Congresswoman Kay Granger of Texas has introduced bipartisan legislation that would honor the "Monuments Men" of World War II with the Congressional Gold Medal.
After President Franklin Delano Roosevelt approved the idea of cultural preservation officers in 1943, the Monuments Men (and women) helped locate famous works of art confiscated by the Nazis, and return them to their rightful owners.
Their story has inspired three books by author Robert M. Edsel, who's now head of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art. "The Monuments Men and women set the gold standard for the protection of cultural treasures during the most destructive conflict in history. These heroes of civilization are worthy recipients of this great honor."
One of Edsel's books has inspired a new George Clooney and Matt Damon picture called (not surprisingly) The Monuments Men due in theaters on Feburary 7th.
Some of the world's most famous pieces of art were saved and recovered by this special military effort including 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. In addition to preserving countless churches and other historic structures from the destruction of war, the Monuments Men and women oversaw the restitution of millions of stolen library books, church bells, Torah scrolls, and other priceless cultural objects to their rightful owners.
"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," said Granger. "The story of the Monuments Men is one that has to be told, and should be shared as an instrumental part of US and world history. I believe the veterans who participated are certainly worthy and deserving of the recognition of Congress' highest expression of appreciation, the Congressional Gold Medal."
Check out Granger's statement on the House floor below: