Auctions | April 6, 2015

Bonhams Holds WWII Sale to Mark 70th Anniversary


New York—Bonhams will hold its third annual World War II auction on April 29 to offer artifacts, documents and memorabilia relating to historic events of World War II.  

To commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the ending of World War II in 1945, the sale at Bonhams focuses on material from battlefields. One of the top lots is an extraordinary archive belonging to Robert Lewis, co-pilot of the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. His collection includes his personal manuscript flying logs, plans and notes for the mission, personal photographs, and two pilot log books filled in by Lewis estimated at $150,000 - 200,000 that recorded every day that he flew.

Other notable lots are:

  • An important 48-star US flag (estimate: $50,000 - 80,000), flown from LCI 510, a landing craft, on Omaha Beach on the afternoon of June 6, 1944 and on other Normandy beaches till June 25, 1944. This LCI landed hundreds of soldiers, nurses, and equipment to and from Omaha Beach on D-Day. All crewmen under the ship's Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Leys, survived the war unscathed.
  • A copy of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, Tokyo Bay, Japan 2 September 1945 (est. 20,000 - 30,000). The Japanese Instrument of Surrender was the written agreement that formalized the surrender of the Empire of Japan. This particular example was given to Ambassador Joseph E. Davies, Special Advisor to US President Harry Truman, whose initials are on the cover.
  • An important 48-star American flag carried by Captain George B. Eldridge, 3rd battalion, at D-day (est. $20,000 - 30,000). The flag was carried as Eldridge went into battle on D-Day on June 6 1944, September 17 1944, and later Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge on December/January 1945.
  • A Japanese Type 94 Shin-Gunto Officer's Sword Recovered from Iwo Jima, 26 March, 1945 captured March 26 1945 (estimated at $15,000 - 20,000). The brown and blue tassel attached to the hilt indicates that the sword belonged to a company or warrant officer.
  • A Japanese "general situation map" of Iwo Jima, captured in the caves at Cushman's Pocket, February 11-15, 1945, estimated at $15,000 - 20,000. The Japanese were aware of US preparations to attack the island for months in advance, and so were able to prepare meticulously for the invasion. The map is annotated with US offensive moves in red, Japanese defensive lines in blue and Japanese counterattacks in brown pencil.
  • United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower's telex to the Combined Chiefs of Staff and British Chiefs of Staff marked “Top Secret” with the words, "the mission is completed at 0241 May 7th 1945," that is being offered for $5,000 - 8,000.

Tom Lamb, from the Books and Manuscripts Department and the specialist in charge of the sale, says, “From the dropping of the Atomic Bomb to the campaigns of Iwo Jima and Okinawa to the fall of Berlin and Surrender of the Japanese, the sale embraces the whole history of World War II, its tragedy and its glory. This year we will offer a wide range of battlefield-sourced pieces from veterans and their families, as we commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the events of 1945.”

The auction will begin at 10am. The catalog is available online here.

Image: Manuscript Flight Logs of Captain Robert A. Lewis, co-pilot of the Enola Gay, 1942-1947. Est. $150,000-$200,000.