The Monuments Men

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Joseph R. Kinzie ( 1917-1973 )

Joseph Kinzie was born in Buffalo, New York on April 25, 1917. He studied at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and State Teachers College at Buffalo (today, Buffalo State College) while working as a waiter to pay for his tuition. In 1937 Kinzie began working as a postal worker at the Main Post Office in Buffalo, New York, where his duties included using conveyor belts and cancelling machines to sort pieces of mail.

Kinzie enlisted in the U.S. Army in November 1940 and was assigned to Field Artillery. Following the end of hostilities, he was transferred to the 6819th Army Information and Education Staff School (AIESS, a training center for Liaison Officers and U.S. Army intelligence specialists in Oberammergau, Germany). During the German occupation, two of the school’s buildings were requisitioned for use by the MFAA as a collecting point for looted archival material. Due to his administrative skills and experience with sorting, Kinzie was recruited by the MFAA to manage the collecting point as Administrator in Charge. In addition to supervising the work of twenty guards, five secretaries, and fifteen German workers, Kinzie directed the sorting, inventorying, and classification of tens of thousands of documents. The most notable collection stored at the Oberammergau Archival Collecting Point was the Bavarian War Archives, which included more than 20,000 pages of historical documents.

In February 1946 the contents of the Oberammergau Archival Collecting Point were transferred to the Munich Central Collecting Point. Due to a severe shortage of transport vehicles in the area, Kinzie was forced to requisition trucks from all over the U.S. Zone of Occupation. His resourcefulness enabled the safe transfer of over 150 tons of archival materials to Munich within just one month. Following the completion of his mission at Oberammergau, Kinzie remained in Germany as a MFAA Specialist Officer until May 1946.

Kinzie returned to active duty with the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He retired as a lieutenant colonel and later died in Farmingdale, New York on December 20, 1973.