Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center played host Thursday to a ceremony awarding the nation’s highest civilian honor. Congress gave the Congressional Gold Medal to the heroes who served in the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section of the Allied Armies during and after World War II.
These men and woman were affectionately known as the "Monuments Men." Their work aided in the preservation and protection of monuments, works of art, and artifacts of cultural importance.
"I, as baby of these soldiers, on behalf of those that are alive and those that have gone to the great beyond, graciously accept this great honor," Harry Ettlinger, 89 and a Monuments Men’s veteran, said at the gold medal ceremony. "Let us again, and again announce, to the people of the world that their culture will be cherished as long as they respect the culture of others
Throughout its short but important history, 345 men and women were part of the Monuments Men. Today, only six are still alive.
The group saved over 5 million works of art from Nazi Germany. Their original dictate was to protect and preserve the monuments, churches, and cathedrals of Europe damaged by combat. That role quickly grew to include identification, preservation, cataloging, and the repatriation of millions of pieces of stolen works, including some from artistic masters such as Michelangelo, Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Leonardo da Vinci.
Medal Designs, Bronze Duplicates Available
The United States Mint strikes all Congressional Gold Medals. The obverse or heads side of the Monuments Men medal features a portrayal of soldiers in action, lifting and removing objects from a cave or mine location where Monuments Men discovered stolen works. The artwork depicted represents major works of historic significance the group recovered. The design includes the inscription "MONUMENTS MEN." United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) artist Joel Iskowitz completed the design and United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill sculpted it.
Featured on the reverse are some of the thousands of works of art that were at risk from damage, destruction, or theft by Nazi forces. Within are inscriptions reading: IT IS OUR PRIVILEGE TO PASS ON TO THE COMING CENTURIES TREASURES OF PAST AGES and GEN. DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER. Along the bottom is ACT OF CONGRESS 2014. AIP artist Donna Weaver created the design and United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Joseph Menna sculpted it.
Public Law 113-116 directed the U.S. Mint to strike the gold medal as well as make and sell bronze medal replicas of it to the public. A 3-inch version is available for $39.95 and a 1.5-inch medal is for sale at $6.95.
Order them from the Mint’s website at catalog.usmint.gov or call 1-800-USA-MINT (872-6468).