Eight years ago, on the 63rd anniversary of the D-Day landings, I announced the formation of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art. Four Monuments Men participated in that ceremony. Today only one of those four is still with us bringing the number of living Monuments Men and women to just six. We always knew we were in a race against time to gather their stories and honor them. What I couldn’t know at the time was the degree of success the Foundation would have in achieving its objective to raise worldwide awareness of theses heroes and honor them for their achievements. One feature film, and two more books, would
introduce their legacy to a global audience. Through the advocacy of the Foundation they would receive honors from two different presidents and the members of Congress. Soon they will receive the Congressional Gold Medal, our nation’s highest civilian honor.
As I walk the streets of Bruges, Belgium on a day when we remember the enormity of the sacrifice of young men who fought their way onto the bloodied beachheads of Normandy, and the courage of their leaders—in particular General Eisenhower, who made that fateful decision to “GO,” I give thanks also for the handful of Monuments Men and women who selflessly volunteered for military service to help preserve so much of the cultural world we enjoy today. The world we have inherited is profoundly richer for the great objects of beauty they helped saved, none more so than Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna which I visited this morning.
The Monuments Men Foundation team has accomplished much, but as the daily destruction and theft of cultural treasures in Syria, Iraq, and now Yemen remind us, much remains to be done. Please join the Monuments Men Foundation and learn how you can help us reestablish the respect for the cultural treasures of others that defined the work of these scholar-soldiers.