Gold Medal Worthy
Earlier this month, I introduced bipartisan legislation to honor the Monuments Men of World War II with the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’ highest expression of appreciation.
The Monuments Men and women were a special unit of cultural preservation officers appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943 and tasked with the responsibility of helping to safely locate and return famous works of art confiscated by the Nazis.
The Monuments Men remained in Europe for almost six years following the end of the fighting to continue their hunt for art and cultural items. Their efforts were a remarkable feat not only because of the world-class art they preserved and returned to their rightful owners, but because of the sheer volume of cultural items that they safely located; almost five million pieces in total. Famous works of art like 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.
I think U.S. Navy reservist George Stout, a member of the Monuments Men unit, said it best, “What if we win the war, but lost the last 500 years of our cultural history?" Sadly, out of nearly 350 World War II Monuments Men, only five are still living - four men and one woman.
While we can never say thank you enough, I believe the Congressional Gold Medal is a worthy token of appreciation from a grateful Nation to members of the greatest generation.
Member of Congress
By the way, I wanted to share with you a story CBS News recently aired on the Monuments Men and my legislation honoring them with the Congressional Gold Medal. Click to watch.