July 18 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Thursday received a U.S. flag from a ship that carried the first waves of U.S. service members to Normandy on D-Day.
Trump and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte spoke in a flag ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Thursday afternoon commemorating the World War II operation.
"Thousands of Americans gave their lives on D-Day and many thousands more gave their lives to drive the Nazis from the Netherlands," Trump said. "Following today's ceremony, the extraordinary flag will be displayed at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History -- and very proudly."
Rutte described the flag as a symbol of the "unique bond" between the United States and Europe.
"It is also a symbol of the close bond between the U.S. and the Netherlands. Our countries stand shoulder to shoulder when times are tough," he said. "Centuries ago the Netherlands was one of the first countries to support a young, American republic striving for independence. And in our darkest hour 75 years ago, thousands of brave American soldiers crossed the Atlantic to fight for our freedom."
U.S. Navy Lt. Howard Vander Beek carried the flag with him throughout the war and kept it until his death in 2014.
Bret Kreuek and his uncle and business partner, Theo Schols -- whose Dutch ancestors died during World War II -- purchased the flag for about $500,000 at an auction and presented it to Trump.
"These two gentleman 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 II."