll never forget the skipper fussing at me for letting the ship slip sideways..." Also present is a signed and notarized letter from our consignor, Carroll Key Wood's son, who reaffirms his father's story and adds, in part: "...When my father returned home after the end of the war, he brought home with him a tattered approximately 3'x 5' American flag which he told all of us had flown from his landing craft on D-Day. He described his unrest as he walked down the gangway from his ship when he returned from Europe because he had packed the flag in his duffle bag and did not want to face the embarrassment of keeping the flag..." Further documentation present with the flag includes copies of Carroll Key Wood's registration card and U.S. Navy discharge certificate and papers, which list his service aboard the LCI(L)-413, as well as crew rosters for the LCI from February, May and July of 1944 and April of 1945, all listing Carroll Key Wood as a crewmember. Additional records show that LCI(L)-413 was built by George Lawley & Sons Shipbuilding Corp. of Neponset, Massachusetts, and was commissioned on February 7, 1944. She participated in the D-Day landings as part of Assault Group O-2, carrying men of the 115th Infantry Regiment, a Maryland National Guard unit normally part of the 29th Infantry Division but attached to the 1st Infantry Division for the D-Day landings. The twelve LCIs carrying the regiment faced considerable challenges in their landings; one lost her rudder and had to transfer her troops to another ship, a second smashed into a submerged obstacle, and a third lost her landing ramps in a collision with a fourth ship. German artillery fire badly damaged yet another LCI, though she had already discharged her troops on the beach, and machine gunners kept the men of the regiment pinned behind whatever cover they could find. The regiment was finally able to move off the beach through a feature designated the E-1 Draw and take the village of St. Laurent, despite heavy German resistance in the form of snipers, machine guns, and concealed anti-tank guns. The LCI(L)-413 was later converted to a Landing Craft Infantry (Gunboat), and was sold off on April 19, 1946. She received one battle star for her participation in Operation Overlord. Given this history, the flag presented here establishes itself as one of the most vivid and evocative relics of World War II that we have ever handled, a silent witness to a day that has rightly entered the annals of American history as one of unsurpassed valor and sacrifice.