Auctions | June 9, 2014

Enigma Code Book & D-Day Flown Flag Soar at Bonhams Auction of WWII Memorabilia

New York—Bonhams, the third largest international fine art auction house, is pleased to announce its auction of World War II memorabilia on June 5 in New York brought $1.5 million with an important D-Day flown flag from an American LST-493 having achieved $386,500. The flag, which flew past its conservative $25,000-35,000 estimate, was one of a handful of surviving flags flown from D-Day ships. It led a strong selection of items related to D-Day and the Road to Berlin.

A few of the additional highlights from the D-Day portion of the sale included a German Army Enigma enciphering machine that brought $92,500 and General George Patton's 3rd Army guidon, medal ribbons and insignia, from 1944-1945, that sold for $50,000; as well as another of Patton's personal guidons that claimed $37,500.

Other areas of the sale also performed very well, with bidders from 16 countries vying for important manuscripts, famous photographs, crucial wartime technology, authentic weaponry, personal mementos and battlefield souvenirs.

From the Hiroshima and the Peace portion of the auction were such items as the flight log of Brigadier General Paul W. Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay, that sold for $86,500; a mimeographed copy of President Truman's announcement of the bombing of Hiroshima, dated August 6, 1945, that took in $72,100; and a signed, mimeographed copy of President Truman's announcement of the surrender of the Japanese, dated August 14, 1945, that realized $21,250.

Highlights from The Battle of Britain also stood out in the auction. Among them was a "KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON" lithographic poster from 1939 that brought $27,500 and a Royal Air Force cap that belonged to Group Captain Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader, from 1940, that achieved $16,250. Bader is arguably the most famous British World War II fighter pilot. There was also a cloth R.A.F. station ensign from the summer of 1940 that brought $13,750 and a Spitfire K5054 Maiden flight presentation trophy model from 1936 that took in $11,875.

From the Battle for the Atlantic section of the sale was a stand-out, rare, 1944 edition of the Kurzsignalheft, or "Enigma Code Book," circa 1944, that sold for $146,500. The German book far eclipsed an estimate of $8,000-12,000.

The Pearl Harbor portion of the sale contained a lithographed report from December 8, 1941, in Japanese, titled "Imperial rescript of the Declaration of War on the United States and Great Britain" that sold for $12,500. The piece represents the formal announcement of a state of war to the people of Japan. There was also a typed letter on pacifism and the proposal for an international organization to enforce military security from Albert Einstein that fetched $10,000.

An additional highlight stood out from the Russian Front portion of the sale: a captured Russian battle flag, acquired from the Russian Front, 1941-42, that was recaptured by an American GI in Germany in 1945. The flag achieved $37,500.

Toward the close of the sale, notable Japanese relics were sold, such as a letter from August 14, 1938, signed by Emperor Hirohito of Japan and addressed to King George II of the Hellenes, offering him congratulations on the marriage of Crown Prince Paul, that achieved $15,000. In addition, a Japanese porcelain portrait of Baron Honjo Shigeru in full military uniform, circa 1942, brought $11,250.

To view further results from the sale, please visit