In light of the upcoming release of "The Monuments Men" movie this week starring Missouri native John Goodman, as well as actors George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, and Bill Murray, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) and his colleagues continued to push for bipartisan legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the men and women who worked to protect cultural artifacts during World War II.
In December 2013, Blunt introduced bipartisan legislation awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the "Monuments Men," a group of approximately 350 men and women from 13 countries who are credited with preserving, protecting, and restoring millions of pieces of artwork, sculptures, and other cultural artifacts in Europe during World War II.
"Incredible men and women from Missouri and across the world fought to protect and preserve millions of invaluable cultural artifacts from devastation during World War II," Blunt said. "I'm excited to see their compelling story adapted into film, and I'm hopeful that through this movie and this bipartisan legislation we can encourage more Americans to learn about the rich history of these works of art and the remarkable legacies of the Monuments Men."
Four of the Monuments Men were Missouri natives, and 10 were later employed in Missouri, including two Directors of the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Mo. The bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), John Boozman (Ark.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), and Jim Risch (Idaho), and was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Representative Kay Granger (Texas).
"Today we are able to enjoy numerous works of art done by the some of the world's most renowned artists thanks to the heroics of the Monuments Men who helped rescue them from the Nazi regime and preserve them for future generations. I'm proud to support this legislation that highlights the remarkable story of the sacrifice they endured on a mission to protect pieces of history," Boozman said.
"This is a long-overdue honor for the men and women who risked so much to preserve countless cultural treasures from destruction during World War II," Cantwell said. "Americans owe these heroes a great deal of gratitude, including two leaders from Washington state -- Theodore Heinrich, an art historian who was born in Tacoma, and Sherman Lee, who was a professor at the University of Washington and Associate Director at the Seattle Art Museum. Without their uncommon courage, some of the world's most renowned artworks may have been lost forever. Our bipartisan legislation and this new film seek to remind Americans of this chapter in history and to commend this group for their heroic efforts."
"I'm incredibly proud to honor New Jerseyan Henry Ettlinger, a surviving member of the Monuments Men, for his work to recover, protect, preserve, and return innumerable works of art and artifacts that might have disappeared or been destroyed during WWII and even more proud that I can call him a friend," Menendez said. "I know I share in his excitement and look forward to seeing their amazing story captured in film."
"The brave men and women whose story is told in "The Monuments Men' are truly unsung heroes of World War II," Moran said. "Their passion and courage is responsible for safeguarding and preserving some of civilization's greatest cultural and artistic achievements amidst the destruction of war. I am proud to join my colleague Sen. Blunt in working to award the Congressional Gold Medal to those whose legacy of protection for the sake of the next generation are finally receiving the recognition they deserve."