The Monuments Men now have a monument of their own — a congressional gold medal honoring members of the World War II military unit for their service in recovering and preserving artwork stolen by Axis personnel during the conflict.
The medal was presented collectively to the Monuments Men Foundation during an Oct. 22 ceremony in Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.
The group received the nation's highest civilian honor in recognition of its heroic role in the preservation, protection, and restitution of monuments, works of art, and artifacts of cultural importance during and following World War II, according to a press release from the United States Mint.
The Mint designed and struck the gold medal, and is selling two different bronze versions to collectors.
According to a Mint press release, “The name ‘Monuments Men’ was given to the men and women who served in the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section under the Allied Armies. Initially, the group was tasked with protecting and temporarily repairing the monuments, churches, and cathedrals of Europe that were damaged due to combat.”
The Mint added: “However, their mission was adapted to identify, preserve, catalogue, and repatriate almost 5,000,000 artistic and cultural items during and following World War II. The Monuments Men saved and recovered some of the world's most famous pieces of art by such renowned artists as Michelangelo, Johannes Vermeer, Jan van Eyck, Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Leonardo da Vinci.”
About the designs
The obverse of the 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,” according to the Mint. The design includes the inscription MONUMENTS MEN.
The obverse was designed by United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program artist Joel Iskowitz and sculptured by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Phebe Hemphill.
The medal's reverse design features some of the thousands of works of art that were at risk from damage, destruction, or theft by Nazi forces, surrounding the inscriptions IT IS OUR PRIVILEGE TO PASS ON TO THE COMING CENTURIES TREASURES OF PAST AGES and GEN. DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER. The design also includes the inscription ACT OF CONGRESS 2014.