Legislation proposes Monuments Men be given congressional gold medal


WASHINGTON -- Congress has sought to pay tribute to World War II groups before it’s too late, awarding congressional gold medals to the dwindling members of such groups as the First Special Service Force, a U.S.-Canadian commando unit depicted in the movie “The Devil’s Brigade,” and the first black Marines, known as the Montford Point Marines.

Now, a perhaps lesser known World War II-era group has been proposed to receive the congressional gold medal: the Monuments Men, charged with tracking down and sending Nazi art loot back to the countries from which it was taken.

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) has introduced legislation to award Congress’ highest civilian honor to the group, originally about 350 men -- and women. Only five survive.


Calling their work “one of the greatest untold stories from World War II,” Granger said, “I don’t believe it can be overstated how significant the contributions of the Monuments Men are to the preservation of many of the world’s most remarkable pieces of art.”

Their story will soon gain greater attention with the release early next year of a George Clooney movie, “The Monuments Men,” based on Robert Edsel’s 2009 book “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.” Granger became interested in the Monuments Men after meeting Edsel at a dinner, according to her staff.

The legislation comes after the recent revelation that 1,400 art works were found in a Munich apartment, including items believed to have been looted by the Nazis.

The Monuments Men located and returned about 5 million items, according to the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art.

The legislation has a ways to go. Granger must line up at least two-thirds of the House as co-sponsors for the measure to be considered.

Congress recently presented gold medals to Native American code-talkers who used their native tongues to transmit wartime messages the enemy could not decipher.


Legislation has been introduced to award gold medals to the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, Filipino World War II veterans and World War II members of the Civil Air Patrol.

World War II veterans have been dying at a rate of 420 a day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Of 16 million World War II veterans, fewer than 1.2 million survive today. Only two World War II veterans still serve in Congress. Congressional gold medal recipients can be found here.


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