October 14, 1943
During World War II, it’s common to lodge Allied soldiers in cultural institutions. While many of them are emptied of their portable treasures, stationary pieces like frescoes, mosaics, even hidden artworks, remain. For example, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples provides bunking quarters, as well as a pharmaceutical ward where flammable alcohol is stacked up next to priceless frescoes. One of the duties of the men and women of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Program (MFAA, but more commonly called Venus Fixers or Monuments Men) is to ensure that soldiers aren’t improperly billeted in cultural institutions.
Amid concerns about whether soldiers would be respectful enough of their surroundings, or treat them like “saloons,” Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall cables General Eisenhower to say:
Protection of artistic and historic monuments in Italy is subject of great concern to many institutions and societies.”