The Congressional Gold Medal

President Obama Signs Legislation Awarding Monuments Men with Congressional Gold Medal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 10, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – On Monday evening, President Barack Obama signed Congresswoman Kay Granger’s (TX-12) Monuments Men Recognition Act into law officially awarding the Monuments Men of World War II with the Congressional Gold Medal; Congress’ highest recognition for distinguished achievements and contributions.

“I am profoundly grateful that the legacy of the Monuments Men will now forever be honored and recognized by the United States. What started out as one of the greatest untold stories from World War II has become a celebrated chapter in our nation’s history,” said Granger. “We were reminded this past weekend how special the men and women are who make up the Greatest Generation and all the extraordinary sacrifices they made on our behalf. This generation of heroes is more than deserving of all the honors they have received and I am proud this gold medal can now be added to the list of recognitions of their distinguished service.”

"It is fitting that President Obama has signed legislation awarding the Monuments Men with the Congressional Gold Medal just days after the 70th anniversary of the historic D-Day landings. The Monuments Men serving alongside troops fighting in Italy, and followed the brave men that fought their way onto the Normandy beaches during that epic battle. These scholar-soldiers were a new kind of warrior, tasked by Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower with preserving as much of the artistic and cultural beauty of western civilization as war allowed. Two would eventually lose their lives in this effort. Today we recognize their service to mankind, a model that should guide us in all future conflicts," 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.

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.

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 five Monuments Men still living: Harry Ettlinger, Richard Barancik, Bernard Taper, Rouben Sami and Anne Oliver Popham Bell.

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