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David G. Wilkes ( ? -? )

David G. Wilkes served in the U.S. Army Infantry before accepting an assignment with the MFAA Section of the Office of Military Government for Bavaria in November 1945. His arrival at the Munich Central Collecting Point came on the heels of the redeployment of the center’s second in command, Monuments Man Lt. Cdr. J. Hamilton Coulter, as well as Coulter’s assistant, Monuments Man Capt. George T. Lacey. Coulter and Lacey had skillfully overseen all repairs, heating, lighting, roofing, procurement of supplies, and management of security at the collecting point since its inception in June 1945. Their departure marked a crucial passing of the torch. Wilkes trained briefly under Coulter, becoming familiar with the building’s procedures and working to ensure a smooth transition.

In the months following Coulter’s departure, Wilkes worked to build upon his predecessor’s accomplishments. In addition to managing all building maintenance, he paid special attention to security concerns. The Munich Central Collecting Point served as the nexus for the return of some of Europe’s greatest cultural treasures, including Jan Van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece, Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine, Vermeer’s Astronomer, and Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna. The value of such an assembly of masterpieces was incalculable. Wilkes personally supervised the military guards, increased their numbers and gave specific instructions to the Munich fire brigade in the event of fire. He also kept a close watch on who entered and exited the building. Any suspicious persons were approached by Wilkes, who made it his business to know everything that went on inside the collecting point. Every evening at precisely 6:00 p.m., the guard on post checked the main sign-in book, making a list of who still remained in the building. This list was then held at the front desk for careful inspection by Wilkes the following morning. The collecting point’s director, Monuments Man Lt. Craig H. Smyth, later remarked that Wilkes “considerably aided in the work of restitution.”

Wilkes remained an involved participant at the Munich Central Collecting point until July 1946, when he was redeployed. Following his return to the United States, he lived in Brooklyn, New York.

The Foundation is very interested in learning more about David Wilkes’s life before and after the war. If you have any information, please contact abottinelli@monumentsmenfoundation.org.