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Today’s post is written by David Langbart, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park.
“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is considered one of the great motion pictures produced by the American movie industry. In 1989, the Library of Congress added this masterpiece to the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
The movie, starring James Stewart as Jefferson Smith (the “Mr. Smith” of the title), tells the story of a political innocent who becomes a Senator and is caught up in shenanigans and corruption in Washington but ultimately prevails. “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” premiered in Washington on October 17, 1939. Despite some early controversy surrounding its portrayal of the American political system, “Mr. Smith” quickly became an uplifting and popular hit. Most of the initial objections came from the community of politicians portrayed in a less than flattering light by the movie.
After viewing the motion picture, U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain Joseph P. Kennedy sent a telegram to Will Hays, a leading force in the motion picture industry. Hays was head of Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, an organization aimed at improving and protecting the image of the movie industry. Earlier in his career, Kennedy had spent time in and made major investments in Hollywood and probably believed he was qualified to judge the movie. Kennedy sent the following telegram to Hays on November 12, 1939:
Motion Picture Producers
44th Street, New York City
I have just seen Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. STOP. I consider this one of the most disgraceful things I have ever seen done to our country. STOP. To permit this film to be shown in foreign countries and to give people the impression that anything like this could happen in the United States Senate is to me nothing short of criminal. STOP. I am sending a copy of this wire to the President of the United States.
JOSEPH P. KENNEDY
Ambassador Kennedy’s Telegram re: “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”
In response, Kennedy received a telegram from Harry Cohn and Frank Capra, respectively head of Columbia Pictures and director of the movie. They wrote, in part, as follows:
Because we value your good opinion and judgment greatly we are deeply concerned with expressions conveyed in your cable to Hays. Newspaper opinion throughout country editorially as well as in reviews have boldly and enthusiastically stated “Mr. Smith” has great patriotic lift. We do not believe this picture could have been given such vast acclaim as it has received if content or theme were either unpatriotic or constituted attack on our form of Government. We believe and countless newspaper comments agree that picture develops theme of true Americanism showing how under our democratic procedures least experienced of peoples representatives could arise in highest legislative halls, expose political chicanery and through existing Senate rules and with sympathetic aid of presiding Senatorial office make justice triumph over one crooked Senator.
Cohn and Capra closed their telegram with positive quotations about the movie from the New York Times, the Herald Tribune, the Washington Post, the Boston Transcript, the Atlanta Constitution, the Cleveland News, and the Cincinnati Inquirer. They also mentioned that the Hearst newspaper chain viewed the movie favorably and encouraged readers to see it. The quotation of reviews ended by noting that the International Federation of Catholic Alumnae “states in its review that this is great screen achievement which only a Democracy could present.”
The records include no subsequent documentation so it appears that the matter ended there.
Kennedy’s reputation as a diplomat is not a positive one. After World War II broke out in September 1939, he took a defeatist attitude and was ultimately forced out of his position in November 1940. In retrospect, it seems clear that Ambassador Kennedy’s comments as a movie critic were as astute as the analyses of the international situation he made as a diplomat.
[Source: All documents quoted and reproduced here come from File 840.6 in the 1939 GENERAL RECORDS of the U.S. Embassy in Great Britain (Entry UD-2599A, NAID 1667799), part of RG 84: Records of Foreign Service Posts of the Department of State.]
Today’s post was written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives in College Park.
The idea of establishing an American commission to assist in protecting and restituting cultural property in war areas grew out of discussions among American educators and museum officials about the potentially dangerous impact of the European war on historic works of art and artifacts. In the fall of 1942, the American Defense–Harvard Group, established by a group of Harvard University faculty two years earlier, began working with the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) to devise plans for protecting cultural property in European areas that would soon be occupied by Allied military forces. Representatives of these groups plus officials of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art approached Supreme Court Chief Justice Harlan F. Stone, who was also a National Gallery of Art board member, with a proposal for a Federal commission that would protect and restitute Nazi-looted art. After discussing the matter with Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Chief Justice Stone wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in December 1942 to solicit his support.
As a result of several conferences among groups concerned about the protection of European cultural heritage, George L. Stout (Fogg Museum conservator), Paul J. Sachs (Fogg Museum and Harvard University), and George H. Chase (Harvard University Professor of classical art) in January 1943 wrote Francis H. Taylor (President of the American Association of Museums); William B. Dinsmoor (Chairman of the Department of Fine Arts at Columbia, professor of archaeology, and president of the Archaeological Institute of America); Waldo G. Leland (Director of the American Council of Learned Societies); and Laurence V. Coleman (Director of the American Association of Museums). The letter enclosed a draft petition to the Government to create a Commission for the protection and restitution of cultural objects affected or threatened by the war. This petition as drafted included the statement, “To safeguard these things will show respect for the beliefs and customs of all men and will bear witness that these things belong not only to particular peoples but also to the heritage of mankind.”
Not waiting for the Government to act, at the ACLS annual meeting on January 29, 1943, the Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies on the Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas was created under the chairmanship of William B. Dinsmoor, and was aided initially by financial grants from the Rockefeller Foundation. The Committee’s headquarters were established in July at the Frick Art Reference Library in New York which made space and staff available. Because of the great amount of space needed for the work, the Library closed its doors to the public until January 4, 1944, when the Committee was able to restrict its working space. Here and at the Blumenthal House, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the greatest part of its work was done between July 1, 1943, and April 1, 1945.
In April Dinsmoor wrote the Director of the School of Military Government in Charlottesville, Virginia, that the committee had already compiled a roster of competent individuals who could serve as Civil Affairs officers dealing with cultural matter, and that it was preparing a series of city and town maps having locations of the important monuments and collections plainly marked. He also indicated that the committee, with adequate funding, also wanted to prepare a card catalogue of cultural monuments and museums and private collections of sufficient importance to place under guard in the event of occupation; acquiring information on and from museum personnel in occupied countries; compiling information regarding the confiscation, forced sales, auctions, or destruction of European cultural property; and, preparing brief general directions for the salvage and temporary protection of movable and immovable works of art. The committee sent out to interested scholars a statement of its aims, and a questionnaire enlisting their assistance, which were forwarded to the Secretary of War on May 11, 1943.
The first full meeting of the ACLS Committee on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas took place on in New York City on June 25. At the meeting, Archivist of the United States Solon J. Buck, a member of the committee, expressed the hope that archival material would not be overlooked and that information concerning this material was readily available in the National Archives. Buck stated that Professor Ernst Posner, with the assistance of the National Archives, would be interested in helping to prepare a full inventory of archival institutions of Europe. Early in July, Dinsmoor and the committee’s executive secretary, Sumner McK. Crosby, visited the National Archives and asked for its advice and cooperation in the development of lists of cultural monuments, treasures, and institutions to be made available to the armed forces. By June, specialist officers at the School of Military Government were being trained to locate and protect works of artistic and historic significance in war zones.
In the meantime, in April 1943, the President responded to Justice Stone that he had discussed the proposal with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as the commission would need to work closely with the U.S. military. On June 23, President Roosevelt approved the creation of a Federal commission to assist the U.S. Army in protecting cultural property in Allied-occupied areas and to formulate restitution principles and procedures. Two months later, the State Department announced the official establishment of the Commission under the chairmanship of Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts. The American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas (initially “in Europe”)—also known as the Roberts Commission—was established on August 20. Commission members worked with the U.S. military, museum officials, art historians, and international commissions to protect European (later with Asian) art, monuments, institutions, and records of cultural value from war-related damage or theft. In addition, the Commission would aide in the restitution of public and private property appropriated by the Nazis and their collaborators.
In order to clarify the relationship of the Commission to the work of the ACLS Committee on the Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas and the American Defense-Harvard Group, the Commission requested that these groups continue their activities, but that their work be canalized through the Commission for distribution to the proper government agencies.
At its first meeting in August 1943, the Roberts Commission established seven committees to undertake Commission activities as well as to coordinate its relationship with the ACLS Committee and the American Defense–Harvard Group. One of these was the Committee on Collection of Maps, Information, and Description of Art Objects under the direction of Dinsmoor and Paul JSachs, with Charles R. Morey, Sumner McK. Crosby and William L. M. Burke as Advisers. During the several months preceding the Commission’s establishment, the Harvard Group had worked with a wide circle of scholars to compile lists of monuments needing protection. In July 1943, the ACLS Committee used these lists and additional information to create maps that identified cultural treasures Allied armies were likely to encounter.
On July 9, Dinsmoor, acting in his capacity as chairman of the Committee on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas, and the committee’s executive secretary, Sumner McK. Crosby, met with Maj. Gen. John H. Hilldring, Chief of the Civil Affairs Division of the War Department. At this meeting Hilldring approved the committee’s idea of providing the War Department with cultural maps. Five days later Dinsmoor wrote Hilldring that the committee was proceeding with the greatest possible speed in the preparation of maps of cities in European war areas, beginning with Italy. He noted that the collection of the factual data to accompany the maps was proceeding in collaboration with the Library of Congress, National Archives, and the Smithsonian Institution.
The small ACLS’s Committee on the Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas’ technical staff was aided by more than a hundred expert scholars, art historians, collectors, and artists, many of them refugees from Europe. They compiled lists and catalogues and prepared maps of the monuments, fine art objects, and archives to be protected in all theaters of war. This plan of mapping and indexing, though simple and effective in concept and use, called for great ingenuity and an enormous amount of patient detailed work in its preparation. A master index was set up covering each of the occupied countries and each of the provinces in that country, describing and mapping the edifices, works, and objects of art which might be encountered by the Allied armies. The lists of cultural treasures put together by the American Defense-Harvard Group were of invaluable assistance in this operation.
To obtain this information several thousands of questionnaires were sent out to officials and scholars of American art and educational-institutions asking for data on their recent research abroad. Guides of all kinds and special reference books were studied. The Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives, the American Library Association, the Library of Congress, and other institutions lent a hand with their files and staffs.
As the master index grew, it was checked and rechecked by the experts and the Committee’s specialists. Separate lists of churches, palaces and houses, monuments, and cultural institutions were compiled. As they were completed they were photostated and copies were forwarded to the War Department at Washington. Working from the information assembled in the master file, detailed maps of the principal cities, regions, and countries of all areas involved in the war were prepared for the use of Army ground and air forces. Objects to be protected were spotted in on a tracing overlay on the maps, many of which were supplied by the Army Map Service. The whole was photostated, and positive prints of each were sent to Washington. In addition, a negative photostat of each was transmitted to the Army Air Corps, thus permitting duplication to as great an extent as was necessary for the Service Forces. Reproduction of these photostatic maps was an extensive project in itself, supported by the Frick Art Reference Library and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Maps of the most important areas were printed and bound up into atlases by the Provost Marshal General’s Office; these areas were Belgium, Denmark, France, Holland, Italy, Norway, Germany, and Japan. In all, the War Department was supplied with comprehensive data on Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, French Indochina, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Java, Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Rumania, Sumatra, and Yugoslavia. The total number of these annotated maps was 786, created between July 1943 and April 1945. The files of cards used as preparatory material for these maps as well as the originals and negative arid positive photostatic copies were subsequently deposited with the Roberts Commission.
The Roberts Commission’s secondary goal was to recommend restitution principles and procedures to the State Department and to work with the War Department to implement them. Commission staff in London worked with a number of national and international agencies and commissions addressing the issue of restitution. Similarly the American Commission, through the ACLS Committee, had for some time been collecting such information as it could with regard to actual looting, but sources of information in this country were limited and almost entirely secondary. A centralization of this sort of information seemed mandatory. So, in April 1944 the Conference of Allied Ministers of Education in London established the Inter-Allied Commission for the Protection and Restitution of Cultural Materials (also known as the Vaucher Commission). This commission was one of the first entities to systematically collect and organize information regarding Nazi looting and destruction of art, artifacts, and cultural institutions. Using as a nucleus the files prepared by Karol Estreicher on looted objects and on personnel concerned with looting, particularly in Poland, the Vaucher Commission proceeded to build a file on loot and enemy personnel involved in looting to which was added the file of information concerning loot and war damage compiled by the ACLS Committee in New York. A system was established whereby the accessioning and filing in the two centers were made identical, and duplicates of the index cards in microfilm were interchanged between the United States and the Vaucher Commission. Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) officers used this information in their investigations.
The Commission, the ACLS Committee, and the War Department welcomed the assistance the National Archives provided, all realizing the importance of archives and archival institutions. Much of the information on archival repositories in enemy-occupied territory that the National Archives furnished was incorporated onto maps prepared by the ACLS Committee and published and distributed by the Military Government Division of the Provost Marshal General (PMG)’s Office. Lists of archival repositories and information on record keeping practices of existing agencies were also furnished directly to the PMG’s Office, which distributed them to overseas theaters of operations. These lists contained the names, location, official head, holdings and buildings for 1,619 important archival repositories in Europe.
Another activity of the ACLS Committee was the preparation of a lecture on the importance of protecting and salvaging the artistic and historic monuments in Europe to be given as part of the curriculum of the Civil Affairs Training Schools throughout the country. This lecture, illustrated with 54 slides, was given at Yale, Pittsburgh, Harvard, Western Reserve, Northwestern, Stanford, Wisconsin, and Michigan Universities. A printed statement entitled, “First Aid Protection for Art Treasures and Monuments,” mainly an abstract from the manual prepared by the American Defense-Harvard Group, was prepared and distributed to the Civil Affairs officers attending these lectures.
In the spring of 1945, the Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies on the Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas shut down operations in New York City and relocated its files to the Roberts Commission. In the process of terminating the committee’s existence, Dinsmoor wrote the Archivist of the United States on June 1, thanking him for the assistance of the National Archives to the work of the committee:
Letter from ACLS Chairman William Dinsmoor to Archivist of the United States Solon J. Buck
The Roberts Commission ended its existence on June 30, 1946. When it transferred its records to the National Archives, it included the files of the Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies on the Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas. These files were subsequently microfilmed, on constitute rolls 95-154 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas (Roberts Commission), 1943-1946.
 “Letter of appreciation from ACLS Chairman William Dinsmoor to Archivist of the United States Solon J. Buck”, Case 145-E6, American Council of Learned Societies-Relations with the ACLS Committee on Cultural Treasures in War Areas (Dinsmoor Committee), Case Files Relating to Extra-Federal Archival Affairs, 1944-1948 (Entry A1-151, NAID 7562969), Office of the Archivist, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 64.
Today’s post, written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, is the next installment in an ongoing series of posts on real-life Monuments Men.
The movie, The Monuments Men, has focused great attention on the Monuments Men (and women) and their work during and after World War II. Of course the movie cannot tell the story of the over 300 individuals involved in Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFA&A) work, so it focuses on three: George Stout, James Rorimer, and Rose Valland, played by George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Cate Blanchett respectively. Beginning in December 2013, Dr. Greg Bradsher and Dr. Sylvia Naylor thought it would be illustrative to discuss some of the lesser known individuals, and thus started a series of blog posts. This blog post on Everett Parker Lesley, Jr. is the seventeenth in this series.
Everett Parker Lesley, Jr.—known as “Bill” Lesley—was born in Baltimore, Maryland on August 31, 1913. He graduated in 1934 from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Classical Literature (Greek). In 1935 he earned a Certificat des études, Institut d’Art et d’Archéologie from the University of Paris, and in 1937 he earned a Master of Fine Arts, Art and Archaeology, Princeton University. Also in 1937 he earned a Certificat des études from the University of Brussels, Belgium as a Belgian-American Educational Foundation Fellow. Lesley was Curator of European Art at Detroit Institute of Arts in 1938 and 1939. From 1939 to 1942, he was Assistant Professor of Art and Architecture at University of Minnesota. By the time he entered military duty in 1942, he had traveled to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, England, and Spain and had French, German, Spanish, and Italian language skills.
Lesley enlisted as Private in the United States Army, June 1942 and was commissioned December 1942 at the Quartermaster Corps Officer Candidate School. In 1944, Capt. Lesley was selected for Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) duty and on August 24 he reported to London from Washington for indoctrination. On August 26, he began work with MFA&A Section, G-5 Operations Branch, General Staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), working on official lists of protected monuments for Germany. Since he was trained to read air photographs, Lt. Col. Geoffrey Webb—head of MFA&A operations —found him of great usefulness in helping with an urgent survey of the damage to the listed monuments of western Germany, which was then being made. On September 5, Webb requested his attachment be extended for two additional weeks to complete his assignment. His work on the project lasted until the end of September, at which time he was relieved from further attachment to the MFA&A Section, Operations Branch, G-5 Division, SHAEF and ordered to report to the Commanding Officer, European Civil Affairs Division for further instructions.
By early October 1944, Lesley was assigned to MFA&A duty with the First U.S. Army, 12th Army Group in France. There he met Capt. Walker Hancock, the other MFA&A officer with that army. Together they moved with the First U.S. Army as it fought its way through France and Belgium, and into Germany.
After learning about the damage to Stavelot and Malmedy and other towns American troops occupied during the winter of 1944 and 1945, Lesley and Hancock jointly wrote in the First U.S. Army MFA&A Semi-Monthly Report, February 1, 1945:
There remains only one means by which the MFA&A Specialist Officer in the field can, in a measure, prevent the reoccurrence of such incidents as those of Stavelot and Malmedy. He must be free to work, for longer periods at a time, with the commanders of Corps, Divisions, and Regimental Combat teams, in advance of and during operations. There he could make preliminary pinpointing, in conjunction with tactical commanders at lower echelons, of monuments within their areas and accompanying, if feasible, the commander of these echelons during operations, in order to post, protect, appraise, or inventory monuments. As an answer to the problem of covering an entire Army area during a rapid operation we further suggested the feasibility of designating a particular member of the Corps G-5 Staff to consult with the MFA&A office to pinpoint monuments in the anticipated corridor of operations.
After stressing the absolute necessity for more latitude of movement, they observed:
The MFA&A officers represent a service both unparalleled and unprecedented in the U.S. Army, one which cannot easily be processed through traditional channels. It is unrealistic to assume that the duties so uniquely theirs will or can be carried out by others. The need for the MFA&A Specialist Officers is to be on the spot at the time danger to monuments is imminent, or damage is taking place. All tactical commanders with whom the undersigned have conferred are unanimous in agreeing that the place for the MFA&A Specialist Officer is in the advance, not rear, of tactical operations.
Their report resulted in the Adjutant General, Headquarters, First U.S. Army sending a memorandum—dated February 4—addressed to Corps, Division, and Separate Unit Commanders, Subject: Protection of Historic/Artistic Monuments, giving Hancock and Lesley the latitude they requested.
On February 8, 1945, Lesley was relieved from duty with the First U.S. Army and assigned to the Fifteenth U.S. Army. The Fifteenth U.S. Army had been relocated from England to the Continent on January 9 and assigned to the 12th Army Group. Its initial responsibility was to supervise ground troop units being prepared for combat. During mid-March it entered into combat.
In February, Lesley wrote a series of operational instructions which would be forwarded to all tactical and Military Government echelons of the Fifteenth U.S. Army. Also during February, Lesley wrote the Fifteenth U.S. Army’s G-5 about the MFA&A policies, procedures, and duties, with the intent it would apprise the G-5 elements of the duties of the MFA&A Specialist Officer. In late March , Lt. Col. Geoffrey Webb had a copy of this memorandum sent to the other commands for their information and use. In March Lesley produced, and had issued by Fifteenth U.S. Army headquarters, instructions down to company level, titled “Protection of Historic/Artistic Monuments,” that addressed placing off-limits any property within the area of operations of the army.
Lesley went on temporary duty to London from March 30 till April 4 to obtain a transcript copy of German fine arts personnel files compiled by S/Ldr. Douglas Cooper, Control Commission (British Element) as well as the latest information on current plans for protection, collection, and control of enemy archives. While in London he met with Cooper, Col. Henry C. Newton, Special Adviser, War Department for MFA&A and on assignment with the U.S. Group Control Council (USGCC); Lt. Col. Sir Leonard Woolley, MFA&A Adviser to War Office; Maj. Mason Hammond, USGCC; Maj. Michael C. Ross, Archives Section, Control Commission (British Element); Hilary Jenkinson, Archival Adviser to the War Officer; John Nicholas Brown, Adviser on Cultural Matters to USGCC; and, Sumner McKnight Crosby of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas.
During early April, back at the Fifteenth U.S. Army headquarters, Lesley issued letters providing guidance for the protection of historic and artistic monuments and archives and issued a command letter for general distribution down to and including all companies and detachments, putting off-limits to all military personnel of the Fifteenth U.S. Army all artistic/historic monuments posted by MFA&A specialist officers of other armies. This would, he stressed, obviate the necessity of reposting these monuments.
During April and May, Lesley was involved with providing for the protection of the archives of Aachen that had been captured at Nordenau and assisting with efforts to locate a suitable storage facility for the treasures found at the mine at Siegen. In June, Lesley facilitated the movement of Cologne museum paintings from Schloss Hohenzollern to the Central Collecting Point at Marburg, under the command of Capt. Walker Hancock.
Lesley would leave the Fifteenth U.S. Army and assume a position with the Military Government for Greater Hesse, where he was responsible for restitution activities. In early November 1945, when the Office of Military Government for Germany (U.S.) (OMGUS) ordered some 200 German-owned masterpieces be transported to the United States for safekeeping at the National Gallery of Art, Capt. Walter I. Farmer—head of the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point—invited all the members of MFA&A in Europe to come to his office to develop a strategy to protest the decision.
Farmer later wrote that thirty-two officers showed up for the November 7 meeting. “Everyone there,” he noted, “shared my sense of shame at our government’s behavior, and it was a highly vocal meeting.” He added that “By the end of the day, our collective expressions of defiance and passionate convictions had been codified into a document finally drafted by Everett Lesley, that has become known as the Wiesbaden Manifesto…” It reads:
We, the undersigned, Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Specialist Officers of the Armed Forces of the United States, wish to make known our convictions regarding the transportation to the United States of works of art, the property of German institutions or Nationals, for purposes of protective custody.
We are unanimously agreed that the transportation of these works of art, undertaken by the United States Army, upon direction from the highest national authority, establishes a precedent which is neither morally tenable nor trustworthy.
Since the beginning of United States participation in the war, it has been the declared policy of the Allied Forces, so far as military necessity would permit, to protect and preserve from deterioration consequent upon the processes of war, all monuments, documents or other objects of historic, artistic, cultural or archaeological value. The war is at an end, and no doctrine of ‘military necessity’ can now be invoked for the further protection of the objects to be moved, for the reason that depots and personnel, both fully competent for their protection, have been inaugurated and are functioning.
The Allied Nations are at present preparing to prosecute individuals for the crime of sequestering, under the pretext of ‘protective custody,’ the cultural treasures of German-occupied countries. A major part of the indictment follows upon the reasoning that, even though these individuals were acting under military orders, the dictates of a higher ethical law made it incumbent upon them to refuse to take part in, or countenance, the fulfillment of these orders. We, the undersigned, feel it is our duty to point out that, though as members of the Armed Forces we will carry out the orders we receive, we are thus put before any candid eyes as no less culpable than those whose prosecution we effect to sanction.
We wish to state that from our own knowledge, no historical grievance will rankle so long, or be the cause of so much justified bitterness, as the removal, for any reason, of a part of the heritage of any nation, even if that heritage may be interpreted as a prize of war. And though this removal may be done with every intention of altruism, we are none the less convinced that it is our duty, individually and collectively, to protest against it, and that though our obligations are to the nation to which we owe allegiance, there are yet further obligations to common justice, decency and the establishment of the power of right, not of expediency or might, among civilized nations.
The document was signed by 24 of the 32 Monuments officers at the meeting and sent to Maj. L. Bancel LaFarge, Chief of the MFA&A Section at United States Forces European Theater headquarters. The remaining eight chose either to submit individual letters expressing their objections, or orally to express like sentiments. Despite this protest, the masterpieces were shipped to the United States. They would eventually be returned to Germany.
During the winter of 1945-1946, Lesley was engaged in overseeing the operations of the collecting points at Frankfurt and Offenbach, in addition to his other duties as MFA&A Specialist Officer with the Frankfurt Detachment. The two collecting points were consolidated at Offenbach in February 1946. Capt. Seymour J. Pomrenze arrived to take charge of what would be termed the Offenbach Archival Depot, thereby relieving Lesley of the responsibility of directing the activities of the collecting point at Offenbach, which at the time had “the largest collection of Jewish material in the world” and was in operation from 7am till 10pm six days a week with 70 employees under its direction.
In late April and early May 1946 Lesley oversaw the movement of a twenty-seven-car train carrying the Veit Stoss altar and numerous other looted Polish treasures, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (Lady with the Ermine), that would be restituted to the Polish Government. [Note: Dr. Naylor’s posts on Julianna Bumbar and Karol Estreicher provide interesting detail regarding the restitution of the Polish treasures, including the Veit Stoss altar, in 1946.]
Upon returning from this trip to Poland, Lesley would continue his MFA&A duties in Frankfurt. He left the military at the end of 1946, but continued his work during 1947 in a civilian capacity. During his military career he was awarded a Bronze Star for Meritorious Service, Army Commendation Medal, Chevalier of the Order of Polonia Restituta (Poland) and Honor Medal in Silver for Art and Science of the House-Order of Orange-Nassau (The Netherlands).
After returning to the United States, Lesley studied at New York University in 1947-1948 and from 1950 to 1954 he worked at The Cooper Union in New York City. From 1955 to 1958 he was self-employed in New York cataloguing private collections. He moved to Norfolk, Virginia in 1959 and became the Acting Director the Norfolk Museum (later the Chrysler Museum of Art) and was appointed Assistant Professor of Art at the College of William and Mary in Norfolk (eventually to be renamed Old Dominion University). In 1968 Lesley was promoted to Professor of Art and continued to teach until his retirement in 1979. During that time—from 1974 to 1976—he served as Curator of Decorative Arts, National Gallery of Art. He died in Norfolk on February 13, 1982.
- General Subject File Aug 1943-1945 (NAID 612714), Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives Section, Operations Branch, G-5 Division, General Staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), Allied Operational and Occupation Headquarters, World War II, Record Group 331
- Numeric File Aug 1943-Jul 1945 (NAID 610059), Secretariat, G-5 Division, General Staff, RG 331
- File: CAD 000.4 (3-25-43), Security Classified General Correspondence, 1943-July 1949 (NAID 3376702), General Records, Civil Affairs Division, Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, RG 165.
TAGS Altarpiece of Veit Stoss
, Capt. Walter I. Farmer
, Greg Bradsher
, looted art
, Lt. Col. Geoffrey Webb
, Maj. L. Bancel LaFarge
, Monuments Men
, Offenbach Archival Depot
, RG 165
, RG 331
, Veit Stoss altar
, Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point
Today’s post was written by David Pfeiffer, Reference Archivist at the National Archives in College Park.
On a gorgeous late summer day in August, RDT2 archivists Joe Schwarz and David Pfeiffer traveled to Shenandoah National Park headquarters near Luray, Virginia, to examine some potentially alienated records at the request of NARA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Our objective was to appraise what turned out to be the office files of Matthias (Matt) Charles Huppuch, a National Park Service Deputy Assistant Director. The records in question measured one linear foot (two archives boxes) that was offered as a donation by his son, Charles Huppuch.
An examination of the records resulted in the decision that the records contain essential evidence relating to the actions of a Federal official, are historically valuable and warrant continued preservation by the National Archives. Records of this type are included in the holdings of the National Archives among the records of the National Park Service (Record Group 79). The records consist of office files from the late 1930’s and were created and accumulated during the daily activities of the Branch of Recreation, Land Planning and State Cooperation of the NPS. Additionally, there were records of the Recreational Demonstration Areas including the Civilian Conservation Corps. In particular, there was a large map showing the Recreational Demonstration Areas in the U.S. Finally, we found several large organizational charts for the branch in the 1930’s. Consequently, we recommended approval of the donation. After taking ownership of the records on behalf of the National Archives, we brought the records back with us for assimilation into their rightful home in RG 79. So, we saved some records from the “dustbin” of history. There is something gratifying in this process!!
During our visit, we had a pleasant conversation with the donor concerning the lifecycle of the records. The records were apparently found in his father’s house after his death. Mr. Huppuch then proposed to donate them to the Shenandoah National Park archives. The archivist there determined that the records more properly belonged to the National Archives and contacted the OIG. Afterwards, we had a short tour of the archives and were shown many photographs of the park, particularly those taken at the dedication of the park by Franklin D. Roosevelt on July 3, 1936.
After visiting the park headquarters, we drove back via the Skyline Drive to Front Royal. Joe had never been on the drive and really enjoyed the views of the Shenandoah Valley. And as the NPS records specialist, it was a “fact finding” drive. It was a long day but we had a blast on our “excellent” adventure.
Today’s post was written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives in College Park.
Recently I went to look in the stacks in the National Archives at College Park, MD for some information in the records of the Army’s Adjutant General (Record Group 407) about the relationship between the War Department’s Military Intelligence Division (MID) and the National Intelligence Authority’s Central Intelligence Group (CIG). Specifically, I was hoping to find something in the Classified Decimal Files (1946-1947), under the War Department Decimal File System’s Decimals 020 and 040. The former decimal is for War Department Administration and Functions, subdivided alphabetically by name or title of department or bureau, and the latter decimal is for Executive Departments of the United States Government, subdivided alphabetically by name or title of bureau, department, division, commission, or board.
While I did not find anything that was useful to me regarding the MID-CIG relationship, I did, unexpectedly, find in a folder labeled “AG 040 National Intelligence Authority (1946-1947)” an original copy of President Harry S. Truman’s January 22, 1946 directive, establishing the National Intelligence Authority and the Central Intelligence Group.
File AG 040 National Intelligence Authority (1946-1947), Classified Decimal File, 1946-1947, (Entry 360) Records of the Adjutant General, 1917-, Record Group 407.
I thought it would be interesting to see what was in the State Department records regarding the directive. I checked online at NARA’s website for agency file manuals and determined that in the State Department Decimal File for 1945-1949 (General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59) I needed to look under decimal 101 “The White House (the President’s Office)”. In a file folder for decimal 101.5 I found a letter from the President to the Secretary of State, dated January 23, 1946, notifying him of the appointment of Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy as the President’s personal representative on the National Intelligence Authority and the appointment of Rear Admiral Sidney W. Souers to serve as the Director of Central Intelligence.
Decimal 101.5/1-2346, Decimal File, 1945-1949 (NAID 302021), General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59.
In the same folder was a communication from the Office of The Legal Adviser to the Division of Management Planning, dated January 30, 1946, regarding the question of whether the President’s directive should be published in the Federal Register.
Decimal 101.5/1-3046, Decimal File, 1945-1949 (NAID 302021), General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59
Decimal 101.5/1-3046, Decimal File, 1945-1949, General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59.
Once it was decided to publish the presidential directive, the Department of State prepared the appropriate documentation, dated February 1, 1946, to be provided to the Federal Register. The directive was then published in the Federal Register of February 5, 1946 (11 Fed. Reg. 1337, 1339).
Decimal 101.5/1-2246, Decimal File, 1945-1949, General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59.
Useful for understanding President Truman’s directive, its background and implementation, please see Thomas F. Troy’s study “Truman on CIA: Examining President Truman’s Role in the Establishment of the Agency.” and the volume Foreign Relations of the United States, 1945-1950, Emergence of the Intelligence Establishment.