September 6, 2017
By Joel R Kolander
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The events of June 6, 1944 will long be known to the world as D-Day. It remains the largest attack from the sea in the history of mankind. Roughly 156,000 Allied troops took the beaches that day, paving the way in blood for nearly one million of their brothers to follow. Through unimaginable struggle and loss of life, they retook France in one European summer, less than three months after the landings at Normandy. Operation Neptune, as the landings were formally titled, was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany and her sick dreams of conquest.
We do not dare to recount the sheer scope or all facets of this monumental event. Nor could we hope to successfully juxtapose, in a single article, the polar opposites of the human condition present that day: fear and bravery, life and death, doom and hope, freedom and despotism, saving lives by taking them. The souls claimed that day numbered over 10,000 for the Allies and between 4,000 – 9,000 on the German side.
From that terrible summer day on the French coast, an American flag has found its way to Rock Island Auction Company.
From our official description:
“Our story begins midday on June 6, 1944, when the 264th Royal Canadian Flotilla transported the follow-up infantry battalion of 56th (Independent) Infantry Brigade to the D-Day landing on Gold Beach. Along the way, mortar fire was encountered, resulting in two casualties. Once on the beach, the men of the 56th contended with deep water, dangerous submerged shell holes and enemy fire. The flotilla included three Landing Craft Infantry (Large), or LCI(L), amphibious assault ships numbers 400, 421 and 511 attached to the U.S. Navy. A LCI(L) was capable of transporting 200 soldiers directly onto the beach, and this flag flew from the mast of the LCI(L)-421 on that historic day. The flag was from the personal belongings of Steve Hudac, the coxswain of LCI(L)-421 who piloted the landing craft onto Gold Beach.”
Hudac’s sister-in-law describes how he came to possess the flag in a notarized statement dated May 11, 2017.
“Steve was the Coxswain of LCI(L)-421 on D-Day and piloted the landing craft onto Gold Beach. Steve told me that during the landing, he was watching soldiers being killed and wondered when it would be his turn…He was later promoted to head cook. One evening, Steve was in the kitchen late in the evening cooking potato pancakes. His commanding officer smelled them and went into the galley. Steve feared that he would be in trouble because he wasn’t supposed to be there but explained that he missed food from his native homeland. His commanding officer asked him to make some for him and asked if he could make them for all the others as well…Steve became very close to his commanding officer, Robert M. Paul, after this. Before Steve left the ship, his commanding officer gave him the flag from LCI(L)-421 that flew from the mast during their time on it, including the landing on Gold Beach.”
Accompanied by a host of documents and artifacts of the man it was presented to make this historic flag an artifact alive with history and make Hudac all but tangible. Included are Hudac’s certificate that he partook in the invasion of France, a letter of recommendation from his Commanding Officer, a letter from the Secretary of the Navy, his dog tags, a portrait, several certificates of recognition, his separation paperwork, honorable discharge, a framed drawing of Hudac’s depicting the landing, several patches, his cover, and even a photo album. The latter of which gives first-hand account of the sailor’s life, including what appears to be a rather hilarious foray in Tiajuana.
This documented piece of American history is truly an national treasure of the highest degree. Regardless of where it calls home after our September Auction, it is certainly worthy of a place of honor. With an estimate between $250,000 – $375,000, we can rest easy knowing that whoever is willing to invest such a sum for this noble flag, already recognizes its immense significance and, therefore, the importance of its preservation.
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