May 20, 2014
Granger Applauds Passage of Monuments Men Gold Medal Bill
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House of Representatives voted to approve Congresswoman Kay Granger’s (TX-12) Monuments Men Recognition Act, H.R. 3658. The bipartisan legislation will award the World War II unit known as the Monuments Men with the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’ highest recognition for distinguished achievements and contributions.
“I have been looking forward to this day since I first learned the story of the Monuments Men. What started out as an untold story from World War II to now being recognized with Congress’ highest honor has been a remarkable journey,” said Granger. “I appreciate the overwhelming show of support from my colleagues, especially Congressmen Michael Capuano and Steve Cohen, throughout this process. I am grateful to Robert Edsel who uncovered the story behind this unique World War II unit and brought it to life for all of us to recognize the significant contributions of these brave men and women.”
“I am pleased to have been a part of bringing this long overdue recognition to the men and women who made up the Monuments Men and want to especially thank Representative Kay Granger for her leadership and tireless efforts on behalf of the bill,” said Congressman Michael Capuano (D-MA), the lead Democrat original co-sponsor. “As we prepare to remember those who fought and died for our great nation this upcoming Memorial Day, this legislation is a fitting tribute to a group of brave and selfless individuals who went to war, not to fight or to kill, but to preserve our connection to our greatest human endeavor - our culture.”
“I have long been an advocate for the arts as well as for our brave men and women in uniform, so I did not hesitate to support the first-of-its-kind 2007 Congressional bill to recognize the work that the Monuments Men did to protect and preserve artistically and culturally important artifacts during World War II,” said Congressman Cohen (D-TN), who has been involved in the effort to recognize the Monuments Men since 2007 and played a vital role in securing support for the gold medal legislation. “I am proud of the work that Congresswoman Kay Granger and I have done to see that the Monuments Men receive the Congressional Gold Medal they deserve, and I am glad that our colleagues in the House overwhelmingly agreed to pass it today.”
“Memorial Day reminds us to pause and give thanks to the men and women who died in military service fighting for our freedom, including two Monuments Men killed in combat, Capt. Walter Huchthausen and Major Ronald Balfour. It is appropriate that as we approach this special day, the House of Representatives has passed legislation honoring the Monuments Men with the Congressional Gold Medal. I hope and believe their Senate colleagues will soon act in concert. The Monuments Men Foundation is grateful to the supporters of this House bill, in particular its lead sponsor, Rep. Kay Granger, as well as Rep. Michael Capuano and Rep. Steve Cohen, for their tireless efforts to recognize the contributions of the scholar-soldiers who protected and preserved so much of our shared cultural heritage,” said Robert Edsel. Edsel is the Founder and President of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, and author of three non-fiction books on the topic including, Rescuing Da Vinci, The Monuments Men and Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis.
The companion legislation, S. 1862, has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is expected to be taken up by the Senate later this week.
Honoring the work of the Monument Men has been a long-term effort for Congresswoman Granger. In 2006, Granger introduced a resolution to honor the contributions of these men and women. During the Armed Services Committee markup in May 2007, then-Congressman Robin Hayes offered the resolution as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment was approved by the Armed Services Committee and was included as part of the Defense Authorization Act that passed the House.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the concept of cultural preservation officers in 1943. The Monuments Men and women were a group of World War II soldiers from 13 nations, most of whom were American, who were able to locate, preserve, and return almost five million cultural items, including many of the world’s greatest works of art, to their rightful owners. The Monuments Men served in the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section of the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections of the Western Allied Armies.
In February 2014, the movie The Monuments Men, directed by George Clooney, was released. The movie follows “an unlikely World War II platoon…tasked to rescue art masterpieces from Nazi thieves…”. Matt Damon, George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, and Bill Murray among many others are starring in the upcoming movie.
Some of the world’s most famous pieces of art were saved and recovered by this special military effort including Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna, Vermeer’s The Astronomer, and Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece as well as works by Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci. In addition to preserving countless churches and other historic structures from the destruction of war, the Monuments Men and women oversaw the restitution of millions of stolen library books, church bells, Torah scrolls, and other priceless cultural objects to their rightful owners.
There are currently only six surviving members – five men and one woman – of the Monuments Men.