The Real Story Behind The ‘Monuments Men’ Goes Far Deeper Than The Blockbuster Movie

Put aside the twists, the plot, the cast and all the rest, the real story of the Monuments Men is far more complex than this new cinematic dramatization, produced, directed and starring George Clooney.

The 13 officers, originally from 13 different nations, came together in a final effort to locate and save the Nazi looted artwork. The Monuments Men were assigned with the task of identifying the lost art works and take them to a safe place, far away from the evil minds who planned to completely destroy every object hidden by them in salt mines and other top secret locations.

They didn’t only locate and return these lost objects and works of art to their previous owners, but they also protected many Berlin museums thought to be in danger and persuaded Allied bombers not to target certain buildings, museums and constructions for their cultural significance.

Never mind that, Clooney’s film seems to follow a different path, where the good guys are fighting the bad guys while locating and saving works of art. “There is a quieter, behind-the-scenes story that is also important,” said the chief of the National’s Gallery Archives, Maygene Daniels. Therefore, a new exhibition entitled  “The Monuments Men and the National Gallery of Art: Behind the History,” meant to depict this not so well known story, will be featuring documents, photographs, objects and memorabilia, most of them displayed for the first time, The Huffington Post reports.

Daniels is the Chief of the Gallery Archives and she is responsible for the historical records of the museum, including documents and papers brought in by the Monuments Men after their campaign to recover the lost art in Europe, during the Second World War.

“Great works of art…belong so obviously to all who love them — they are so clearly the property not of their single owners but of all men everywhere.” This beautiful Roosevelt quote can be found on the National Gallery website. Why? Because the plans involving the Monuments Men and the saving of Europe’s cultural treasures began in an NGA office and included personalities such as David Finley, the director of the National Gallery, the Chief Justice of the United States Harlan Stone, who was also the Chairman of the NGA and President Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Another good thing about the Monuments Men is that not only were they good photographers and brought back home numerous photographs illustrating the mountains of looted art, but they were also highly educated, which made them able to write fantastic military reports.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE