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Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

On June 14, 1945 1st Lt. Stephen Kovalyak, a Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) officer, came to Alt Aussee, Austria with Lt. George Stout, USNR, another MFA&A officer, with the 12th Army Group, to evacuate the looted art works stored in the mine at Alt Aussee.  Very early on Kovalyak met a German prisoner of war, Karl Kress, who had worked with the Nazi art looting unit, the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), photographing looted art works.  Kovalyak, an amateur photographer, was interested in what he could learn about photography from Kress and soon made him his personal prisoner of war.  Shortly thereafter, Kress would be working for U.S. Army as a photographer of recovered looted art.

Kress was born February 6, 1900 at Dotzheim, Kreis Wiesbaden. He served in the German Army from the end of World War I until June 1930, when he became technical assistant to the State Art Collections at Kassel. There his primary duty was that of a photographer.  In 1939 Kress was called to active duty with the Luftwaffe as photographer, and assigned to a photographic unit, with the rank of Feldwebel (Staff Sergeant). The unit was transferred to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, in the western suburbs of Paris, in June 1940.

In November 1940 Kress was ordered by his commanding officer to proceed to Paris with three assistants for the purpose of photographing art objects.  These art objects he learned had been confiscated by the ERR and were stored near the Louvre at the Jeu de Paume a museum in the Jardins des Tuileries. The ERR, formed under the direction of Alfred Rosenberg, had originally as its primary function the collection of political material in the occupied countries, for exploitation in the “struggle against Jewry and Freemasonry.”  The Western Office (Amt Westen) of the Rosenberg-headed Ministry for Occupied Eastern Territories became operational in July 1940, with headquarters in Paris.  Amt Westen was directed at the outset by Stabsfuehrer Dr. Georg Ebert, assisted by Baron Kurt von Behr.

Starting in October 1940, on Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering’s instigation, the ERR began taking over almost all of the seized art in France—not only paintings and works on paper, but also antique furniture, carpets, tapestries, objects d’art, and antiquities.  Goering was anxious to enrich his own collections, and could offer Luftwaffe and other assistance for seizure, processing arrangements, and transport, while he manipulated further ERR art-looting operations in France. The initial collections brought to the German Embassy in Paris were moved first to several rooms in the Louvre, but space there was too limited.  By the end of October, the ERR set up shop for processing at the Jeu de Paume.  On November 5, a Goering order issued in Paris extended formally the authority of the ERR to include the confiscation of “ownerless” Jewish art collections, and, thereby altered the emphasis of the ERR mission so as to make such activity its primary function.

When Kress reported to the Jeu de Paume the museum was already full of art objects.  There he met Drs. Gunther Schiedlausky, Hans Ulrich Wirth, and Heinrich Jerchel.  They worked for the Paris Dienststelle of Amt Westen.  This office, in addition to a staff of photographers, consisted of a small group of professional art historians who worked as a unit designated as the Arbeitsgruppe Louvre. The function of this unit was the methodical preparation for transport to Germany of all works of art received through confiscation, and a comprehensive inventory thereof.  At the outset, this group comprised Drs. Schiedlausky, Hans Ulrich Wirth, W. Esser, Heinrich Jerchel, Friedrich Franz Kuntze, and several research assistants.  Schiedlausky, was a leading member of the ERR art staff from November 1940 to December 1941, and chief custodian of the German deposits of the ERR from July 1942 until April 1945.  Wirth, joined the Paris art staff of the ERR in November 1940 as one of the assistants to Schiedlausky. He was responsible for preparing inventories of important collections which had just been confiscated.  Jerchel, who originally served with the Kunstschutz (the Wehrmacht’s Art Protection Office), was transferred to the ERR in November 1940 with duties similar to that of Wirth.  Once situated at the Jeu de Paume, Kress was assigned the task of photographing a large number of paintings that had been confiscated by the ERR.

Kress’ first photographic assignment was to take about forty photographs for Dr. Hermann Bunjes, who was not connected with the ERR.  Bunges, who wore several hats while in Paris, including being the  Director of the German Art Historical Institute, a member of the Kunstschutz, and an advisor to Goering, later told Kress the art works he had photographed had been flown to Germany and given to Adolf Hitler.

Von Behr quickly recognized Kress’ ability as a professional art photographer, and sought to have him transferred to the ERR.  Von Behr was the Deputy Director of Amt Westen, Director of the Paris ERR Kunststab, and subsequently Director of Dienststelle Westen and the confiscated furniture operation, the Möbel-Aktion (M-Action).  As part of the Kress transfer process, in 1941 he was ordered to the Cultural Photographic Unit in the Air Ministry, and then transferred to the ERR.  He was returned to Paris from Berlin, and put to work in the Jeu de Paume. At this time, Kress met and worked under Drs. Bruno Lohse and Friedrich Franz Kuntze.  Lohse was a member of the Paris art staff from February 1941, subsequently its Deputy Director, and special art representative of Goering in the ERR.  Kuntze, both a painter and art historian by profession, was assigned to duty with the ERR in Paris in February 1941. He arrived simultaneously with Lohse and occupied a position entailing research and the compiling of inventories, but appears to have been somewhat more independent than the other research assistants in that he occasionally proposed works of art for exchange and for acquisition by Goering.

In conformity with Adolf Hitler’s order of November 18, 1940, the greater part of the material confiscated by the ERR was sent to Germany for safekeeping and for Hitler’s ultimate disposition. The first shipment of ERR material from France to Germany took place in April 1941.  Between that date and July 1944, 29 shipments were sent into the Reich. The shipments comprised 138 freight carloads, containing 4,174 cases of work destined for six separate protected deposits. These deposits were: Schloss Neuschwanstein (Kreis Füssen); Schloss Chiemsee (Herreninsel, Kreis Traunstein); Cloister Buxheim (Kreis Memmingen); Schloss Kogl (St. Georgen/ Kreis Vöcklabruck); Schloss Seisenegg (Kreis Amstetten); and, Schloss Nickolsburg (Kreis Nickolsburg).

During the summer of 1941, just months after the German invasion and occupation of Greece, Kress was ordered to Salonika to accompany Professor Franz Dölger on an expedition to Mount Athos.  Dölger, a distinguished professor of Byzantine studies at the University of Munich since 1931, was to focus on historical and theological issues.  His expedition was officially sponsored by Alfred Rosenberg in his capacity as Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, and was supported by the Wehrmacht.  Kress was to later recall that the purpose of the expedition from his perspective was to make cultural propaganda photographs.  Kress spent six months on the project and subsequently Dölger’s account of his visit to Mount Athos was printed in the book Mönchsland Athos (Munich: 1943).  After completing this mission, Kress returned to Paris in 1942 to resume work under Lohse.

When Kress returned to Paris he found that Luftwaffe corporal Heinz Simokat had been installed by Lohse as the ERR’s chief photographer.  Thus with little photographic work to do, Kress set himself the task of compiling an orderly set of negatives, inasmuch as he had found the files in a state of disorder on his return from Greece.  He also began spending more time in the photographic section of the Amt Rosenberg (Rosenberg’s headquarters) in Berlin than with the ERR in Paris.

At some point, in 1943 or 1944, Simokat, at his own request, was returned to active military duty, and Rudolf  Scholz became the leading ERR photographer, responsible to art historian Dr. Walter Borchers (Obergefreiter in the Luftwaffe) who had become head of the Arbeitsgruppe Louvre.  Rudolf was a nephew of Dr. Robert Scholz – Bereichsleiter (Divisional Director) of the Rosenberg Amt Bildende Kunst (Office for Pictorial Arts), Berlin; and, responsible for the professional conduct of the Paris art staff of the ERR.

Kress, at some point in 1943, was sent to Riga and Kiev on short photographic missions, and also worked in the ERR deposits at Neuchwanstein/Fussen and Chiemsee, in Bavaria.

Meanwhile, ERR shipments continued to be sent to the ERR deposits in Germany and Austria through February 1944, at which time the Reichschancellery (because of the increasing danger from air raids) ordered the major deposits evacuated and their contents brought to Alt Aussee, Austria, for storage in the salt mine there.

Shortly before the heavy air raids on Berlin began in 1944, Kress was given the responsibility of assembling the entire ERR file of photographic negatives and moving it to Neuchwanstein/Fussen for safekeeping.  Subsequently, he was ordered to move the entire file to the ERR center at Schloss Kogl/St. Georgen.  Shortly before the American entry into the area, the files were once again moved from Kogl to Fussen.  The final transfer of material was undertaken by Lohse, acting under Scholz’s orders.

During 1944 Kress made a number of short trips to Paris in order to bring photographic material from the Luftwaffe unit station to Germany.  In addition, he was given the assignment by Robert Scholz of bringing Baron von Behr’s Dienststelle Westen household effects (china, linen, silver, etc) confiscated in the M-Action, to Germany for the use by ERR personnel.

As late as the night of May 3-4, 1945 Scholz and Kress were at Schloss Kogl.  Scholz then sent Kress to the Alt Altssee deposit very shortly before U.S. troops occupied the area.  When the troops captured the mine at Alt Aussee on May 8, Kress, then a Stabsfeldwebel (Master Sergeant) was made a prisoner of war.  He was kept at Alt Aussee to provide information to the MFA&A specialists when they arrived.  They arrived in the persons of Third U.S. Army Monuments Men Capt. Robert K. Posey and Pfc Lincoln Kirstein on May 16.  In his semi-monthly report Posey noted that “All his negatives and equipment from Schloss Kogl also seized and held.”[1]

During the first week of June U.S. Army war crimes investigator Capt. W. A. Rembert, who was at Alt Aussee, had photographs taken by U.S. Army Signal Corps photographers of the mine, buildings, and personnel at Alt Aussee.  Among the photographs are two, taken on June 5, that include Kress:  One is captioned: “German technicians stationed at the mine at Alt Aussee, Austria, prior to American entry, in connection with processing and care and preservation of the art treasures therein. From left to right: Karl Kress, chief photograph for the Einsatzstab Rosenberg; Max Eder, Engineer; Dr. Hermann Michel, chemist; Hans Danner, surveyor; Karl Sieber, painting restorer.”  The other was captioned: “From left to right: Karl Kress, Einsatzstab Rosenberg photographer; Capt. Rembert, Investiogator; Karl Sieber, restorer; and Tec 5 Bauer, interpreter for Capt. Rembert – in Konig Josef Cavern of the mine at Alt Aussee, Austria, in which chamber most of the loot of the Einsatzstab Rosenberg was stored.”[2]

 

 

On June 14 Kovalyak came to Alt Aussee with Lt. George Stout, USNR, to help with the evacuation of the art treasures in the mine. This is where he met Kress.  MFA&A officers Lt. Thomas C. Howe, Jr., USNR and 2nd Lt. Lamont Moore arrived at Alt Aussee in July to assist in the evacuation.  They would also meet Kress. Howe would later write that Stephen Kovalyak had made Kress his personal prisoner of war since his arrival at Alt Aussee.[3]  He noted that “Steve was an enthusiastic amateur and had acquired all kinds of photographic equipment. Kress, we gathered, was showing him how to use it. Their ‘conversations’ were something of a mystery, because Steve knew no German, Kress no English.”  In response to a question about how he communicated with Kress, Kovalyak said he used his “High German.”  Howe wrote that:

We came to the conclusion that ‘High German’ was so called because it transcended all known rules of grammar and pronunciation. But, for the two of them, it worked. Steve-stocky, gruff and belligerent-and Kress-timid, beady-eyed and patient-would spend hours together. They were a comical pair. Steve was always in command and very much the captor. Kress was long-suffering and had a kind of doglike devotion to his master, whose alternating jocular and tyrannical moods he seemed to accept with equanimity and understand. But all this we learned later.

Just about the time that Howe, Moore, and Kovalyak were wrapping up their evacuation work at Alt Aussee and preparing to go on their next assignment, the evacuation of the Hermann Goering collection at Berchtesgaden, Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Art Looting Investigation Unit (ALIU) member Lt. Theodore Rousseau, USNR at Bad Aussee (3 miles south of Alt Aussee) telephoned Howe and inquired whether they were planning to take Kress with them to Berchtesgaden.  Howe told him they certainly were, later writing that “Steve would sooner have parted with his right eye.” Rousseau indicated that they wanted to interrogate Kress before they left and said it might take a few days.  Howe suggested that they start right away, as they would soon be needing Kress themselves.  “Steve,” Howe noted, “was wild when he heard about it. I agreed that it was a nuisance but that we’d have to oblige. The OSS boys came for Kress that afternoon. Steve watched them, balefully, as they drove off down the mountain.”

The ALIU interrogated Kress at Bad Aussee on July 20-21.  After the interrogation, the ALIU compiled Detailed Interrogation Report No. 10 regarding Kress.  In the report it was noted that Kress, since his capture, had continued to function as a photographer “under the supervision of G-5, Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Branch, Third U.S. Army.”   In the Summary section of the report ALIU director Lt. James Plaut, USNR, wrote that Kress affirmed that his activity with the ERR was confined wholly to the photographing of works of art in the Jeu de Paume and that he never accompanied ERR personnel to private dwellings, either prior to or in the course of confiscation operations.  Kress claimed, Plaut wrote, that he owned no works of art whatever, and that he engaged at no time in the traffic of objects of art. “Kress,” Plaut noted, “is a ‘little man’ with a weak personality. It is conceivable that he engaged in some petty thievery, but it is not likely that he was involved in any large-scale, illegal transfers of art objects.”  Concluding, Plaut wrote

No action is recommended; however, Kress was released prematurely from interrogation, in deference to G-5, MFA&A 3rd Army, to do urgent photographic work. In view of his close relationship to Utikal and other key E.R.R. personnel, he is wanted for further interrogation by this unit.

Utikal was Stabsfuehrer Gerhard Utikal, who in 1941, replaced Dr. Georg Ebert and was also given complete responsibility for ERR activities in all countries. Simultaneously, von Behr was made responsible for all ERR operations in France.

It appears that Kress was never questioned again by the ALIU.[4] He was, however, on July 25, at Bad Aussee, questioned by U.S. Army war crimes investigator Capt. Rembert.  Kress said that since he worked inside the Jeu de Paume, he did not know who carried out the confiscation of art objects, nor could he say who brought the art objects into the Jeu de Paume.  He did say they were received there by Schiedlausky.  He provided information about Utikal, Scholz, Lohse, and others.  As for von Behr, he observed he “has played a big part in the Einsatzstab and was very much feared.”  He also provided information regarding art dealers Walter Andreas Hofer and Gustav Rochlitz.[5]

While Kress was at Bad Aussee, Howe and Moore went to Berchtesgaden to start the evacuation of the Goering Collecting.  In anticipation of Kress’ arrival they assembled all the paintings that appeared to have suffered recent damage of any kind.  Kress’ first job would be to make a photographic record which they would include in their final report on the evacuation of the collection. They found thirty-four pictures in this category.  When Kovalyak joined them at Berchtesgaden he brought along in their car Kress, “looking more timid than ever” according to Howe.  Kovalyak told Howe and Moore that Kress had had a bad time after they left Alt Aussee:

the boys at House 71 [the house used by the ALIU team] had clapped him in jail and left him there for two days before interrogating him Steve had been ‘burned up’ about it and had given them a piece of his mind. He said contemptuously that he known all along they didn’t have anything on Kress. But he was content to let bygones be bygones. Steve had his man Friday back again.

Besides Kress, Kovalyak had also brought along a 2 ½-ton Army cargo truck that contained all of Kress’ photographic equipment. “There was,” according to Howe, “a tremendous lot of stuff: three large cameras, a metal table for drying prints, reflectors, a sink, pipes of various sizes, boxes of film and paper; and a couple of large cabinets.”  Very quickly Kress was put to work taking photographs.

In mid-August, with the Goering Collection safely deposited at the Munich Central Collecting Point, Howe, Moore, and Kovalyak moved on to their next evacuation mission, that of the ERR records and some art treasures stored at the castle at Neuschwanstein.  They brought Kress with them.  Not only could he photograph the artwork, he also knew the castle and its holdings very well, having worked there in 1943 and 1944.  In the castle they located the two rooms which had been used as a photographic laboratory and Kovalyak arranged to have Kress’ equipment installed there. The Neuschwanstein evacuation operation lasted eight days.

When the evacuation team returned to Munich with what they had collected at the castle, it is not clear whether they brought Kress with them.  Once back at Munich the team immediately became involved in restitution activities that would not have involved Kress.  The last reference to him I located was a note, that indicated as of September 1945, he was under house arrest.  There was no reference to location.  By the end of February 1946, Howe, Moore, and Kovalyak had returned to the United States.  As for Kress, I could not locate any record that explains what happened to him after his adventures with the MFA&A Special Evacuation Team.


[1] Robert K. Posey, Capt., Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives, G-5 Section, Headquarters, Third United States Army to MFA and A, G-5 Section, Headquarters, Twelfth Army Group, Subject: Semi-Monthly Report on Monuments, fine Arts and Archives for Period Ending 31 May 1945, File: Third U.S. Army Reports-January thru May 1945, Activity Reports, 1945, “Ardelia Hall Collection” (NAID 1561462), Record Group 260 (Roll 31 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1941).

[2] The photographs are Exhibits 24 and 30 to File 3JA187 of the War Crimes Office of the Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Third Army.  The report, captioned “Report of Information of Alleged War Crimes,” was prepared by the Office of the Commanding General of the U.S. Third Army and sent to the Deputy Theater Judge Advocate, War Crimes Branch, on September 4, 1945. United States Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality; Reference Documents Received from American and Foreign Sources, 1945-1946, NAID: 6106845.

[3] All the Howe references to Kovalyak and Kress are from Thomas Carr Howe, Jr., Salt Mines and Castles: The Discovery and Restitution of Looted European Art (Indianapolis and New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Publishers, 1946).

[4] In the OSS ALIU Consolidated Interrogation Report No. 1 regarding the “Activity of the Einstatzstab Rosenberg in France,” there is only brief mention of Kress and his position as a photographer for the ERR. A copy of the report can be found here.

[5] Kress’ statement on July 25 at Bad Aussee to war crimes investigator Capt. W. A. Rembert is Exhibit 12 to File 3JA187 of the War Crimes Office of the Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Third Army.  The report, captioned “Report of Information of Alleged War Crimes,” was prepared by the Office of the Commanding General of the U.S. Third Army and sent to the Deputy Theater Judge Advocate, War Crimes Branch, on September 4, 1945. United States Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality; Reference Documents Received from American and Foreign Sources, 1945-1946 NAID 6106845.



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 Thomas Carr Howe, Jr. is the sixteenth in this series.

Thomas Carr Howe, Jr., in 1945 while serving as a Lieutenant with the U.S. Navy, was selected to serve as a Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) officer in the European Theater of Operations (ETO).  He had been recommended for such duty by Paul J. Sachs, a member of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas and professor of fine arts at Harvard University.   Howe, born in Kokomo, Indiana on July 23, 1904, was raised in Indianapolis.  He studied at Harvard University where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art history, in 1926 and 1929 respectively. While at Harvard he took Sachs’ Museum Work and Museum Problems course.  Howe would travel widely and was fluent in French and German and knew some Italian.  Howe served as the assistant director of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco from 1931-1939, before becoming director in 1939.  He was also the art commissioner for the San Francisco Golden Gate International Exposition (1939-1940) for which he organized an exhibition showcasing Mexican muralists.

In April arrangements were made in ETO to have Howe and naval officer Craig Hugh Smyth, formerly with the National Gallery of Art, to report to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary force (SHAEF) for reassignment to the Armies.  In May Howe and Smyth, with orders in hand, flew to Europe.

In mid-May Howe and Smyth reported to Lt. Col. Geoffrey Webb, head of MFA&A Section at SHAEF headquarters in Versailles. Then they went back to London to meet with individuals involved in cultural property matters.  Then it was back to Versailles where they met with Webb’s deputy, Lt. Charles L. Kuhn, USNR.  They were initially assigned to SHAEF G-5, where they received two weeks of indoctrination before being reassigned.

On May 31 Howe and Smyth flew to Frankfurt and continued on to Bad Homburg by car. At Bad Homburg they reported to European Civil Affairs Division headquarters to await orders.  There they telephoned 12th Army Group headquarters in Wiesbaden and talked with Lt. George Stout, USNR, and with Capt. L. Bancel LaFarge, who was in charge of the advance office of MFA&A in Germany.  LaFarge arranged for them to be ordered to Wiesbaden to begin operations.  At Wiesbaden they first spoke with Stout.  Stout undoubtedly told them about his work at the mine full of loot at Alt Aussee, Austria.  Third U.S. Army Monuments Men Capt. Robert K. Posey and Pfc Lincoln Kirstein had arrived at the mine on May 16 and found the task of inspecting and evacuating the mine overwhelming.  So they called in Stout, who arrived to help them on May 21.  After several days of studying the situation at the mine, Stout traveled to Third Army Headquarters to report on the situation and then went to meet with LaFarge.   After speaking to Stout, LaFarge told Howe to go to Frankfurt, on temporary duty from SHAEF, as MFA&A Officer, Frankfurt Military Government Detachment.  There he would take over MFA&A operations, including finding a building to be used as a collecting point, and told Smyth to go to Munich, to set up a collecting point for cultural property in Bavaria.  Smyth’s instructions were that the collecting point was to be ready for the first loads from Austrian repositories in less than two weeks.  LaFarge suggested to Howe that he investigate the possibility of requisitioning the Frankfurt university buildings for a depot.

At Frankfurt Howe had buildings at the University requisitioned and got Army engineers to begin repairs to make them usable as the Western Military District’s Collecting Point. Not long after the repairs begun, Col. Leslie W.  Jefferson, the head of the U.S. Group Control Council (USGCC)’s Reparation, Deliveries and Restitution (RD&R) Division and Maj. Mason Hammond, the Acting Chief of the MFA&A Branch within the RD&R Division, in mid-June desired for Howe to inspect the Merkers Mine loot at the Reichsbank in Frankfurt that was then scheduled to be transferred to the new collecting point in Frankfurt.  In the meantime Kuhn and Webb had moved up to Frankfurt and were established at SHAEF headquarters.  Kuhn, acting on the desires of Jefferson and Hammond, asked Howe to meet him at the Reichsbank to look at treasures from Merkers Mine.  There he told Howe that he was to take responsibility for them, and was to make an inventory, along with the Property Control Officer Capt, William Dunn. They were to be provided assistance by Capt. Edwin C. Rae and 1st Lt. Edith Standen, both from the MFA&A Branch USGCC.

On the third day of inventorying, Kuhn informed Howe that he was to go on a special mission.  He was to fly down to Munich the next morning and would be gone about ten days. There he was to report to Third Army Headquarters and get in touch with Stout as soon as possible. Kuhn informed Howe he could take up the inventorying when he got back, as well as overseeing the repairs to the university buildings.

At Munich Howe went to see Captain Posey, MFA&A officer for the Third U.S. Army, who was not present, but Stout was.  Stout explained he had come down from Alt Aussee that day to see Posey about the evacuation of items from Alt Aussee to the Munich Central Collecting Point, but had just missed him.  Stout told Howe they were evacuating the mine and were desperately shorthanded.  But before Stout could get Howe involved in the Alt Aussee evacuation he had another assignment for him, the monastery at Hohenfurth, in Czechoslovakia, just over the border from Austria. It needed to be evacuated as quickly as possible. But before he could undertake that, Posey wanted him to go to a small village of Grassau on the road to Salzburg where he would find a house in which were stored some eighty cases of paintings and sculpture from the Budapest Museum.  Howe would find the house and he brought back eighty-one cases of artworks for storage at the Munich Central Collecting Point.

Howe would then go to the monastery at Hohenfurth.  There he found looted cultural property from two fabulous collections, the Rothschild of Vienna and the Mannheimer of Amsterdam. He loaded up as much as he could and had it taken to Munich. Once there he met with Posey about the need for a second trip back to Hohenfurth to complete the evacuation. Posey agreed. He also arranged for 2nd Lt. Lamont Moore (formerly of the National Gallery of Art) to help him.  Before taking off, Stout arrived back in Munich from Alt Aussee and told Howe that he was going to talk to Posey about getting him and Moore assigned to Alt Aussee once the Hohenfurth project was completed.  Howe returned to Hohenfurth in the first days of July and awaited the arrival of Moore with more trucks.  Upon Moore’s arrival the two men packed and loaded the artworks and took them to the Munich Central Collecting Point.  Posey then decided that Howe and Moore would go to Alt Aussee to help Stout.

Moore and Howe in July went to Alt Aussee to assist Stout and Lieutenants Stephen Kovalyak and Frederick Shrady with the evacuation of the mine.  Among the treasures they packed and loaded for transport were Michelangelo’s Madonna of Bruges and the Ghent altarpiece, also known as The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.  Stout escorted these treasures to Munich, leaving Howe, Moore, Shrady, and Kovalyak to carry on, with Howe in charge.

"Madonna michelangelo". Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Madonna michelangelo”. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In late July Howe and Moore wrapped up their activities at Alt Aussee and drove a car back to Munich, carrying the Rothschild jewels with them.  During the five weeks of the evacuation of Alt Aussee under Stout and then Howe ninety truckloads of paintings, sculpture, and furniture had been removed from the mine. Although it was by no means empty, the most important treasures had been taken out. At this point Third U.S. Army pulled out of the area.

Back at Munich Posey gave Howe, Moore, and Kovalyak their next assignment – the evacuation of Reichsmarshall, Hermann Goering’s collection at Berchtesgaden.  They would spend two weeks there and completed the evacuation of the entire Goering collection, which included, among other things, art work, sculpture, and furniture.  In all they had sent thirty-one truckloads to Munich, finishing the assignment in early August.

The next major assignment for Howe and his team was the evacuation of the records of the Nazi art looting organization, the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) from Neuschwanstein Castle, some 80 miles south of Munich.  The castle had been used by the ERR during the war as a storage location for its loot and records. The job would also entail the removal of part of the stolen art treasures. The French were anxious to get everything back from Neuschwanstein, but for the present they would have to be content with the gold and the silver objects and as many of the smaller cases as the Americans could handle.  Later, it would be more practicable to ship the larger things (furniture, sculpture and pictures) directly to France by rail. The ERR records, Posey told Howe, were badly needed at the Munich Central Collecting Point in connection with the identification of the plunder stored there.  So they were told to concentrate on them and on the objects of great intrinsic value.  It would take time to get the trucks, so Howe, Moore, and Kovalyak went off to Frankfurt to see about the three of them being recognized as a Special Evacuation Team. Howe wrote “That’s what we were in fact, but we wanted to be recognized as such in name.”  They called on Maj. LaFarge (who became Chief of the MFA&A Section when SHAEF dissolved in mid-July) and Lt. Cmdr. Kuhn, at United States Forces European Theater (USFET) headquarters, who agreed to them being a three-person team, working out of USFET.  Because of the continued problems getting trucks for the evacuation they went to Marburg to visit Captain Walker Hancock’s collecting point operation.

Howe, Moore, and Kovalyak, after their visits to Frankfurt and Marburg, in mid-August returned to Munich where they were informed that six trucks were now available.  Then it was off to Neuschwanstein.  Their base of operations for the partial evacuation of Neuschwanstein was Fussen, where there was a small Military Government Detachment.  From there, it was more than a mile up the side of a mountain to the castle.  When they got to the castle, the wing in which the ERR items were stored was locked and sealed by Capt. James J. Rorimer, when he had visited the castle in early May. They had brought the key with them from Third Army Headquarters.  They eventually located the ERR offices. They were crowded with bookshelves and filing cabinets.  They also located two rooms which had been used as a photographic laboratory.  The Neuschwanstein operation lasted eight days during the latter part of August. They worked nights as well because there were thousands of small objects (many of them fragile and extremely valuable) which they could not trust to the inexpert hands of their day-time work party.  There was no electricity in the small storage rooms, so they had to work by candle-light. They packed the 2,000 pieces of gold and silver in the David-Weill collection from Paris. They also packed up the ERR records for transport to Munich.  The records included over 20,000 catalogue cards, each representing a confiscated work or group of works, 8,000 negatives, and files of documents.  Before leaving the area they visited the house in Gipsmuehl (a small village below the castle) where German art dealer Gustav Rochlitz was staying and took 22 paintings from him. “They were,” Howe wrote, “without exception, works of excellent quality. One large early Picasso…was alone worth a small fortune.”

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Photograph of the ERR File Cabinets

 

When Howe, Moore, and Kovalyak got back to Munich from Neuschwanstein at the end of August, they were told by Smyth that preparations were being made for the immediate restitution of several important masterpieces recovered in the American Zone.  General Dwight D. Eisenhower had approved a proposal to return at once to each of the countries overrun by the Germans at least one outstanding work of art. This was to be done in his name, as a gesture of “token restitution,” symbolizing the policy with regard to ultimate restitution of all stolen art treasure to the rightful owner nations. They would be sent back from Germany at the expense of the U.S. Government.  Belgium was to receive the first token restitution-the great van Eyck altarpiece-The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. Howe, Moore, and Kovalyak supervised the loading from the Munich Central Collecting Point and it was flown to Brussels on August 21 accompanied by Posey.  The next day the altarpiece was delivered to the Royal Palace, where the Belgians signed a receipt. On September 3 an official ceremony took place at the Palace.  It was attended by Maj. LaFarge, Lt. Col. Mason Hammond, Chief of MFA&A Branch USGCC and his deputy, Capt. Calvin Hathaway.

Shortly after the return of the Ghent altarpiece, Posey was demobilized.  His duties as MFA&A Officer at Third Army Headquarters in Munich were assumed by Captain Edwin Rae.  During the early days of Rae’s regime Kuhn paid a brief visit to Munich.  He had just completed the transfer of the Berlin Museum collections (recovered at Merkers Mine) from Frankfurt to the Landesmuseum in Wiesbaden, which became the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point.  The university buildings in Frankfurt, which Howe had requisitioned for a Collecting Point, had proved unsuitable.  Kuhn was headed for Vienna to confer with Lt. Col. Ernest Dewald, Chief of the MFA&A Section at United States Forces, Austria (USFA) Headquarters (formerly professor of art history at Princeton University) regarding the evacuation of the mine at Alt Aussee.  In early September USFA had requested USGCC’s agreement to proposal that art objects (non Austrian) still located at Alt Aussee be removed by USFA to the Munich Central Collecting Point beginning immediately. On September 12 USGCC approved the request and four days later USFET notified Third U.S. Army of the approval.

Dewald wanted to complete the evacuation of the mine at Alt Aussee which was then under his jurisdiction.  For this project he hoped to obtain the services of Howe and the Special Evacuation Team of the Third Army.  Rae was reluctant to lend Howe, Moore, and Kovalyak because there was still so much work to be done in Bavaria.  But he agreed, provided Kuhn could sell the idea to the Third Army Chief of Staff.  Kuhn did so and departed, taking Kovalyak with him who wanted to see Vienna.

After they left, Rae requested Howe and Moore to make an inspection trip of cultural property collections in northern Bavaria. They went to Bamberg, Coburg, and Schloss Tambach.  When they returned to Munich, Kovalyak was back from Vienna.  He reported that Kuhn had already left for Frankfurt and Dewald was coming to Munich to talk about reopening the Alt Aussee mine operation.  He said that either Kuhn or LaFarge would come down from USFET Headquarters when Dewald arrived.  Howe, Moore, and Kovalyak then met with Rae.  He had a new assignment for them.  He had just received orders from USFET Headquarters to prepare the Cracow altarpiece for shipment.  It was to be sent back to Poland as a token restitution.  This was the colossal carved altarpiece by Veit Stoss which the Nazis had stolen from the Church of St. Mary at Cracow and moved to Nuremberg.

"Krakow oltarz Stwosza" by Pko - Own work (own photo). Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Krakow oltarz Stwosza” by Pko – Own work (own photo). Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

On Rae’s instructions, Howe and Kovalyak went to Nuremberg to pack the altarpiece.  Moore had remained in Munich to make tentative arrangements for trucks, once Howe informed him how many they would need. At Nuremberg Howe and Kovalyak began packing the altarpiece for transport.  The project collapsed when Howe was called back to Munich.  LaFarge was arriving from Frankfurt and wanted to see him.  Plans for the trip to Cracow were indefinitely postponed.  Internal conditions in Poland were too unsettled to risk returning the altarpiece.  So Howe and Kovalyak returned to Munich.

They met with Lafarge who informed them that Moore, Kovalyak and a third officer, new to MFA&A work, were to resume the evacuation of the salt mine at Alt Aussee.  Howe was to return to USFET Headquarters at Frankfurt as Deputy Chief of the MFA&A Section, replacing Kuhn, who had just received his orders to go home.

About this time, before Moore and Kovalyak left for Alt Aussee, there was another important shipment to be made to Belgium. It was to include the Michelangelo Madonna, the eleven paintings stolen from the church in Bruges when the statue was taken, and the four panels by Dirk Bouts from the famous altarpiece in the church of St. Pierre at Louvain.  This shipment to Belgium was the first restitution where the recipient nation came to Munich to collect its property. Howe, Moore, and Kovalyak helped the Belgians pack and load the items into a truck on September 22.

Howe left Munich at the end of September.  At the same time Moore and Kovalyak were planning to depart for Alt Aussee.  Howe reported to LaFarge upon arrival at Frankfurt.  He was informed that with the removal to Berlin of the Monuments officers attached to the USGCC, their office, which included Standen, at USFET Headquarters in Frankfurt, would be moved to Hoechst (about a twenty minute drive from Frankfurt).  That was because the Restitution Control Branch of the Economics Division, of which they were part, was located there.

The first task for Howe was a token restitution to the Netherlands.  At the end of September General Eisenhower had directed the preparation, as soon as possible, of an air delivery to the Netherlands, of approximately 25 looted Dutch works of art of highest quality.  LaFarge told Howe about the token restitution and that the Dutch were then selecting items and that United States would provide a plan to fly them to Amsterdam.  He wanted Howe to be present for the transfer.  Howe departed for Amsterdam the second week of October to arrange for the transfer. On October 10, Howe was present for the return of the 27 paintings (by seventeenth century Dutch masters, including Rembrandt) that were liberated by Third US Army from Hitler and Goering Collections.  On October 19 the second load for the Netherlands left Munich, transported in Dutch trucks.

Meanwhile Moore and Kovalyak in early October went to Austria to assist in the further evacuation of looted works of art from the mine at Alt Aussee.  The evacuation began again on October 9 and between that date and November 3, 86 truckloads of items were delivered to the Munich Central Collecting Point.  The collecting point reported at the end of October that it had received a total of 8,438 cases or uncrated items from Alt Aussee (including the 3,691 cases or uncrated items received previously) and during November had received 220 more, making for a grand total of 8,658 cases or uncrated items.

Before the end of October, a token restitution was made to Czechoslovakia.  The objects chosen were the famous fourteenth century Hohenfurth altarpiece and the collection of the Army Museum at Prague.  Both had been stolen by the Nazis.  The altarpiece, evacuated from Alt Aussee mine, was then at the Munich Central Collecting Point.  The Army Museum collections were stored at Schloss Banz, near Bamberg.  Howe, now promoted to Lieutenant Commander, arranged for the Czech representatives to proceed to Schloss Banz, where they were met by Lieutenant Walter Horn.  While the Czech officers were en route, Captain Rae at Third Army was directed to arrange for the delivery of the Hohenfurth panels to Schloss Banz.  This operation was carried out successfully.

Also before the end of October, Howe became involved again the problem of the Veit Stoss altarpiece.  Major Charles Estreicher, the Polish representative, spent several days at the office at Hoechst studying their files for additional data on Polish loot in the American zone before continuing to Munich and Nuremberg.  The actual return of the altarpiece to Poland was delayed until April 1946, when the altarpiece and other Polish property were returned to Poland, accompanied by Monuments Men Capt. Everett Parker Lesley, Jr. and 1st Lt. Julianna Bumbar.

During late October Howe became involved in the controversial issue of sending German-owned art work to the United States for safe-keeping, a proposal that had been approved by authorities in Washington, D.C.  At that time LaFarge met at the USFET Headquarters in Frankfurt with the Chief of Staff to Maj. Gen. C. L. Adcock, Deputy Director of the Office of Military Government (U.S.) on the subject of the proposed removal of German-owned works of art to the United States.  LaFarge impressed upon the colonel practical difficulties involved and stressed the technical, not the moral objections to shipping valuable works of art to America.  As a result of this conference the Chief of Staff asked LaFarge to prepare a memorandum on the issue for Adcock. Howe and Standen assisted him in preparing it.  The memorandum contained a plea for the importation MFA&A personnel to assume responsibility for the project and called attention to acute shortages in packing materials and transportation facilities.  The memorandum also pointed out that the advisability of moving fragile objects across the ocean would need to be balanced against the advantages of leaving them in the Central Collecting Points.  Nothing came of their memorandum.

Within two weeks, Colonel Harry A. McBride, administrator of the National Gallery of Art, arrived in Berlin to expedite the shipment.  He flew down to Frankfurt two days later to discuss ways and means with LaFarge.  LaFarge told him that the Monuments Men were strongly opposed to the project. McBride was adamant that the project would be carried out, with or without them.

The Monuments Men on November 7 sent a memorandum to LaFarge listing their objections to the project.  This document, now known as the Wiesbaden Manifesto, was drafted and signed by 24 of the 32 Monuments officers in the American Zone at the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point.  The remaining eight chose either to submit individual letters expressing their objections, or orally to express like sentiments.

Preparations for the shipment took precedence over all other activities of the MFA&A office during the next three weeks.  It was decided to ship some 200 artworks to the United States and take them from one collecting point, Wiesbaden.  It was decided that Lamont Moore would be placed in charge of the operation.  He and Kovalyak had just completed the evacuation of the mine at Alt Aussee and had returned to Munich.  McBride, a friend from their days at the National Gallery of Art, was content to leave everything in Moore’s hands.  When Moore got to Frankfurt, he and Howe spent time studying a listing of the paintings stored at Wiesbaden. Then Moore typed out a tentative selection.  The next day he and McBride went to the Collecting Point for a preliminary inspection, and not soon thereafter 202 paintings were shipped to the United States, accompanied by Moore.

In December 1945, when LaFarge went to the United States, Howe served as the acting chief of the MFA&A Section of the Restitution Control Branch of the Economics Division. He did not serve in this capacity long.  In February Howe returned home and resumed his position as director at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. He recorded the story of his European experience in Salt Mines and Castles: The Discovery and Restitution of Looted European Art.  For his wartime service as a Monuments Man, Howe was honored with the Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor and the Officer of the Dutch Order of Orange-Nassau.

Howe later served as the Cultural Affairs Advisor with the Office of the High Commissioner of Germany during 1950-1951, during which time he returned to Germany with former Monuments Man S. Lane Faison, to assist with closing the central collecting points where the recovered artworks had been held for restitution.  From 1960-1968, Howe was a member of the Fine Arts Committee for The White House and he continued to serve on numerous panels and commissions as an art advisor. He retired from the Legion of Honor Museum in 1968, and passed away in 1994 at the age of 89.

Sources:

  • Perhaps the most useful source for this blog was Thomas Carr Howe, Jr., Salt Mines and Castles: The Discovery and Restitution of Looted European Art  (Indianapolis and New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Publishers, 1946)
  • Among the holdings of the National Archives I used were:
    • General Subject File Aug 1943-1945, 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, Secretariat, G-5 Division, General Staff, RG 331
    • Numeric-Subject Operations File 1943-July 1945, RG 331 (NAID 611522)
    • Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Branch (MFAA) Field Reports, 1943-1946, RG 239 (Roll 72 of NARA Microfilm Publication M-1944) (NAID 1537270)
    • General Records of the Section Chief, 1945-1949, RG 260 (Roll 1 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1949) (NAID 1571282)
    • Activity Reports, 1945-1951, Records of the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point, RG 260 (Roll 54 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1947) (NAID 2435804)
    • File: 312.1 Miscellaneous Correspondence, Central Files, 1944-1949, RG 260 (NAID 6923852)
    • File: 007 – 1 Fine Arts and Cultural Objects Folder #1, Jan 1946-April 1946 (NAID 7193794), Central Files, 1944-1949, RG 260
    • File: 007 1945 (NAID 7248132), General Correspondence, 1945-1946, RG 260
    • File: AG 007 Fine Arts, Archives and Museums USGCC 1944-45, General Correspondence, 1944-1945 (NAID 6923844), RG 260
    • General Records, 1946-1948, “Ardelia Hall Collection”, RG 260 (Roll 13, 16 and 21 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1941) (NAID 1560051)
    • Activity Reports, 1945, “Ardelia Hall Collection”, RG 260 (Roll 32 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1941) (NAID 1561462)


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 Terence A. Coyne is the fifteenth in this series.

Many of the Monuments Men were educated at Ivy League schools.  Terence A. Coyne was not one of them.  In fact, he never attended college.  And while many of his Monuments Men colleagues had been college professors, museum directors, and professional architects, Coyne’s background was basically that of clerical work before becoming a member of the Office of Strategic Services’ Art Looting Investigation Unit (ALIU).

Coyne was born in Bridgeport, Ohio on August 4, 1910 and graduated in 1927 from Central Catholic High School in Wheeling, West Virginia.  During the following years he would take night school classes in mathematics, public speaking, and French, as well as correspondence courses in accounting and business English.  After a short stint working as an unskilled sheet metal worker in Ohio, he was employed as a payroll clerk and supervisor in the Civil Works Administration of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration at St. Clairsville, Ohio, from December 1933 to August 1935.  He then was a supervisor for payrolls and timekeeping for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in Athens Ohio, from August 1935 to February 1938, and then as a chief timekeeper for the WPA in Akron, Ohio from February 1938 to July 1939. From July 1939 to November 1942 he was employed as a railway mail clerk with the U.S. Railway Mail Service, working out of Pittsburgh.  He married Margaret Brennan on May 20, 1942.

Coyne enlisted in the Navy on October 16, 1942 as yeoman second class and was ordered to duty on November 22.  After graduating from the Foreign Service School of the Office of Naval Intelligence, Washington, D.C., he was sent to North Africa on March 3, 1943, and served there as yeoman to the Officer in Charge of the Joint Army-Navy Intelligence Collection Agency (JICA), North Africa.  From October 1943 to September 1944, he served as yeoman to the Officer in Charge, Naval Intelligence Unit, U.S. Eight Fleet, and was promoted to Yeoman First Class January 8, 1944.  Until July 1944 he was stationed in Algiers and then moved with headquarters to Naples.  His duties there included supervision of a group of first-class and second-class yeomen, and supervision of all intelligence reports, correspondence, and other typed and mimeographed material. He also made translations as required of French and Italian documents.

He returned to the United States October 6, following attacks of malaria, and after temporary duty at the US Naval Hospital Great Lakes, Illinois, was transferred to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) X-2 Branch (counterintelligence) on March 17, 1945.  It appears Lt. James S. Plaut, USNR, desired Coyne’s services and arranged for the transfer.  Plaut and Coyne must have met when both were engaged in naval intelligence activities in North Africa.

During the last two weeks of March, Coyne took the Basic OSS School, completing it March 31, and then was assigned as an administrative assistant to Plaut, the chief of the Orion Project (the code name for the Art Looting Investigation Unit), in Europe.   The ALIU/Orion Project was set up on November 24, 1944, with the stated purpose: “It will be the mission of this project to collect and disseminate such information bearing on the looting, confiscation and transfer by the enemy of art properties in Europe, on individuals or organizations involved in such operations and transactions as will be of direct aid to the United States agencies empowered to effect restitution of such properties and prosecution of war criminals.”

Other members of the Orion Project came from various places in the fine arts community: Plaut (director of the Institute of Modern Art), who became an officer with the Office of Naval Intelligence in 1942.  Theodore Rousseau-on staff at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., was named the ALIU operations officer. S. Lane Faison, Jr., professor of fine arts at Williams College, joined the unit in April 1945.  Detached from the U.S. Army to serve with the ALIU were two other professionals: Charles H. Sawyer, director of the Worcester Art Museum, and John Phillips, curator of the Mabel Brady Garvan Collections.  Sawyer served as the ALIU liaison officer in Washington; Phillips ran the London office.

Sawyer wrote Plaut on April 2, Coyne had “taken his first plunge, now begins the second, and will join us for a brief period after a final week at home which I know would be in accordance with your wishes. Under this program he should be in your hands by mid-May.”  The following day the X-2 Training Officer wrote Coyne that he was scheduled to take the X-2 Indoctrination Course from April 2 to April 14; code instruction from April 16 to April 18, and would be authorized vacation from April 19 thru April 29.  He was also informed the target date for his departure would be May 10.

While undergoing indoctrination, Coyne took daily French language training, and possibly German.  Sawyer, then heading the Washington, D.C. office of the Orion Project recommended that Coyne be authorized to take German lessons (twenty lessons of one hour each) in the Berlitz School at the expense of Orion Project.  Sawyer indicated that Coyne was fluent in French and Italian and that it would be most helpful in connection with his work in the Orion Project if he had at least a working knowledge of German.

In mid-April Sawyer wrote Plaut that the administrative assistant of the Washington Orion Project office, Elizabeth Lambie, had health problems and that he had successfully obtained permission for Coyne to be retained an extra thirty days to help her.  On April 19 the X-2 Branch Training Officer wrote Coyne that his indoctrination on the Orion project would be from April 30 until his departure, which was changed to June 10.  Towards the end of the month Lambie wrote Plaut “Your pal Coyne is certainly a find-and his being here has practically saved my life.” She wrote that she just had been burned out. “With Coyne here to take on some of the typing and carding that I have been doing ad nauseam,” she added, “we can keep up with things and perhaps even get a little ahead.”

On May 15, Lambie, wrote Sarah (Sally) J. Sillcocks, her counterpart in London, that Faison was on leave preparatory to his departure for London and that Coyne would be going on leave the following week.  She observed:

They are both very nice guys and I think you will find working with them very easy. Faison is a most entertaining gent-the kind who, I should imagine, always can find enjoyment out of what he’s doing regardless of what it is-a thoroughly genial piece of work. Coyne never ceases to amaze me because I can’t get used to the idea of anybody in a sailor suit being any more capable or intelligent than Pop-eye, and this one is a great deal of both!

Sawyer wrote Plaut on May 19 that their first and immediate problem was the replacement for Coyne.  He added, “C. has been of the greatest possible assistance to us as he will be to John [Phillips] & Co. We aim to see that his service record shows the high evaluation his work and ability deserve.”  Lambie wrote Plaut also on May 19, that “Your fine man Coyne has gone on leave and we will soon be losing him, which will great affect our situation here. It has been working out very well, with him to take over a lot of the clerical work and some carding, but we don’t have any bright prospect of a replacement and the picture from my viewpoint is rather discouraging.”

James R. Murphy, Chief of the X-2 Branch on May 29 wrote that OSS Naval Command, recommending Coyne for promotion to the rate of Chief Yeoman.  He wrote that Coyne “has shown a marked ability and aptitude in his present assignment, and has received the highest recommendation from the Chief of the project, who believes that he has exception qualifications for his work, which entails a high degree of technical skill and ability to analyze and coordinate intelligence material. It is also believed that a high rank would be of material assistance to Yeoman Coyne in the fulfillment of his duties abroad.”  Coyne was promoted on July 16.

Faison left for London on May 30.  He added that he expected by the time Sawyer received the letter Coyne would be on his way to London.  He added that he planned to push Coyne right out to the field to work with them if Norman Pearson, Chief of the London X-2 Branch, was agreeable.

By the second week of June Rousseau established Orion Project detention center at Alt Aussee, Austria, in conjunction with the Judge Advocate, Third U.S. Army.  Alt Aussee was in close proximity to the salt mine where the greatest concentration of Nazi plunder from Western Europe was concealed.  By June 9 the Special Counter Intelligence Detachment of the 12th Army Group turned Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler’s official photographer, over to Rousseau and the ALIU had commenced operations at Alt Aussee.  On June 13 Plaut sent a cable to Phillips in London that the “Orion Center” had been established at Alt Aussee and that Walter Andreas Hofer (Director of the Goering Collection and Goering’s chief purchasing agent), Bruno Lohse (Deputy Chief of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg [ERR], the Nazi looting organization in France under Alfred Rosenberg), and Hoffmann were then being interrogated.  He asked that Coyne be rushed to Alt Aussee.

In the meantime, Coyne left for London on June 10.  Sawyer on June 22 wrote Coyne’s wife in Wheeling, West Virginia: “By now you have no doubt received word of Terence’s safe arrival on the other side. He stayed for a very brief time in London and then went on to Paris. We think it probable that he has now joined Mr. Plaut in Germany where they seem to be having a very interesting time.”  He informed her that they enjoyed having him with them and were very sorry to see him go and informed her that he would relay news they had from or about him and if she ever needed to get in touch with her husband quickly not to hesitating contacting him.

Coyne joined the unit at Alt Aussee on June 22 and became Plaut’s assistant.  Faison left London on July 13 to join Plaut, Rousseau, and Coyne at Alt Aussee.

Soon after the ALIU began operations, Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) officers and others brought leading participants in Nazi art looting operations, suspects, and informants to the ALIU for interrogation.  The operating plan called for interrogations and the production of interrogation reports.  Detailed Interrogation Reports (DIRs) were to be produced about specific individuals interrogated and Consolidated Interrogation Reports (CIRs) on specific topics.  As for the CIRs, Plaut, Rousseau, and Faison divided their work so that each would report upon one of the most important looting programs. Rousseau was responsible for the investigation of the Goering Collection. Faison was responsible for investigating the activities of the planners of the projected Fuhermuseum at Linz, Austria. Plaut was responsible investigating the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg.

Coyne was a key part of the process.  He organized the records, compiled reports, translated documents, and, performed actual field duties, ranging from help with the interrogations to assisting in the administration of the detention center.

During mid-August Coyne’s baby died and his wife was ill.  Upon receiving this news, on August 16 Sawyer wrote Plaut about the sad news he had received.  “It is such tough luck and I know how upset Terry will be” Sawyer wrote. He asked Plaut if there were any chance of getting Coyne compassionate leave.  Plaut had returned to London on August 18, bringing finished reports with him and left for Washington D.C. on August 21.  So it was possible that Plaut may not have seen Sawyer’s letter, but Sawyer also had sent cables to London and Alt Aussee about the Coyne situation.  In any event, either Plaut, or Rousseau at Alt Aussee arranged for Coyne to return to the States on temporary duty.

Rousseau cabled the X-2 Branch, London, on August 23, Coyne was leaving the next day for London en route to Washington.  He added, “Imperative stenographic assistance be rushed to Alt Aussee within next week to relieve critical situation.”   Alice Whitney, who joined the Orion Project in London as a secretary on July 6, departed London on temporary duty at Alt Aussee on September 6, to help out in Coyne’s absence.  In the meantime, Coyne departed from London on September 1.

On August 29, the Orion London Desk sent to the Chief X-2 Branch, OSS Mission to Great Britain a progress report for the month of August. The report noted that Faison and Coyne

have been at the ORION Detention Center at Alt Aussee where they have completed Detailed Interrogations of Robert Scholz, chief of the pictorial art section for the E.R.R.; Gustav Rochlitz, art dealer implicated in exchanges of looted art property; Gunther Schiedlausky, E.R.R. official; Bruno Lohse, leading E.R.R. personality; Karl Kress, on photographic staff of E.R.R.; as well as Consolidated Interrogation Report on the ‘Activity of the E.R.R. in France.

During the second week in September Coyne was ready to return to the ALIU, to complete his assignment, which was described in a transportation request, as “assisting a group of U.S. Navy officers in the interrogation of high German officials at a special OSS center.”  John D. Wilson noted on the request “He is important to the X-2 Art Project and returned to the U.S. only because of a medical emergency.”  On September 14 travel orders were issued to Coyne and he was soon on his way back to Europe.  Sawyer wrote John Phillips on that day that “Terry will bring you up-to-date on most of the news from this quarter.”  Coyne returned to London on September 17.

There was no need for Coyne to return to Alt Aussee as the Orion Project was wrapping up its operations there.  The Orion Project detention center, Alt Aussee was closed the last week of September by Faison, who returned to London on October 8. Rousseau returned to London October 2, from Austria via Munich, Nuremberg, and Paris.  Plaut arrived in London on October 9, having completed his Washington discussions on the future of the Orion Project.

Soon after Coyne returned to London, the OSS was abolished. The ALIU was placed under the X-2 Branch of the newly established Strategic Services Unit (SSU) of the War Department.

The ALIU would continue its investigations and complete their reports.  It produced a Final Report, three Consolidated Interrogation Reports (Activity of the Einsatzstab Rosenberg in France, The Goering Collection, and, Linz: Hitler’s Museum and Library), and twelve Detailed Interrogation Reports (DIRs) (Heinrich Hoffman, July 1945; Ernst Buchner, July 1945; Robert Scholz, August 1945; Gustav Rochlitz, August 1945; Gunther Schiedlausky, August 1945; Bruno Lohse, August 1945; Gisela Limberger, September 1945; Walter Andreas Hofer, September 1945;  Karl Kress, August 1945; Walter Bornheim, September 1945; Herman Voss, September 1945; and, Karl Haberstock, May 1946). All of these are now available on Fold3.

The ALIU progress report, dated October 31, noted the unit intended to produce DIRs on Kajetan Muehlmann, Rose Bauer, Maria Dietrich, and Hildebrandt Gurlitt. They were never produced as DIRs.

Despite not accomplishing as much as intended, the ALIU work at Alt Aussee clarified the nature of the looting process and identified the whereabouts of countless masterpieces. Its work also contributed to the Nuremberg trials. The ALIU recommended that certain individuals be tried as war criminals. Karl Haberstock’s information was so damaging to the Nazi leaders that the Americans decided to send him to Nuremberg to testify at the war crimes trials. There he became a key witness with respect to art plundering.

From London on November 8 Plaut wrote that all the CIRs and DIRs should be completed, mimeographed, and distributed by December 15 at the latest. He observed that as things then stood, Faison, Coyne, and Alice Whitney would be in London continuously from November 15 to December 15 or thereabouts, with Whitney leaving around December 10 and Coyne, Faison and himself returning to the United States sometime around the first of the year.  He added that if Faison decided to stay a while longer in liaison capacity (would probably have to be back to Williams College by March 1), Coyne might want to stay with him, and that he would certainly approve them staying to work with U.S. Group Control Council and the Museum, Fine Arts and Archives unit of the U.S. Forces European Theater.

On November 26, 1945, Lt. N. H. Proctor, USNR, Executive Officer, of the SSU Mission to Great Britain, wrote the Commander of the U.S. Twelfth Fleet recommending Coyne for the award of the Commendation Ribbon for meritorious achievement with the following citation:

Chief Yeoman Coyne, while attached to this command, distinguished himself through participation in the apprehension and interrogation of sixteen (16) notorious German officials involved in the looting of priceless cultural properties from France, Holland, Belgium and Poland. In the capacity of Assistant to the Officer in Charge of a special interrogation center in Austria from 22 June through 27 August 1945, he demonstrated extraordinary initiative and perseverance in the capture and analysis of enemy documents vital to the prosecution of the war criminals Herman Goering and Alfred Rosenberg, and in the assumption of responsibility for the security of enemy personnel interned in this center….

Proctor wrote the recommendation was based upon the following facts: played an important part in the interrogation of sixteen notorious German officials and was chiefly responsible for the preparation of twenty important interrogation reports issued by the unit to which he is attached on the subject of German art looting in Europe in the war years. “These reports are proving of vital significance in the prosecution of the leading war criminals and in the recovery and restitution of many thousand priceless works of art confiscated by the enemy.”  He added that Coyne participated directly in the apprehension and transfer to the special OSS interrogation center in Austria of three prominent German officials then awaiting trial as war criminals.

From London Proctor sent a cable message to Plaut, SSU, War Department, on February 13, 1946, that he was extremely distressed that Coyne was turned down with no reason given. “Perhaps local board too combat minded” he observed and suggested a recommendation be submitted to Board of Decorations to the Navy Department with a strong accompanying letter.

Meanwhile, Coyne left Europe in December 1945 (he sailed home) and had his separation interview on February 7, 1946.  On February 15 the SSU Personnel Branch wrote the Commanding Officer of the SSU Naval Command that Lt. Cmdr. Theodore Rousseau and Coyne were surplus and requested that they be transferred out of SSU or discharged – whichever was applicable and that were hereby transferred to Naval Command for disposition.

During the second week of March Lt. Cmdr. James S. Plaut, Director of Orion Project, X-2 Branch, SSU wrote the SSU Citations Board that the Army Commendation Ribbon be awarded to Coyne for meritorious service in connection with military operations against an enemy of the United States from May 1945 to the present:

As a member of a highly trained group of specialists charged with a secret counter-espionage mission in Europe, he assisted materially in the successful completion of this project. Stationed with the project in England, Austria, and Germany, he assisted with distinction in the interrogation of enemy personnel, the analysis of captured enemy documents, and the final preparation of four comprehensive reports and fifteen individual reports on interrogated enemy personnel issued by his unit.

He was charged with the general administration of a special interrogation center in Austria established by his unit, and succeeded in directing the general administration of this center with security and efficiency, thus making possible the successful interrogations carried on by the investigators at this center.

James R. Murphy, Chief, X-2 Branch, SSU, approved the recommendation on March 12 and Citations Officer did so on April 4.

By that time, Coyne had left the X-2 Branch.  During March there was an effort to find a permanent position for Coyne with the SSU.  This effort was unsuccessful.  However, it appears that he was paid on a monthly basis as a civilian with the X-2 Branch until his services were terminated in June 1946.

Coyne would go on to other Government employment, including the Internal Revenue Service. He died on June 6, 2001.

This blog references records from the following:

  • Terence Coyne’s Personnel File (NAID 2170299), Personnel Files, 1941-1945, Entry 224, Record Group 226
  • File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Cables-Personnel-Personal, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226
  • File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Progress Reports, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226
  • File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Inter-Orion Correspondence, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226


Today’s post was written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, senior archivist at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

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 is the second part to the blog post on Charles H. Sawyer, the fourteenth in this series.

During March and April of 1945, Sawyer continued his liaison work as head of the Art Looting Investigations Unit office in Washington, DC.  Through the Liaison officer X-2 Branch, Sawyer established with the State Department’s Division of Foreign Activity Correlation, for exchange of information under the Safehaven[1] project as it related to Orion Project interest.  Also during a trip to Boston and New York March 13-16, he interviewed Prof. Paul J. Sachs, Prof. Jacob Rosenberg, Dr. Georg Swerzenski, Francis H. Taylor, and, Dr. Alfred Frankfurter. Sawyer interviewed in New York April 23-25, Dr. Alfred Frankfurter, Lloyd Hyde, Hyatt Mayor, Rensselaer Lee, and Sammy Rosenberg.  During April he established liaison with the OSS Secret Intelligence Branch, the OSS Safehaven Coordinator (John A. Mowinckel), the New York Customs office, and the Treasury Department’s Foreign Funds Control. Towards the end of April Sawyer prepared a report for the X-2 Branch providing an analysis of the Orion Project.[2]

During March and April Sawyer had to deal with personnel issues and problems in his office. Terence A. Coyne would join the ALIU in mid-March and would initially be scheduled to depart for London in mid-May.  S. Lane Faison would also join the Orion Project in April and be scheduled to join Plaut and Rousseau on the Continent at the end of May.  Sawyer provided them with Orion Project indoctrination and with respect to Coyne, put him to work part-time helping Elizabeth Lambie with her work.  Lambie, who, when she join the project thought she would be doing more substantive work, found she was being exhausted by countless hours of clerical work.  She wrote Plaut the first week of April that the office was having trouble getting “another gal to take over some of the dirty work I have now have been doing for five months” and with which she was thoroughly fed up.  “The problem,” she wrote, “is to find somebody who will fill the bill-that is to do a hell of a lot of typing and be intelligent enough to do the carding carefully and not be too intelligent to be too bored.” In mid-April Sawyer wrote Plaut that “our Liz has been told by her doctor that she must relax and unravel or face a serious breakdown, so that a half-time arrangement is being worked out for her within the shop.”  He also informed that Plaut that arrangements had been made to keep Coyne an additional thirty days to tide them over.  Lambie wrote Plaut on April 24 “your pal Coyne is certainly a find-and his being here has practically saved my life.”  She wrote that she had just been burned out. “With Coyne here to take on some of the typing and carding that I have been doing ad nauseam,” she added, “we can keep up with things and perhaps even get a little ahead.”[3]

Liaison work for Sawyer continued in May.  He established or continued liaison with the G-2 Who’s Who Branch and the Captured Material and Personnel Branch, and he and Faison met with the G-2 Liaison Officer for cultural matters to discuss certain problems of common Orion and G-2 interest and to ascertain how Orion liaison with G-2 might be strengthened.  Sawyer also expanded his dealings with the Foreign Economic Administration (FEA).  Near the end of the month Sawyer met with Dr. Franz Neumann, Acting Head, European Desk, R&A Branch, about the Orion Project’s specific interest in German personnel.[4]

Meanwhile, at some point at the end of April or first week of May, Huntington Cairns, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Roberts Commission offered Sawyer an appointment as his assistant, with a substantial pay raise.  The Washington X-2 Branch sent a cable on May 11 to Plaut, informing him of the job offer and Sawyer’s willingness to continue as well in his current Orion Project supervisory capacity.  Plaut was informed that X-2 believed such an arrangement would be desirable to the project and that Sawyer would not take on the Roberts Commission position without his approval.  Plaut was also informed that USAAF Capt. Otto Wittmann, Jr., formerly of Harvard (graduate and attended Paul Sachs’ museum studies course) and Kansas City (Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art), would possibly be available for Orion work under Sawyer, who recommended him.  Plaut was instructed to consult with Pearson and wire conclusions with any suggested alternatives.  The next day Sawyer wrote Plaut that “I hope it will be crystal clear to you that I did not initiate this and that also I am not for sale to the highest bidder. It would mean approximately three grand a year more for me and the opportunity to set up Washington headquarters without shortchanging Worcester friends.”  He added that he did not have the slightest intention of “quitting the ship until you give me the signal.”[5]

Plaut responded to the May 11 cable on May 14 that he agreed with the Sawyer appointment to the Roberts Commission as it would be advantageous to the Orion Project if Sawyer continued as nominal and responsible head ORION-Washington and personally conducted all Orion Project liaison with other agencies as heretofore.  Plaut believed that the division of time between the Orion Project and Commission duties be left to Sawyer’s discretion.  Plaut indicated that he knew Wittmann well and considered him desirable as Sawyer’s assistant, but not replacement. James R. Murphy, Chief of the X-2 Branch was willing for Sawyer to accept the appointment on the condition that he should retain his affiliation with the OSS, and that he continue to exercise general supervision over the ALIU Washington office and that the Commission assume responsibility for his salary during the period that he was employed by it.   The Commission agreed.  Plaut was informed on May 16 that the arrangement had been made and that Roberts Commission would acknowledge in writing Sawyer was lent by the OSS and that he would maintain Orion Project connection in a supervisory capacity.[6]

On May 17 Sawyer sent a memo to Cairns, for transmission to Justice Roberts, explaining Murphy’s approval and the conditions under which he would work with the Commission.   He wrote that the Art Unit:

has as its primary mission the collection of information regarding enemy personnel who have been engaged in the looting or collection of works of art in occupied territory or in the movement of such works of art into neutral countries. The personnel of the Unit, consisting of professional museum administrators and university art instructors, has worked in close cooperation with the American Commission and the British and Allied commissions concerned with the protection and restitution of works of art.

There is in my opinion no conflict of interest between the work of the O.S.S. Art Unit and the purpose for which the American Commission was established. They are essentially complementary in their functions: the American Commission as a policy-making and advisory body, collecting information for the use of other agencies; the O.S.S. Art Unit as an operating agency, preparing such information for the use of its own field personnel and for transmission to other agencies concerned with parallel problems. In most instances, the agencies and individuals with whom the American Commission maintains liaison are the same as those of the O.S.A. Art Unit.

Sawyer indicated that the amount of time that would be necessary for him to devote to the operations of the OSS Art Unit would depend entirely on the obtaining of a satisfactory replacement.  He added that it was his expectation that once such a person was trained and became fully familiar with its details, his responsibilities would be limited to consultation in matters of policy and to problems of liaison with other agencies.  Sawyer concluded his letter, by writing that, as had already indicated to Justice Roberts, he had obligations to the trustees of the Worcester Art Museum and hoped that he could conclude his responsibilities to the Commission and to the OSS by June 1946.  Justice Roberts annotated the memo, “Approved May 21, 1945, Owen J. Roberts, Chairman.”[7]

The Commission wrote the Chief of the X-2 Branch on May 23, thanking the OSS “for its great courtesy” in making Sawyer’s services available to the Commission.  Cairns enclosed a copy of a memo prepared by Sawyer and approved by Justice Roberts which explained the conditions under which Sawyer’s services had been made available by the OSS to the Commission.[8]  On June 4 Cairns wrote Sawyer concerning his transfer to the position of Assistant Secretary-Treasurer, effective July 2.  He wrote him again on June 27, changing the effective date to July 7.  A letter confirming his appointment was sent to him on July 4.[9]

Meanwhile Plaut in London, on May 19, the day before he and Rousseau would go to Paris and Germany and then on to Alt Aussee, Austria to set up operations, wrote Sawyer that he was entirely aware and satisfied that his acceptance of the Cairns offer was motivated much more through consideration of advantages to us than to himself.  “I should hate to feel that, no matter whom we would get to take over the more pedestrian aspects of the job,” he added “would not be in a position to carry on our essential liaison both internal and external, and to go to bat in matters of policy.”  Plaut wrote that he knew Whittmann very well and liked him, but did not consider him “a sufficiently strong representative for us in the months to come.  Unquestionably your new duties will occupy the major part of your time, and, whereas I consider that he would be ideally qualified to assist you, I do not think him an adequate alter ego.” That same day Sawyer wrote Plaut, explaining about going to work part-time with Roberts Commission and how it would help their project.  He informed his first and immediate problem was finding a replacement for Coyne (Lambie had begun half-time work on May 1) and that they were then “awaiting word from you before making the other move, for Otto or anyone else.”  During the summer, Sawyer wrote, he would keep in the closest contact with events in the Orion-Washington office.  As for Elizabeth Lambie, Sawyer wrote that if she had wanted to assume the responsibility of running the office, that would have been their first recommendation, but she quite definitely did not feel up to it, especially with the summer heat ahead. “The present arrangement is good for her and she is much better, but part of the responsibility for keeping her happy and interested is going to depend on you travelers feeding the home front as much as possible in play by play accounts.”[10]

On May 19 Lambie wrote Plaut that “Your fine man Coyne has gone on leave and we will soon be losing him, which will great affect our situation here. It has been working out very well, with him to take over a lot of the clerical work and some carding, but we don’t have any bright prospect of a replacement and the picture from my viewpoint is rather discouraging.” She wrote that “The new developments in Charlie’s career certainly make things a lot more complicated too.  He proposed to me that I take over after his departure, but frankly, as I think I wrote you before, I just can’t see what there is to do here the way the operation has turned out, except to keep the liaisons warm, which C. would continue to do from down the street, to maintain an archive in which nobody seems to be very much interested.”

She added that the real action was in the field, and that was where things should be processed, where it was so much more readily accessible, and in such a situation,

I just can’t see the function of this office except as a sort of dead-file. The amount of information in our field which turns up in other offices hereabouts is infinitesimal except for censorship stuff whose value is questionable anyway…so there it is. That leaves me with the carding, logging and other mechanical and frustrating operations, and I have really been so bored with it that nothing but my loyalty and devotion to JSP [Plaut] has prevented my accepting the offer which I had a couple of months ago-and which still stands-of an editorial job on the history project which would be much more in my line I think. However, I told you that I wouldn’t desert you unless a satisfactory replacement turned up and that still holds, but Charlie’s change in location makes the picture if possible more complicated. In the last analysis, I think it boils down to the fact that none of us in the beginning had any idea of how the Washington office would operate once things got going in the field, and now that field operations are under way, it appears that the tide has receded leaving us high and dry on the beach. What we need now, in order to get properly set up for future operations is a statement of your philosophy on Washington’s place in the picture. It makes no sense to me, (though Charlie doesn’t agree) to think of taking on another person of his caliber and experience, because there just would be nothing for him to do except attend staff meetings and consult with Charlie who would continue to main the liaisons he had already established for us.

She concluded by informing Plaut that she did not want to go back to full-time work, as “my fragile health has been greatly improved by the part-time schedule. It has also been improved by being able to pass the buck to Coyne. I hope I don’t have a relapse when he goes.”[11]

On June 6 Plaut wrote Lambie that “I have not deviated in the least from my original impression that strong Washington representation of the project is imperative…The liaison factor continues, in my estimation, to be exceptionally important and we have got to be defended strongly in any policy discussions internal or external which may arise.”  He added that if she were in a position to return to a full-time endeavor, then Sawyer “could dump all his internal responsibilities on your capable shoulders and you could have someone working under you.” Plaut noted that

As it is, Charlie will have to have someone to take over the routine responsibilities and he can determine far better than I whether such functions can be discharged by you working half-time.  I am neither competent or willing to determine the immediate future of your office, and I am sure you will be relieved if I say that I consider Washington entirely Charlie’s baby. No one could be better equipped than he to work out his and your own problems, with respective to the collective destinies of the project. Therefore, please proceed with the whole thing in the knowledge that you both have my complete confidence and that I shall be thoroughly satisfied with any arrangement on which you both decide.

He concluded by informing her that if she decided to leave the project leave, “I am sure that Sally Sillcocks [Sarah J. Sillcocks] could make a splendid replacement for you.”[12]

That same day Plaut wrote Sawyer that he had returned from Germany to London the previous day to find Faison had arrived. “I want to make it clear once again,” he wrote, “that both Ted [Rousseau] and I were delighted from the outset at the prospect of intimate collaboration with the Commission through your good offices.”  He noted that Faison assured him that he [Sawyer] would spend a certain amount of time each week on their affairs and that “you will continue right down to the end of the project to conduct our ‘high level’ liaison and policy.”  Plaut suggested that Sawyer might want to conduct such liaison until he had broken in a successor, and it was for that reason that he proposed Wittmann or anyone of comparable stature be “an ideal assistant for you.  In any case, I wish to reaffirm that you are entirely at liberty to choose anyone you wish for the job without consulting me further, and to arrange all details as you wish.”  Continuing, he wrote:

As to Liz, I think she would have been ideal to take over on a new full-time basis, but her letter written the same day as yours [May 19] reveals a high degree of restlessness and dissatisfaction with a job not commensurate with her abilities. I have felt this building up for some time, yet I have been almost powerless to do anything from this distance. I am touched and gratified by her expressions of loyalty, but I don’t want her to continue in the job on my account as there should be no question of personal loyalties involved.

Therefore, Plaut wrote, if she wished to make a change he was more than willing to approve it with the condition that she should break in her successor.  He noted that Sillcocks was badly needed in London “for the next few weeks in the wild scramble which we anticipate, but she is willing to come back to Washington if you want her and I can let her go about August 1.”[13]

During early June Sawyer was still busy with his Orion Project work.  He conferred in New York on June 4 through June 6 on Orion Project matters with Francis H. Taylor, with various art dealers, and with A. Seymour Houghton of X-2 Branch, New York Office. Back in Washington Sawyer prepared a memo providing a description of the Orion Project. This was intended to be for the information of trainees and prospective X-2 field officers. He also took part in a conference held by the Orion Project in cooperation with the Roberts Commission with Economic Security Division of the State Department, concerning its interest in looted art from a Safehaven standpoint.[14]

On June 20 Sawyer wrote John Phillips, who was heading up the London office of the Orion Project, that “My life is now one of action and transition; begin the new work with the Commission on July 1st and meanwhile busy with all the details.  July will be hectic on both ends with personnel uncertainties clouding the horizon.”[15]

Sawyer still was busy at the end of June.  On June 20 he provided information to the State Department’s Division of Foreign Activity and on June 25 presented to ECONIC Project officials a brief summary of ORION operations and plans.[16] Also on June 25, Sawyer met with FEA representatives to discuss revisions to Miss Helen Crooks’ May 5 FEA report on looted art.  In writing about this meeting Sawyer noted “I represented both the Roberts Commission and the OSS.”[17]

Sawyer assumed duties as Assistant Secretary of the Commission effective July 7, and maintained his affiliation with OSS.[18] During July he handled both his duties with the Orion Project and those with the Roberts Commission.  In the middle of July Sawyer wrote Plaut that: “Life here has been extremely hectic during the past month, also interesting-learning one job while trying to keep another alive. The Commission business is to put it mildly complicated, and the administrative side has to be built from the ground up.”  He added that “At the other end of the avenue we are at long last really efficiently staff[ed] from the production standpoint, and Liz, really running the show with a morning nod and benediction from your humble servant is beaming rather than fuming.”[19]

In the latter part of July Sawyer initiated a conference concerning a revision of the FEA Preliminary Report “Looted Art in Occupied Territories, Neutral Countries, and Latin America,” with representatives of the Roberts Commission, the Department of State, the FEA, and Maj. Lee H. Sharrar, the X-2 Branch Executive Officer.  Sawyer chaired the conference, which was held at the National Gallery of Art on July 24.  During July Sawyer also met with the ECONIC Committee, to discuss the gathering and distribution of cultural material of Safehaven interest.[20]

At the end of the month he wrote Phillips that “I am more than busy these days; I am frantic, trying to keep one show alive and kicking while getting the house in order for business in the other.  Roughly three to four peoples work rest on these narrow shoulders at the moment, and while it is stimulating for a period, it couldn’t go on forever. There is some light ahead on both fronts however and I think that we may end up reasonably set for action.”[21]

Plaut in the fall of 1945, successfully recommended Sawyer for the Army Commendation Ribbon.  He wrote:

As the Washington director of a highly secret counter-espionage project, he organized the Headquarters office, and was directly responsible for the analysis of all intelligence reports and investigations received by this office and for the independent preparation of reports for dissemination. He was also responsible for the successful liaison of his office with other government agencies, such as the Department of State, Department of the Treasury, G-2 and Civil Affairs Divisions, War Department; Office of Naval Intelligence; and Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas.

The tact, initiative, and extensive knowledge in a highly specialized field which he brought to his assignment reflect great credit upon him and upon this organization.[22]

During the first week in August Capt. Otto Wittmann, Jr. entered duty with the Orion Project. He soon took over responsibility for overseeing the Washington Office, taking some of the administrative burdens off of Sawyer, thereby allowing him more time to concentrate on his Roberts Commission responsibilities.[23]

Still, Sawyer was busy with Orion Project work and was most grateful to have Wittmann’s assistance.  He wrote Phillips on August 22, “I have been extremely busy during the last month and none too effective on our show, but there are some decisions that will just have to be made before we can go forward effectually. Otto W. is proving most helpful and I think we are lucky to have him, both to handle the task here and as a temporary fill-in for your assignment [London office] if that is required.”  Three weeks later Sawyer wrote Phillips that work was hectic and that “Altogether, the pastoral life looks pretty good to me right now but I think circumstances and a somewhat tattered New England conscience will probably keep me at it for another six months.”[24] The day he wrote this, Lambie, who had been promoted to an Intelligence Analyst on August 2, resigned, to be replaced by Sillcocks from the London Office.

Whittmann wrote Plaut on October 12 that Sawyer was going to take a vacation from October 19 to October 30, and planned to leave Washington permanently on January 1.  A week later he wrote Plaut that Sawyer had gone off “for a well-deserved vacation.”[25]

At the end of October, with Sawyer still on vacation, and the Orion-Wahsington office awaiting the final ALIU reports from Europe, Whittmann reported to Plaut that he had very little to report. “In fact,” he wrote, “things are so quiet they are dull.” A month later he again reported that things had been very quiet in the office.  He added that “Charlie is increasingly busy with his other work, which has apparently turned out to be a good big job, and we see little of him here. I see him usually in his other office, and we are continuing to keep our liaison channels open. The reports [Detailed and Consolidated Interrogation Reports] which have come back have certainly helped to keep up the interest all over town, and we hope that you will continue to send them on.”[26]

On December 12 Whittmann wrote Plaut that Sawyer intended to leave at the end of the year, but would come down for frequent conferences during January.[27] As 1946 began Sawyer wrapped up his work in Washington and took a month’s rest in New York before returning to the Worcester Art Museum.[28] He would maintain his contact with the Commission during the early months of 1946, until before the arrival in February of Lamont Moore to assume his Assistant Secretary-Treasurer position.  He also stayed in contact with his Orion Project colleagues.

In 1947 Sawyer left the Worcester Art Museum to go to Yale to become the Dean of the School of Fine Arts and Director of the Division of the Arts.  He was also professor of history of art.  In 1957 he accepted a position as the Director of the University of Michigan Museum of Art and as professor of art and art history.  In 1963, Sawyer founded the Museum Practice Program, a Rackham School of Graduate Studies program with close ties to the Museum of Art.  This was a landmark program in museum practice to train museum administrators, one of the first of its kind in the United States.  He retired as director in 1972 and as a professor in 1975.  He served as a member of the Smithsonian Art Commission from 1973 to 1982.  The Charles Sawyer Center for Museum Studies at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art was founded in his honor in 2003. He died February 25, 2005.


[1] For a good study of the Safehaven program see Donald P. Steury, “The OSS and Project SAFEHAVEN” Tracking ‘Nazi Gold,’” Studies in Intelligence, No. 9 (Summer 2000), pp. 35-50.

[2] Progress Report for March, 1945, ORION, Washington, April 4, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Progress Reports, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226; Progress Report for April, 1945, ORION, Washington, May 7, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, ibid.; Letter, Charles H. Sawyer to E. W. O’Flaherty, Foreign Funds Control, Treasury Department, March 28, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Liaison, ibid.; Office Memorandum, [Charles H. Sawyer]. Subject: Safehaven project, April 20, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, State Department, ibid.; Memo, Charles H. Sawyer to Maj. Robert F. Rushin, Subject: Analysis of ORION Project to Date, April 21, 1945, Washington X-2, OP-16, ORION Organization, ibid.

[3] Letter, Elizabeth Lambie to James S. Plaut, April 6, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Cables-Personnel-Personal, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, RG 226; Letter, Charles H. Sawyer to James S. Plaut, April 16, 1945, ibid.; Letter, Elizabeth Lambie to James S. Plaut, April 24, 1945, ibid.

[4] Progress Report for May, 1945, ORION, Washington, June 12, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Progress Reports, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226; Memorandum, Conference with Mr. Richard Harrison, FEA, May 24, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Liaison, ibid.; Memorandum, Subject: CHS conference with Dr. Franz Neumann, Acting Head, European Desk, R&A Branch, May 25, 1945, ibid.; Memorandum, C. H. Sawyer, ORION to Bernard Towell, Liaison Office, X-2 Branch, Subject: Information on Orion Project, for transmission to FEA (Attention Mr. Otto Fleischer, Chief, Special Areas Branch, Finance Unit, Blockade Division,), May 22, 1945, ibid.; Memorandum, Conference with Mr. Richard Harrison, FEA, May 24, 1945, ibid.; Memo of meeting, Faison and Sawyer with Major W. A. Aiken of G-2, May 10, ibid.; Memorandum, Subject: CHS conference with Dr. Franz Neumann, Acting Head, European Desk, R&A Branch, May 25, 1945, ibid.

[5] Cable, From JJ/001 to BB/501, May 11, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Cables-Personnel-Personal, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226; Letter, Charles H. Sawyer to James S. Plaut, May 12, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Cables-Personnel-Personal, ibid.

[6] Cable, BB/501 to JJ/001, May 14, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Cables-Personnel-Personal, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226; Cable, JJ/001 to BB/501, May 16, 1945, ibid.; Memo, Charles H. Sawyer to Huntington Cairns, Secretary-Treasurer, The American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, For Transmission to Mr. Justice Roberts, May 17, 1945, File: Sawyer, Charles H., Correspondence, 1943-1946 (NAID 1518800), M-1944, Roll 16.

[7] Memo, Charles H. Sawyer to Huntington Cairns, Secretary-Treasurer, The American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, For Transmission to Mr. Justice Roberts, May 17, 1945, ibid.

[8] Letter, Huntington Cairns, Secretary to James S. Murphy, Chief, X-2 Branch, Office of Strategic Services, May 23, 1945, ibid.

[9] Letter, Huntington Cairns, Secretary to James S. Murphy, Chief, X-2 Branch, Office of Strategic Services, May 23, 1945, File: Sawyer, Charles H., Correspondence, 1943-1946 (NAID 1518800), M-1944, Roll 16; Letter, Huntington Cairns, Secretary-Treasurer to Charles H. Sawyer, June 27, 1945, ibid.; Letter, John A. Gilmore, Acting Secretary-Treasurer to Charles H. Sawyer, July 4, 1945, ibid.

[10] Letter, James S. Plaut to Charles H. Sawyer, May 19, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Cables-Personnel-Personal, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226; Letter, Charles H. Sawyer to James S, Plaut, May 19, 1945, ibid.

[11] Letter, Elizabeth Lambie to James S. Plaut, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Cables-Personnel-Personal, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226.

[12] Letter, James S. Plaut to Elizabeth Lambie, June 9, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Cables-Personnel-Personal, ibid.

[13] Letter, James S. Plaut to Charles H. Sawyer, June 6, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Cables-Personnel-Personal, ibid.

[14] Progress Report for June, 1945, ORION, Washington, July 10, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Progress Reports, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226; Memo, Charles H. Sawyer, Subject: Description of ORION Project, June 8, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, ORION Organization, ibid.

[15] Letter, Charles H. Sawyer to John Phillips, June 20, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Cables-Personnel-Personal, ibid.

[16] Memorandum, Charles H. Sawyer to Bernard Towell for transmission to Herbert J. Cummings, Division of Foreign Activity Correlation, State Department, June 20, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Liaison, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226; Memorandum, C.H.S. Subject: Conference with ECONIC Project Officials, June 25, 1945, ibid. On April 16, 1945, established in connection with the Office of the Director of OSS for the purpose of correlating all Safehaven and other economic intelligence material received by OSS, was a unit known as Economic Intelligence Correlation, with the abbreviated designation ECONIC. Memo, G. Edward Buxton, Acting Director, OSS to All Strategic Services Officers and Chiefs, OSS, Subject: Business and Financial intelligence, April 16, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Safehaven, ibid.

[17] Memorandum by C.H.S. on Conference with Representatives of FEA, June 25, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Liaison, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226; Progress Report for June, 1945, ORION, Washington, July 10, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Progress Reports, ibid.

[18] Progress Report for July 1945, ORION, n.d., Washington, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Progress Reports, ibid.

[19] Letter, Charles H. Sawyer to James S. Plaut, July 14, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Cables-Personnel-Personal, ibid.

[20] Minutes, Conference on Looted Art, July 24, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Liaison, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226; Progress Report for July 1945, ORION, n.d., Washington, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Progress Reports, ibid.

[21] Letter, Charles H. Sawyer to John Phillips, July 28, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Cables-Personnel-Personal, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226.

[22] Memo, James S. Plaut, Lt. Cmdr., USNR, Director, Orion Project, X-2 Branch, Strategic Services Unit, War Department to Citations Officer, Strategic Services Unit, War Department, Subject: Recommendation for Award of the Army Commendation Ribbon to Private First Class Charles H. Sawyer, n.d., Charles H. Sawyer Personnel File (NAID 2185148), RG 226. This recommendation was concurred by James R. Murphy, Chief, X-2 Branch, Strategic Services Unit, War Department, n.d., ibid.

[23] Progress Report for July 1945, ORION, n.d., Washington, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Progress Reports, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226.

[24] Letter, Charles H. Sawyer to John Phillips, August 22, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Cables-Personnel-Personal, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226; Letter, Charles H. Sawyer to John Phillips, September 14, 1945, ibid.

[25] Letter, [Otto Wittmann, Jr.] to James S. Plaut, October 12, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Inter-Orion Correspondence, ibid.; Letter, [Otto Wittmann, Jr.] to James S. Plaut, October 19, 1945, ibid.

[26] Letter, [Otto Wittmann, Jr.] to James S. Plaut, October 26, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Inter-Orion Correspondence, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226; Letter, [Otto Wittmann, Jr.] to James S. Plaut, November 23, 1945, ibid.

[27] Letter, [Otto Wittmann, Jr.] to James S. Plaut, December 12, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Inter-Orion Correspondence, ibid.

[28] Letter, Otto Wittmann, Jr., Capt. A.C. to Mrs. S. L. Faison, Jr., January 12, 1946, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Inter-Orion Correspondence, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226.



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 is Part I of the blog post on Charles H. Sawyer, and is the fourteenth in this series.

Charles Henry Sawyer, “Charlie” to his friends, was born in Andover, Massachusetts on October 20, 1906. He attended Phillips Academy, Andover and then in 1924 took a four-month trip to Italy, Algiers, Greece, and Egypt.  Then it was off to Yale University where he studied History and Government and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1929. That year he enrolled in the Harvard Law School.  In 1930 he took a three-month trip to Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and France.  Back at Harvard his career path changed when he enrolled in legendary teacher and museum director Paul Sachs’ renowned museum studies class.  He then attended the Harvard School of Fine Arts (1930-1932) and was asked to become the first curator of the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy.  There he was made director and distinguished himself as a specialist in art education while building an important collection of American art. He was also an art instructor and chairman of the Art Department at Phillips Academy.  In 1935 the Carnegie Corporation funded a four-month trip for Sawyer to visit England, the Netherlands, Belgium and France.   In 1940, Sawyer was hired to serve as director of the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts.

He then took a leave of absence to serve in the U.S. Army, beginning on June 21, 1943.  From August 1943 until March 30, 1944, Private Sawyer was basically unassigned, awaiting a call for work with the Army’s Civil Affairs program.  That call came from the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) which was looking for enlisted personnel to be assigned for Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) work.  Among those in the United States they desired and would get were John D. Skilton, Jr., John M. Phillips, Lincoln Kirstein, Lamont Moore, and Sawyer. Sawyer left the United States for London on April 5, 1944.  From April 17 to May 11 he was assigned to the European Civil Affairs Division for training.[1]

On May 12, Sawyer was assigned to the MFA&A Branch of the Interior Division of the German Country Unit under the Civil Affairs Staff of SHAEF.[2]  That same day the commanding officer, Maj. Theodore Sizer, departed England for the United States because of illness. The other members of the branch were Capt. Mason Hammond, 2nd Lt. Calvin S. Hathaway, and Corporal John M. Phillips.  At the time he entered military service Phillips was Acting Director of the Yale University Art Gallery.  He had traveled and studied extensively in England and on the Continent and was fluent in French, Italian, German and Spanish.  Sawyer was fluent in French and German.  The MFA&A Branch during April and May was primarily engaged in the submission of estimates of personnel and other requirements; preparation and revision of a chapter of the Civil Affairs Handbook for Germany which provided instructions for Civil Affairs Officers in the Field with respect to MFA&A activities; and, a compilation of an Official List of Monuments, including sites of religious, artistic, and historic importance to be exempt from military use without special permission and preparation of a handbook chapter and other directives for the Austrian County Section .  The unit has also drafted various directives and commented on material prepared by other sections and other similar work.[3]

Towards the end of May Colonel Henry Newton, with G-5 SHAEF, reported that “The work of the German MFA&A Unit has been satisfactorily accomplished in the initial stage of general planning and the defining of objectives. There remains much to be done with respect to specific information and the detailed planning for operations.” This work, he noted, was then being carried on under the general direction of Hammond until such time as a new chief of the section was assigned.[4]

Hammond wrote the head of SHAEF’s MFA&A program, on May 23 indicating the feeling was same for Hathaway, Phillips and Sawyer, all of whom should be Captains and Majors, for they were experts of note, “among whom a mere Roman historian feels like a duck among swans.”  Hammond added that he had discussed with a Col. Cox the question of promotion for 2nd Lt. Hathaway and at least S/Sgt grade for Phillips and Sawyer, both of whom should be commissioned; “It is a crazy world, when I outrank men of their competence.”[5]

The MFA&A Branch up till near the end of August consisted of Hammond, F/Lt. A.W. Douglas Cooper, S/Ldr. J.D. Goodison, 1st Lt. Calvin Hathaway, Cpl. John M. Phillips, and, PFC Charles H Sawyer. On August 18 instructions were issued that effective August 21 the British Element of the German Planning Unit would come under control of HQ Control Commission for Germany (British Element).  On that date Cooper and Goodison were separated from the unit. On August 25, the MFA&A Branch was informed verbally that it had been transferred from the Interior Division, which was dissolved, and would form a subsection of a Property Section under Lt. Col. C. S. Reid, Acting Chief of the other subsection, Property Control, who became also Acting Chief of the Property Section.  Under this arrangement Hammond would serve as Acting Chief and Hathaway as Acting Deputy; with Phillips and Sawyer serving as research specialists. This four-member team would basically stay together until late in 1944.  Capt. Walter J. Huchthausen, attached on Temporary Duty from the European Civil Affairs Division to MFA&A, G-5 Operations, SHAEF, worked in the Subsection beginning in late September.  Hammond requested, without success, that he be regularly assigned to it because of his particular familiarity with Germany and German.[6]

In August Hammond recommended that Sawyer be commissioned. He wrote that Sawyer had “shown not only exceptional professional knowledge but also outstanding qualities of industry, intelligence, initiative, and leadership. His usefulness for the work for which the WD [War Department] selected him and sent him overseas will be much enhanced if he is commissioned since he is better qualified to serve as a MG [Military Government] Specialist Officer dealing with problems of Fine Arts than as a clerk. For such service the prestige of the United States demands commissioned rank.”[7]

During August Sawyer, and nine other enlisted men from the German Country were detailed to the German Staff Section, G-5, SHAEF to work on the Handbook for Military Government of Germany.  Their work was commended by the officer overseeing the project.[8]

Phillips and Sawyer were transferred from Hammond’s Branch to the London Office of the Office of Strategic Services on December 13, 1944, to be part of its Art Looting Investigation Unit (ALIU).[9] Once Donovan agreed to the creation of an art looting investigation unit it was decided to place it under the control of the OSS X-2 (counterintelligence) Branch.  “Our unit,” ALIU director James S. Plaut wrote, “was given the code name, appropriately, of Project Orion, because we truly were hunters.”[10]

Roberts Commission member Francis Henry Taylor, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, discussed with the X-2 Branch Chief, James R. Murphy, on September 30, the proposed unit and personnel for it.  Subsequently he proposed for the unit fine arts professionals in whom he had confidence and who would be most adaptable to the required work.  He recommended that the unit be composed James S. Plaut (who had served in the Office of Naval Intelligence since 1942), Lt. Theodore Rousseau, Jr., USNR (on staff at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, prior to the war and serving as United States naval attaché in Spain and Portugal during the hostilities), and Lt., S. Lane Faison, Jr., USNR (former professor of fine arts at Williams College), as well as Sawyer, Phillips, T-5 Sheldon Keck, Pvt. Lamont Moore, Pvt. John Skilton, and two others.

During the first three weeks of November Plaut and Rousseau held discussions with Roberts Commission members, X-2 Branch representatives, and the Executive Officer of the Civil Affairs Division of the War Department regarding the unit and its personnel.  Plaut and Rousseau on November 21 submitted to Murphy a tentative plan for the organization and field operations of the Orion Project and initial assignments to the unit.  They proposed that Plaut be the Director; Rousseau the Operations Officer; Phillips the Reporting Officer in London; Sawyer to head Orion-Washington, assisted by analyst Mrs. Elizabeth [Liz] Lambie. They also suggested obtaining the services of T-5 Sheldon Keck, Pvt. Lamont Moore, and Pvt. John Baur.[11]

On November 24, the Chief of the X-2 Branch approved a draft directive for the establishment in the X-2 Branch of a special project.  An excerpt from the directive is quoted:

It will be the mission of this project to collect and disseminate such information bearing on the looting, confiscation and transfer by the enemy of art properties in Europe, on individuals or organizations involved in such operations and transactions as will be of direct aid to the United States agencies empowered to effect restitution of such properties and prosecution of war criminals.[12]

A month later, the Acting Chief, X-2 Branch, London, Norman H. Pearson, a former Yale English professor, assigned Sawyer and Phillips to write a report on the organization of the “Art Project” within the X-2 Branch, London, and a summary of sources of information on German Art personnel available in London.  Responding to this request, they provided a six-page report to Pearson on January 4, 1945.[13]

Report on the Organization of the Art Project within X-2 Branch, p52

Report on the Organization of the Art Project within X-2 Branch, p52 (available on Fold3)

The ALIU Field headquarters was established in London that January.  But before it began fully functioning, with responsibility for the planning of all field operations, the reception and collation of material submitted by field representatives and the transmission of such material, and the maintenance of the operational files of the project, Sawyer would be reassigned.  On January 10, he was ordered to OSS headquarters in Washington, D.C., to oversee the ALIU office there.  He arrived back in the United States on January 19 and was authorized to wear civilian clothes.[14]

Sawyer reported to work on January 20, and undoubtedly was briefed by Plaut regarding his duties for being in charge of the Washington office.  This office had primary responsibility for the administration of the ALIU; maintenance of its permanent records; procurement and training of personnel; and, collection, evaluation and appropriate dissemination of Orion intelligence. Its operational function, Plaut instructed, would be to serve and maintain close contact with Orion field personnel, particularly with respect to the flow of essential information from Washington to the field  “It is essential to the integration of the unit’s activities,” Plaut wrote “that ORION, Washington, establish and maintain close contact with ORION, London.”  An important activity was that of establishing liaison with agencies that would be able to provide the Orion Project with information.  As Plaut noted, “The liaison duties of the Washington offices constitute perhaps its most important function.”[15]

By the time Sawyer reported to work, liaison had already been established with the Roberts Commission, the Civil Affairs Division of the War Department, and the State Department’s Division of Public and Cultural Relations.[16]

Immediately Sawyer threw himself at the major task of liaison.  On January 27, he and the X-2 Branch Liaison Officer met with a representative of the Captured Material and Personnel Branch G-2, War Department, regarding Prisoner of War (POW) interrogations that would be of concern to the Orion Project.  Three days later Sawyer submitted to the liaison officer a list of POW interrogation reports he desired.  In doing so he indicated that other such reports would undoubtedly come to his attention and would be requested. Indeed, Sawyer would make requests for specific Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre POW reports from G-2.[17]

Feeling he would be more effective as a civilian, it was arranged for Sawyer to be transferred from active duty to the Enlisted Reserve Corps, U.S. Army on March 8.  He remained in OSS position in a civilian capacity.[18]

This post continues in Part II: Double Duty for the OSS and the Roberts Commission


[1] Charles H. Sawyer Personnel File (NAID 2185148), Personnel Files, 1941-1945, Entry 224, Records of the Office of Services, Record Group 226 [hereafter shortened to RG 226]; Memo, Mason Hammond, Major, Chief of MFA&A Branch, Interior Division, German Country Unit, Country Units, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force to CO, 6 Civil Affairs Unit, Attn: Personnel Division, Subject: Recommendation for Commission of Pfc. Charles H. Sawyer, 31388171, August 22, 1944, ibid.; List of Essential EM for A&M, n.d., File: AMG 272 (PERS) /3 MFA&A: Personnel: OR/EM, Subject File Aug 1943-1945, 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 [hereafter shortened to RG 331]; Memorandum, Capt. Mason Hammond, MFA&A Branch, Interior Division, German, Country Units, SHAEF to Col. Newton, G-5, SHAEF, Subject: Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Branch, Interior Division, German Country Unit, SHAEF, June 3, 1944, File: AMG 262 (ORG) MFA&A: Organization: General, Subject File Aug 1943-1945, ibid.

[2] Memo, Mason Hammond, Major, Chief of MFA&A Branch, Interior Division, German Country Unit, Country Units, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force to CO, 6 Civil Affairs Unit, Attn: Personnel Division, Subject: Recommendation for Commission of Pfc. Charles H. Sawyer, 31388171, August 22, 1944, Charles H. Sawyer Personnel File (NAID 2185148).  This MFA&A Branch had been activated (as the MFA&A Unit) early in March 1944 as a part of the Interior Sub-section of the German Section of the Special Staff, Civil Affairs, SHAEF. With the general re-organization of Civil Affairs the MFA&A Unit became the MFA&A Branch of the Interior Division of the German Country unit. The country units were placed under G-5 Operations, SHAEF. Report prepared by Colonel Newton, inclosure to Memo, Frank J. McSherry, Brig. Gen., Chief, Operations, G-5, SHAEF to the War Office, Attn: Lt. Col. Sir Leonard Wooley (sic), Subject: MFA&A Report, June 13, 1944, File: London File – MFA&A: Planning Documents, London Files, 1943-1945 (NAID 1518815), RG 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll 32.

[3] “The General Board, United States Forces, European Theater, Civil Affairs and Military Government Activities in Connection with Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives”, G-5 Section, Study No. 36, prepared by Brig. Gen. C. E. Ryan, Chief, Col. Walker R. Goodrich, Capt. Everett P. Lesley, Jr., G-5, Section, n.d., ca. January 1946, pp. 9-10, File: AGAR-S 3019 AGAR-S Materials Accumulated for a Conference on Captured German and Related Records at the National Archives, 1968, RG 242; Letter, Col. Henry C. Newton, MFA&A, G-5 Division, SHAEF to Maj. Gen. John H. Hilldring, Director, Civil Affairs, Office of the Chief of Staff, May 23, 1944, File: CAD 000.4 (3-25-43) (1), Sec. 3, Security Classified General Correspondence, 1943-July 1949 (NAID 3376702), RG 165; Report prepared by Colonel Newton, inclosure to Memo, Frank J. McSherry, Brig. Gen., Chief, Operations, G-5, SHAEF to the War Office, Attn: Lt. Col. Sir Leonard Wooley (sic), Subject: MFA&A Report, June 13, 1944, File: London File – MFA&A: Planning Documents, London Files, 1943-1945 (NAID 1518815), M-1944, Roll 32.

[4] Report prepared by Colonel Newton, inclosure to Memo, Frank J. McSherry, Brig. Gen., Chief, Operations, G-5, SHAEF to the War Office, Attn: Lt. Col. Sir Leonard Wooley (sic), Subject: MFA&A Report, June 13, 1944, File: London File – MFA&A: Planning Documents, London Files, 1943-1945 (NAID 1518815), M-1944, Roll 32.

[5] Letter, Mason Hammond, MFA&A, Interior Subsection, German Section, SHAEF to Professor Webb, May 23, 1944, File: AMG 267 (PERS) MFA&A: Personnel: General, Subject File Aug 1943-1945 (NAID 612714), RG 331.

[6] Memorandum, Brigadier, H. Price-Williams, Executive, G-5 Division, SHAEF to German Planning Unit, Subject: German planning Unit, August 18, 1944, File: AMG 262 (ORG) MFA&A: Organization: General, Subject File Aug 1943-1945 (NAID 612714); Report, Col. Henry C. Newton, MFA&A, G-5 Division, SHAEF, Preliminary Report on Status of Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives in the Northern European Theater of Operations, September 6, 1944, Inclosure to Memorandum, Col. Henry Co. Newton, MFA&A, G-5 Operations Branch, SHAEF to The Director, Civil Affairs Division, War Department, Subject: Report on MFA&A in ETO, September 7, 1944, File: AMG 216 (Col Newton) MFA&A: Correspondence-Col. H.C. Newton, ibid.; Memorandum, Maj. Mason Hammond, Acting Chief, MFA&A Subsection, Property Section, Military Government Division “A,” USGCC to Historical Section, USGCC, Subject: Report for the period 22 August-25 November, 1944, on the activities of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Subsection, Property Section, Division A”, US Group CC, November 25, 1944, File: CAD 000.4 (3-25-43) (1), Sec. 5, Bulky Package, Security Classified General Correspondence, 1943-July 1949 (NAID 3376702)

[7] Memo, Mason Hammond, Major, Chief of MFA&A Branch, Interior Division, German Country Unit, Country Units, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force to CO, 6 Civil Affairs Unit, Attn: Personnel Division, Subject: Recommendation for Commission of Pfc. Charles H. Sawyer, 31388171, August 22, 1944, Charles H. Sawyer Personnel File (NAID 2185148)

[8] Memo, Allen M. Schauffler, Major, German Staff Section, G-5 Division, SHAEF to Colonel Elgar Lewis, German Country Unit, Subject: Commendations, September 6, 1944, ibid.

[9] Memorandum, Maj. Mason Hammond, Acting Chief, MFA&A Branch, RD&R Division, USGCC to Acting Director, Reparations, Deliveries and Restitution Division, Subject: Report from the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Branch for the period 1-14 December 1944, December 15, 1944, File: AMG 227 (CC) MFA&A Correspondence: US Group CC Br Element CC, (OSS 1 March 45), Subject File Aug 1943-1945 (NAID 612714)

[10] James S. Plaut, “Investigation of the Major Nazi Art-Confiscation Agencies,” op. cit., p. 124. David Bruce, the head of the OSS London operations, wrote in his diary on August 31, 1944: “Norman Pearson and Hugh Will [both with the X-2 Branch, London] talked about Francis Taylor’s (Director of the Metropolitan museum) Commission to track down objects d’art stolen by the Germans. They were interested in the possible use of this Commission as cover for X-2.” Nelson Douglas Lankford, ed., OSS against the Reich: The World War II Diaries of Colonel David K. E. Bruce (Kent, Ohio and London, England: The Kent State University Press, 1991), p. 181.

[11] Memo, Lt. J. S. Plaut, USNR and Lt. T. Rousseau, Jr., USNR to Chief, X-2 Branch, Subject: Fine Arts project ORION, November 21, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, ORION Organization, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226.

[12] Letter, Lt. James S. Plaut, USNR, Office of Strategic Services, Washington, D.C. to Lt. Col. Charles Kades, Executive Officer, Civil Affairs Division, War Department, December 26, 1944, File: CAD 000.4 (3-25-43) (1), Sec. 5, Security Classified General Correspondence, 1943-July 1949 (NAID 3376702)

[13] Memo, John M. Phillips and Charles H. Sawyer, Art Project, OSS X-2 Branch to Norman Pearson, Acting Chief, X-2 Branch, London, Subject: Report on the organization of the Art Project within X-2 Branch, London, and a Summary of London Sources of Information on German Art Personnel, File: Washington Office, Special Funds Division Finance, Intelligence (WASH-SPDF-INT), Washington Secret Intelligence/Special Funds Records, 1942-1946 (NAID 4504574), RG 226, M-1934, roll 16.

[14] Charles H. Sawyer Personnel File (NAID 2185148)

[15] J. S. Plaut, Lt., USNR, Director, Standing Order No. 1, Subject: Function and Organization of ORION, Washington, January 9, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, ORION Organization, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226.

[16] Memo, Charles H. Sawyer to Maj. Lee H. Sharrar, Subject: Monthly Report, ORION Project, January, February 7, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Progress Reports, ibid.

[17] Memo, Charles H. Sawyer, to Lt. (j.g.) T. Dunn, USNR, Liaison Officer, X-2, Subject: P/W Interrogation Reports from G-2, January 30, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Liaison, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226; Memo, Charles H. Sawyer to Lt. Thomas W. Dunn, USNR, Subject CSDIC PW Papers, April 21, 1945, ibid.; Memo, Charles H. Sawyer to Maj. Lee H. Sharrar, Subject: Monthly Report, ORION Project, January, February 7, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Progress Reports, ibid.

[18] Charles H. Sawyer Personnel File (NAID 2185148); Progress Report for March, 1945, ORION, Washington, April 4, 1945, File: Washington X-2, OP-16, Progress Reports, Director’s Office and Field Station Files, Entry 190, RG 226.

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