SARASOTA, Fla. -- John Buchan, co-owner of High Noon Guns in Sarasota, has probably seen countless unique items come across his counter, but none near as meaningful as what he stumbled upon a short time ago.
Recently, Buchan was able to get his hands on a rare Nazi naval battle flag in a trade. His original intent was to sell it to a collector. But after examining the flag further, he found names of soldiers written on the white circle.
“You've got Private First Class Ranieri, Detroit, Michigan, you have a CPL. Harold Moyer, address missing, you've got SGT. Robert Curtis, you've got SGT Carl Heitger, Sturgis, Michagan. His son is actually the one getting the flag.”
John Buchan reads off a few names of the ten WWII soldiers who signed a capture Nazi Naval flag. The flag was brought into the High Noon Guns shop where Buchan is a co-owner and offered for trade. “A lot of these things come through the door, you never know what is coming through the door that is the cool part about it.”
He says the flag is worth about $600 and planed to sell it to a collector before he noticed the G.I.'s signatures. “At that point I changed my whole theory I was going to keep it. My whole plan changed,” said Buchan. “Because of what's on it it is no longer a Nazi Flag, it is an American flag, it has got American signatures on it and these guys fought for it.”
After reading the names he started thinking about the ten men who signed the flag and his plan changed once again. “They fought for it and that sort of hit something inside me. And the next thing I know I am on the internet trying to track these old guys down. Unfortunately from what I found they have all passed on.”
But he did locate the son of one of the G.I.'s, Mark Heitger, who lives in Indiana. “So we are going to send the flag back to who I think deserves it; somebody who was in this unit and it is going back into the family.”
Buchan plans to keep the flag at his gun store for a few days before boxing it up and sending to Heitger as a gift.
ABC7 reached Mark Heitger by phone on Friday. He said his father rarely spoke about his service in the war but he knew his dad was a medic who fought in seven major battles including Normandy and The Battle of the Bulge.
Heitger plans to have the flag framed so it can be displayed in VFW Hall where is father used to hang out.