The House voted overwhelmingly Monday in favor of a bill sponsored by Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, to grant a Congressional Gold Medal in honor of the Monuments Men, the World War II corps of art experts who rescued over 5 million pieces of art from the Nazis.
The House voted on a voice vote under a suspension of the rules, which requires that two-thirds of the chamber be in favor of it. Although there were only a handful of members in the chamber during the debate, Granger’s bill had solid support – it has 297 co-sponsors. There was no audible opposition.
The Congressional Gold Medal is one of the nation’s highest civilian awards, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Lawmakers were motivated by greater awareness of the story of the World War II art rescuers after the Monuments Men movie, based on Dallas author Robert Edsel’s book, was released this year. But they also moved quickly out of a sense of urgency: Only six Monuments Men are still alive – five men and a woman – out of more than 300. And the upcoming Memorial Day added impetus to the timing.
For Granger, it was a proud moment.
“I have been looking forward to this day ever since I first learned about the greatest untold story of World War II many years ago,” Granger said on the House floor.
“For me, my journey with the Monuments Men began at the Kimbell Art Museum in 2006, when I met Robert Edsel, who had just published his first book, Rescuing Da Vinci, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.
“It was that evening when I realized how critical these men and women were in preserving European cultural history, and how remarkable their task was during the second World War,” Granger continued.
“And, while we can never say thank you enough, I believe the Congressional Gold Medal is a worthy token of appreciation from a grateful nation to these members of the greatest generation.”
An identical bill in the Senate, S.1862, sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., is expected to be voted on by the Senate as soon as this week.
Maria Recio is the Star-Telegram’s Washington bureau chief. (202) 383 6103