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Tuesday February 21, 2017
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Ralph W. Hammett, Monuments Man

 

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attend meetings at the City Club, was married in the Douglas Chapel, and live in that house on Newport. But I began serious research into Hammett's life only last fall when, as a volunteer reference librarian at the U-M Bentley Historical Library, I received an inquiry from one of his relatives.

His interest had been piqued by publicity for the upcoming film Monuments Men, about the small cadre of experienced specialists--art and architectural historians and museum curators--assigned to protect western Europe's cultural treasures during World War II.

Hammett was a Monuments Man. He arrived in France in August 1944, one of the first three members of the army's Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section (MFAA) in the country. When soldiers almost blew up Chartres Cathedral because they thought it harbored German snipers, he was one of the men who protected it. Hammett was the ranking MFAA officer in an area that encompassed most of France, southern Belgium, and Luxembourg. Then he came home to one of Ann Arbor's most beautiful and historically significant buildings, the Guy Beckley house on Pontiac Trail. He had saved that, too.

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