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VIDEO/PICS: Trump accepts return of WW2 bullet-riddled US flag from D-Day landing

President Donald J. Trump, joined by the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, participates Thursday, July 18, 2019, in the presentation of a WW II flag flown aboard a landing craft during the D-Day invasion at Normandy in 1944, presented to officials of the Smithsonian Institute during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
July 19, 2019

A bullet-tattered American flag that flew aboard a World War II landing ship was returned to the U.S. in a presentation ceremony at the White House this week.

Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte facilitated the return of the 48-star flag, which flew on the first American ship that invaded on D-Day — Landing Craft Control 60 (LCC 60) – on June 6, 1944.

A WW II flag flown aboard a landing craft during the D-Day invasion at Normandy in 1944, is presented to officials of the Smithsonian Institute during a ceremony Thursday, July 18, 2019, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

The flag was owned by Dutch art collector Bert Kreuk and his uncle and business partner, Theo Schols. The pair purchased the flag for $514,000 at auction three years ago and intended to return it to the U.S.

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“Today, on behalf of the American people, I will receive an American flag that flew aboard a ship carrying the first waves of United States service members to land in Normandy,” President Trump said during his speech at the ceremony.

“Seventy-five years after that momentous day — and that is truly a momentous day; one of the most powerful, most important days in the history of our world — it is my honor to welcome this great American flag back home where it belongs,” Trump continued.

Kreuk was in attendance, and Trump thanked him for “preserving our history and for watching over the immortal legacy of our D-Day heroes.”

Kreuk said the flag symbolized U.S. liberation that saved his relatives from Nazi rule after losing some of them during the German bombings in Rotterdam in 1940.

President Donald J. Trump, joined by the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, listens as collector Bert Kreuk addresses the audience Thursday, July 18, 2019, at the presentation by Kreuk of a WW II flag flown aboard a landing craft during the D-Day invasion at Normandy in 1944, to officials of the Smithsonian Institute during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

Trump explained how the flag flew aboard the landing ship commanded by 26-year-old Navy Lt. Howard Vander Beek who led “19 waves of American troops and equipment to those very, very dangerous beaches.”

LCC 60 was one of three landing ships to lead troops to the Utah Beach at Normandy that day – and it was the only one to complete the mission.

After the mission, the flag was riddled with bullet holes of German machineguns, covered in blood, dirt, and diesel. Vander Beek folded the flag and kept it save in his pack throughout the rest of the war and his life until he passed away in 2014.

President Donald J. Trump, joined by the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, participates Thursday, July 18, 2019, in the presentation of a WW II flag flown aboard a landing craft during the D-Day invasion at Normandy in 1944, presented to officials of the Smithsonian Institute during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The flag ended up at auction where Kreuk and Schols purchased it.

“These two gentlemen paid half a million dollars to obtain the flag, just so they could return it as a gift to the American people and to the United States of America,” Trump said. “As they explained, they wanted to thank the United States for the extraordinary sacrifice our service members made to liberate their nation and all of Europe in World War Two.”

President Donald J. Trump, joined by the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, participates Thursday, July 18, 2019, in the presentation of a WW II flag flown aboard a landing craft during the D-Day invasion at Normandy in 1944, presented to officials of the Smithsonian Institute during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Trump announced that the flag will be displayed at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History where they would “take great care of this priceless American artifact.”

“With their help, this wonderful flag will be preserved forever and ever in American history, as it should be.  It will always be a reminder of the supreme sacrifice of our warriors, and the beautiful friendship between the Dutch and the American people,” Trump said.