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Lester Mann Willess ( 1918-1982 )

Lester Mann Willess was born in Lander, Wyoming on July 6, 1918. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he and his wife, a Japanese national, were relocated to a Japanese internment camp in Arizona. Given the chance to secure their release by joining the U.S. Armed Forces, Willess enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves.

While on reserve status, Willess began a career as a clerk in San Bernardino, California. He entered active duty in March 1943, serving with a succession of European Civil Affairs Regiments before accepting a transfer to the MFAA in Germany in August 1945. Willess worked first in Marburg alongside Monuments Men Lt. Sheldon W. Keck, Capt. Walter I. Farmer, and Capt. Patrick J. Kelleher, and later in Wiesbaden, where he assisted Monuments Man Lt. Samuel Ratensky.

Willess was discharged in December 1945 but remained in Europe for several years as an antique dealer in Paris. He died on May 9, 1982 and was buried in Calverton, New York.

The Foundation is very interested in learning more about Lester Willess’s life, as well as his military service as a Monuments Man. If you have any information, please contact abottinelli@monumentsmenfoundation.org.