BAYEUX, France – A priceless artifact has made its way from Colorado to Normandy, France this week. It’s a flag with an amazing backstory.
The flag is normally housed at Heritage Arsenal, a Colorado Springs warehouse where they preserve military uniforms and medals. The company works with military museums and institutions, helping them identify how to make the best use of their collections.
Even in a room full of priceless artifacts, the tattered flag stands out.
“An American flag that was made by a French teenager under the Nazi occupation,” said Courtney Linn, president of Heritage Arsenal.
The stitching is imperfect, the stripes slightly flawed. And the stars are uneven and hand-painted. But the story behind the flag is unblemished.
“The hope of that generation and what they were going to experience after liberation is literally manifested in that flag,” said William Linn, vice president and co-founder of Heritage Arsenal.
For four long years, France was occupied by the Germans during World War II. During that time, a young French girl in the town of Bayeux sewed together her hopes for the future, with rags of red, white and blue. Like so many around her, she was a scared child, confused about the war, desperate to be saved and certain the Americans were on their way.
“When the French people thought of liberation, they thought of Americans,” William Linn told FOX31.
Heritage Arsenal got the flag a while back and they’ve returned it to Normandy this week for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. William, a 28-year Army veteran and Master Parachutist, plans to parachute into Normandy with the flag in his pocket. And then, if all goes as planned, they’ll return the flag to Bayeux and meet the very woman who stitched it together more than seven decades ago.
“We think she's about 90 years old,” William said. They’ve made contact with a family friend, who’s helping orchestrate the reunion.
“That flag is very, very symbolic. It gets really at the heart of what we do here (at Heritage Arsenal)," William said.
He says preserving uniforms and medals is important, but stories from the war – like the little girl who made the American flag – are the most priceless artifact.
“We all were on different paths, but somehow fate and history and happenstance all brought us together,” Courtney said.
Right now, FOX31 is traveling through Normandy, France with a group of World War II heroes who fought on D-Day. They’re part of a program sponsored by a Denver-based charity called The Greatest Generations Foundation. The organization returns World War II and Vietnam soldiers to the battlefields where they once served.