The Monuments Men

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Russell H. Buckingham ( 1914-2003 )

Russell Joseph Buckingham, Sr. was born March 18, 1914 in Yonkers, New York. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Fordham University before being drafted into the 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Division (“the fighting 45th Thunderbirds”). Buckingham survived a highly eventful military career which included combat at the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of Dachau concentration camp.

As his regiment pushed into France, Buckingham was shot in the head. Though the bullet penetrated his helmet and cracked his skull, the wound was fixed with a metal plate. He was one of three men to survive the “157 debacle” in which his entire division was either killed or captured by the Germans in the Ardennes forest. He was then shot in the ankle while crawling back to the U.S. line beneath a tank that had come to support the unit after it was overrun. For his service he was awarded the Purple Heart.

Buckingham later served as a courier and driver for MFAA operations in Munich. He worked out of the Munich Central Collecting Point using Hitler’s former radio office, where paintings by Rembrandt and Hans Holbein lined the walls. He travelled a regular route between Munich, Salzburg, and Innsbruck, delivering correspondence between Headquarters and other field offices. Buckingham also made stops at various art repositories.

Buckingham passed away in Pennsylvania on October 22, 2003.

In a tribute to his father, Russell Buckingham, Jr. created an installation for the Freyberger Gallery at Penn State University entitled “Bloodlines” in November 2004. Included in the show were artifacts from the war including letters between his parents, the bronze Nazi eagle that hung above Hitler’s radio room door, and countless photographs from his father’s life.