Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony Honoring the Monuments Men
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Leaders of the U.S. House and Senate held a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony today honoring the Monuments Men. The following are Leader McConnell’s remarks delivered during the ceremony, which took place in Emancipation Hall, in the U.S. Capitol:
“A few years ago, Louisville’s Speed Art Museum unveiled an exhibit entitled Kentucky Home: The Colonial Revival Houses of Stratton O. Hammon.
“Since designing his first house as a teenager in the 1920s, Hammon went on to become one of the more popular architects of the last century. His homes still dot the streets of Louisville today. I’m pleased to report that Stratton Hammon is also a fellow graduate of duPont Manual High School.
“He set the bar high for those of us that followed, and not just because of his architecture.
“Hammon joined the Army in World War II. He participated in the Normandy invasion in 1944. And thanks to his background in art and architecture, he eventually settled into the Palace of Versailles as Monuments Officer at General Eisenhower’s headquarters.
“This Kentuckian, who unfortunately passed way in 1997, is one of the hundreds of Monuments Men we honor today.
“These men and women came from different countries. They hailed from vastly different backgrounds. But they shared a common mission.
“To defend colonnades of civilization through crucibles of war.
“One man would flee Nazi Germany the day after his Bar Mitzvah, only to return and liberate hundreds of looted cultural treasures in the salt mines of Heilbronn.
“Another, a Scottish-born, London-raised, and American-educated writer, would become an art detective who helped recover priceless paintings.
“There’s the native Chicagoan who would assist in the movement of recovered stolen art in Western Germany.
“And in the Pacific theater, there’s the American-born typist who would generate field reports for Monuments Men in Tokyo.
“These four men and women came from different circumstances. They each contributed in their own way. But all advanced an important mission that could have easily been overlooked.
“And these four people are here with us here today.
“You know, after their service, many of the Monuments Men quickly blended back into society. As artists, for instance, or as curators.
“Even Stratton Hammon returned to his architectural firm in Kentucky — though, it’s worth mentioning that his firm began specializing in the effects of explosives on structural integrity.
“The point is that the service of the Monuments Men often went unheralded, even though it had changed them. Yet we owe the men and women who served a real debt of gratitude. Without their service, we may have won a war but lost our common heritage.
“The Gold Medal we present today is our country’s way of saying that that service should not only be recognized, but celebrated.
“It’s our nation’s way of saying thank you.”
Related Issues: History, America's Military, Tributes