Auctions | August 25, 2014

Doyle NY to Auction Important WWII Tribute Albums

Doyle New York is honored to auction important World War II tribute albums presented to American Staff Sergeant Lawrence R. Kelly. On August 25, 1944, Kelly was mistakenly wounded by a French sharpshooter on the first day of the liberation of Paris. The album was conceived by the Saint-Cloud pharmacist who treated Kelly’s wounds. This stunning tribute to one man who became a symbol of a grateful nation will be auctioned in Doyle New York’s November 24, 2014 sale of Rare Books, Autographs & Maps. Offered together with the Purple Heart medal awarded to Kelly, the album is estimated to sell for $12,000-18,000.

LAWRENCE R. KELLY (1902-1946)
Lawrence Russell Kelly was born and died in Altoona, Pennsylvania. In 1917 at the tender age of 15, Kelly lied about his age and fought for eight months during World War I in France, where he was wounded twice.

Re-enlisting at age 40 in 1943, Kelly parachuted into France on D-Day with the 82nd Airborne. Wounded, Kelly was subsequently transferred to field artillery and was in an advanced position on August 25, 1944, the day Major Morel-Deville's column was to enter Paris over the Pont Saint-Cloud. Determined to be the first American to enter Paris, Kelly commandeered a jeep and headed over the bridge ahead of all others. A French fireman at the other end of the bridge, made nervous by the rapidly approaching vehicle and certain it contained German soldiers, emptied his newly acquired German Mauser at the jeep hitting Kelly six times. Kelly fell from the jeep just 50 yards from the entry to Paris. Carried to the pharmacy of Mademoiselle Marcelle Thomas, the 23-year-old pharmacist whose family owned the building in which she worked, Kelly impressed her and all others by not crying out in his suffering, and by report emptying his pack of cigarettes to those around him and instructing them not to blame the unfortunate Frenchman who had shot him.

After being transported to several hospitals in France and England, Kelly was sent home to Altoona, where he continued to undergo surgery after surgery to attend to his 36 wounds. Kelly and Thomas would exchange over twenty letters in the interim between his return to Altoona and his death.

It was the industrious Marcelle Thomas who set out to assemble the albums as a tribute to the event, reaching out to the thousands who participated in its creation. The albums were presented to the American Ambassador in Paris in August 1946 and were then sent by ship to Washington, where they were intended to be presented to Kelly in a distinguished ceremony. But on the eve of that ceremony Kelly, much weakened from his many surgeries, suffered a heart attack and died that night, a full two years after sustaining the injuries in Saint-Cloud.

Kelly was awarded the Purple Heart for his valor in service of his country, which will be sold with the tribute albums. Along with the Purple Heart, the volumes are accompanied bycopies of a few associated papers. The story of Kelly's shooting was recounting in Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre's 1965 Is Paris Burning?

The important tribute albums, titled We Remember, comprise two large volumes containing approximately 710 leaves of original artwork, vintage photographs, prints, letters, approximately 8000 signatures and various ephemera all in tribute of Kelly. The texts are mostly in French with English translations provided. A poem in the first pages of these remarkable volumes announces what will follow within:

"They came so simply/proud to give their lives/or suffering stoically/to bring us our liberty/in the name of Frenchmen, thank you, KELLY/that shall not be forgotten."

This is followed by dedication leaves in both French and English reading:

"From the Inhabitants of Saint Cloud ... to Staff Sergeant Lawrence R. Kelly who landed in France on D-Day and was the first American Liberator of their City where he was Grievously Wounded on August 25th 1944 and to the Glorious American Army as a Token of our Heartfelt Gratitude."

What follows is an extraordinary array of artistic and manuscript tributes to Kelly including TWO RARE VINTAGE PRESS PRINTS OF THE D-DAY LANDING AT NORMANDY BY ROBERT CAPA AND ROBERT SARGENT, and a group of about 12 related images from the invasion; original artwork by MARIE LAURENCIN, KEES VAN DONGEN, GEORGES LEROUX, PAUL LANDOWSKI, GUSTAVE LORAIN, GEORGE EDMUND DARGOUGE, OCTAVE GUILLONNET, RENE CREVEL and minor listed artists, including Albert Decaris, Louis Roger, Henri Morin, Claude Maurel and others.

Also within are numerous personalized letters, including one from noted scholar ANDRE CHEVRILLON, who recounts what happened to Kelly that day:

"Paris and the suburbs had just risen in arms against the oppressors. The Germans were in full retreat, but a few were left here and there hidden in the cellars of firing from the roofs. In the general excitement of that day an unfortunate fireman mistaking you for an enemy, as you were drawing near the bridge, sent several shots at you with his Tommy gun. You were then carried to Mademoiselle Thomas's pharmacy at the bottom of the Rue Dailly and were taken care of there. You were severely wounded. You remained several days in hospital in France, a few weeks in England, and then were able to be taken back to America, again to enter a hospital."

Also of note are notes or quotations from composers such as former St. Cloud resident CHARLES GOUNOD, OLIVER MESSIAEN (large musical quotation), FLORENT SCHMITT, Scientist IRENE JOLIET-CURIE, and others including COLETTE, poet PAUL GERALDY, JEAN JOLIVET, playwright PAIL NIVOIX, actor FERNAND GRAVET; a letter and vintage photograph from the mother of French Resistance leader and Reseau Morhange founder Marcel Taillandier, who was murdered by the Gestapo in 1944; letters from ambassadors of Franco-American diplomacy such Marquis de Chambrun (great-grandson of Lafayette), Marquis de Grasse, Comtesse de Longvilliers (nee Rochambeau), etc.

The album contains dozens of sheets filled with the signatures of various groups, including the Ministry of Air, officers and soldiers from Leclerc Division, the Coty Perfumery, the Michelin factory, a fashion design from Nina Ricci etc.

The albums closes with a long letter from pharmacist Marcelle Thomas:

"On this radiant summer day, at the head of the American troops, you rush to greet Paris ... five dreadful shots: you drop down. The splendid warrior who arose from out of the sea on D-Day, came to his journey's end on the pavement of Saint-Cloud. You are carried to the nearest pharmacy: mine. You suffer terribly but ... not a cry, not a moan. It is the gratefulness and tender love of a whole corner of France which is throbbing in this book: Royal Princesses and poor old people in the asylum, artists, writers and workmen, shopkeepers and clerks ... officers and soldiers ... little children ... famous men and women, all of them, want to send you a token of their love and remembrance."