Friday, October 10, 2014


Book: Unbroken
Author: Laura Hillenbrand
Edition: eBook from Fresno County Library
Read: Oct 10, 2014
879 pages
Rated: 4 out of 5

This is a biography of Louis Zamperini. It tells of his life as someone who was a thief as a youngster. He then gets turned around by his brother through running track. Not only was he good, he was very good-making the 1936 Olympic team in the two mile race. He was very close to be the fastest miler of his time.

Then the war hit and he became a bombardier on a B-24D in the Pacific, stationed out of Hawaii. He made many flights and helped save his plane during one particularly hard bombing run. But on another flight his plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean-ironically looking for another plane which had gone down in the Pacific. Three men were able to escape from the plane and were a drift on a life raft for 40+ days, without food or water. Two of them surviced only to be picked up by the Japanese.

The book describes the tortures he faced at the hands of his Japanese captors for two years. It traces Zamperini's time on the island where he was first captured then onto Japan. Here he was detained at three POW camps, each progressively worse than the previous one.

After the war ended, he returned home to marry, have a child, become an alcoholic and to plot out his vengeance on a particularly evil POW prison guard. Along the way, his wife takes him to a Billy Graham crusade in Los Angeles. There his life changes. It then briefly tells of his life and others lives, including some of his captors. 


Eugenics.When Zamperini was running, eugenics (39) was a major scientific theory, attracting a lot of attention. At this time Zamperini was only interested in running, not in understanding implications of philosophical bents. So when he ran in Germany, he did not recognize how eugenics was affecting life there. Eugenics is the thought that if we can be selective about human breeding, we can improve a race.

Running.He ran because it was what his body wished to do. (48) This is very reminiscent of the Eric Liddel statement about the I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure. When we do what we are made for, we usually feel good about doing it and we do it effectively.

Kunichi James Sasaki (91). He was one of the strangest characters in the book. He was a college friend of Zamperini. But in reality was a Japanese spy before the war. He eventually became attached to the Japanese embassy in Washington DC and returned to Japan at the outbreak of war.  Sasaki then meets Zamperini in Japan, introducing himself as the chief interrogator-but never interrogating Zamperini. After the war, it is revealed he was only a low-level perfunctory. Later on he is accused of beating a prisoner to death.

Aircraft Loss. Hillenbrand brings many details into the book. One of them talks about the amount of loss of aircraft. She states that combat losses of aircraft and crew was less than those by accidents-this was by a ratio of 1 combat loss to every six accidental losses. (159) It would seem like this would have been a great realization and something would be done. Would it have been better to stopped training and doing the actual combat? Was the equipment that unstable?
Hillenbrand really does not go into the causes of the accidents.

Mental strength. Mental strength at least as important as physical and innovation abilities. This is why Phillips and Zamperini survived and Mac did not. In Zamperini case, it was built both through his long distance running and his schooling once he decided to concentrate. He also undertook perpetration for survival by getting himself schooled in what if's. His intuitiveness was based upon knowledge. This mental strength is the biggest take away from the book. It is what make the difference in survival when lost and the hopelessness of those who will not be found.

Japanese POW Camps. The thing which impresses you about the Japanese in this book is there viciousness. How being the masters of the earth gave them the right to be cruel and barbarous to those who they had conquered. To them strength equaled rightness of action. The weak were to be beaten.

Does the US engage in this? By what standards do we now engage in warfare?

Hillenbrand points out that they were able to hold out after the crash despite the loss of food, water and shelter. It was at the Japanese hands where they were most at risk: the loss of their dignity. It is interesting that what the Japanese treasured the most and feared losing was what they sought to remove from their prisoners.

The results of racism was similar to what happened with slavery in our South. The belief of inherent superiority leads mistreatment of the believed inferior.

The kill all orders-see chp 32. These were orders from the highest up in Japan. If an area looked like it was going to fall to the Allied forces, then kill all the POW's. The Japanese had a history of killing their prisoners anyway and several examples of this was given throughout the chapter, including the massive killing of Chinese.

Truth. When you tell the truth, you are in a good position to do one of two things: continue to tell the truth or lie. When you lie, you can only do one thing: continue to lie.
Japanese Good Guys. After the war, the histories of the various people were recounted before progressing on to Zamperini's.  It is interesting to see two of the "good guys" on the Japanese side of things. One there is no record of him after the war-he was likely killed in battle when the American's took over an island he was on. The other noted sympathetic person was Yukichi Kano. They both saved Zamperini's life, and other POW's as well. Why did they do something which their other countryman doing? Even their own country was advocating-cruelty to the POW's, killing them off by deprivation? Was it because they both were Christian? Was it the Western influence which comes with Christianity? or the teachings which they submitted themselves to? They both did not benefit from their actions.

  As I was reading about these two people who if caught would have been disciplined at best and may have had their actions judged as betrayal to their country, I was thinking what caused them to take action? I suspect it was the complete lack of humanity shown to the POW's by their country and countrymen. They felt the need to be human and care those in life-threatening need.  Now you move 60 years later and think about the wars in the Middle East and how America has treated their prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.  Has America treated their prisoners with respect for their humanity? Have we beaten them? Have we starved them? Deprived them of their senses? Has any of our guards stepped up and tried to restore that sense of humanity? Would we be judged equally as hard as the Japanese were judged? Most importantly, how would I react when I see cruelty and inhumanity?

After the War. After being released from being a POW and returning to LA, Zamperini would eventually be consumed by two things: alcoholism and vengeance. The alcoholism was because as a war hero and an Olympian, he was in constant demand to tell his story. It was his story which he wanted to forget. The alcohol helped deaden that sensation of reliving his story. But it fed into behavioral problems which came close to ruining his life. We do this to our heros. Build them up and when their feet are exposed as clay, tear them down.

Vengence. The vengeance part is really potent. The chief tormentor of Zamperini was constantly in his dreams, constantly torturing him This man had taken his dignity and left him feeling humiliated, ashamed and powerless... (644) This caused Zamperini to want to restore himself by killing his former tormentor. Here Hillenbrand makes the same point which Desmond Tutu makes in his book, The Book of Forgiving. The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them... (646) This chained Zamperini to his former tormentor. It is a lesson for all of to remember: to release the hold a person has on us, forgive them.

Relief from Vengence. Billy Graham asks, why do good men suffer? Why does it seem like a God I'd silent in the midst of our suffering? Graham's answer is we see good all around us-in the sunsets, in nature. But he Is not too busy for us. He is there with us. These thoughts stirred in Zamperini the turmoil which had been raging within. Eventually he turned to God and obtained relief. The book concludes with a summary of his history and accomplishments after his conversion.

There is a good reason why this book is called Unbroken. It is the biography of a child hoodlum, Olympic runner, World War II bombardier, ocean crash survivor,  Japanese prisoner of war, and alcoholic. Through it all, Louis Zamperini found ways to survive, to continue his struggles.

Hillenbrand tells Zamperini's story well. It flows smoothly, letting us ponder both his strength and weaknesses. She also exposes the thin layer between humanity and human cruelty. For both reasons, this is a book worth reading.

New Words:

  • Cahuilla (47): Iviatim are Native Americans of the inland areas of southern California.
  • Fundoshi (149): the traditional Japanese undergarment for adult males, made from a length of cotton
  • Immolated (571): kill or offer as a sacrifice, especially by burning
  • Cenotaph (695): an "empty tomb" or a monument erected in honour of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere.
  • Raconteur (708): a person who tells anecdotes in a skillful and amusing way.

Good Quotes:

  • First Line: All he could see in every direction was water.
  • Last Line: There was no trace of them here among the voices, the falling snow, and the old and joyful man, running.
  •  Goodwill needs no translation (335)
  • After three and a half years in person camp, I had been liberated by the great American blonde! (572) quote by Tom Wade, pow upon being greeted in a Japanese railroad station
  • Life is cheap in war. (165) words from Martin Cohn.
Table of Contents:
Part I
  1. The One-Boy Insurgency
  2. Run Like Mad
  3. The Torrance Tornado
  4. Plundering Germany
  5. Into War
Part II
  1. The Flying Coffin
  2. "This Is It, Boys"
  3. "Only the Laundry Knew How Scared I Was"
  4. Five Hundred and Ninety-four Holes
  5. The Stinking Six
  6. "Nobody's Going to Live Through This"
Part III
  1. Downed
  2. Missing at Sea
  3. Thirst
  4. Sharks and Bullets
  5. Singing in the Clouds
  6. Typhoon
Part IV
  1. A Dead Body Breathing
  2. Two Hundred Silent Men
  3. Farting for Hirohito
  4. Belief
  5. Plots Afoot
  6. Monster
  7. Hunted
  8. B-29
  9. Madness
  10. Falling Down
  11. Enslaved
  12. Two Hundred and Twenty Punches
  13. The Boiling City
  14. The Naked Stampede
  15. Cascades of Pink Peaches
  16. Mother's Day
Part V
  1. The Shimmering Girl
  2. Coming Undone
  3. The Body on the Mountain
  4. Twisted Ropes
  5. A Beckoning Whistle
  6. Daybreak


      • Publisher's Web Site for Book
      • Author's Web Site
      • Wikipedia-Book
      • Wikipedia-Author
      • Wikipedia-Louis Zamperini
      • Amazon-Book
      • Amazon-Author
      • Barnes and Noble
      • Facebook-Author
      • GoodReads-Book
      • GoodReads-Author
      • GoodReads-Book-Devil at My Heels
      • GoodReads-Author-Louis Zamperini
      • Senate Resolution S531
      •  LA Times review of Louis Zamperini's book Devil at My Heels
      • Washington Post on Laura Hillenbrand
        Wall Street Journal review
        NPR review
        New York Times review

        Reading Guide:
        From Barnes and Noble site
        1. Louie’s experiences are singular: It’s unlikely that one person will ever again be in a plane crash, strafed by a bomber, attacked by sharks, cast away on a raft, and held as a POW. And yet the word most often used to describe him is “inspiring.” What does Louie’s experience demonstrate that makes him so inspirational to people who will never endure what he did? What are the lessons that his life offers to all of us?
        2. Is Louie a hero? How do you define heroism?
        3. In Louie’s boyhood, he was severely bullied, then became a delinquent and hell-raiser. In these experiences, did he already display attributes that would help him survive his wartime ordeal? Did he also show weaknesses or tendencies that foreshadowed the struggles he would face postwar?
        4. Do you think Louie’s athletic career helped prepare him for what he would face in war?
        5. Louie was especially close to his brother, Pete, who devoted himself to him. If Pete hadn’t been there, what do you think would have become of Louie? Does Pete deserve credit for shaping Louie into a man who could endure and survive his Odyssean ordeal?
        6. Hillenbrand explores the extraordinary risks faced by America’s World War II airmen: 52,000 men killed in combat, 36,000 killed in noncombat aircraft accidents, and a stunning 15,000 killed in stateside training—at times, an average of 19 per day. Men faced a 50 percent chance of being killed during combat tours of only 30 to 40 missions. Were you aware of the dangers faced by airmen in the Pacific war? What facts and stories were most surprising to you?
        7. What are your feelings about Mac? Do you feel sympathy for him? Anger? If you endured the trauma of a plane crash and were placed in a situation that you knew very few men survived, might you have reacted as he did? In the end, do you think he redeemed himself?
        8. When Louie, Phil, and Mac were on the raft, a key factor in their survival was optimism. All three men were young and able-bodied, veterans of the same training, experiencing the same hardships and traumas, yet Louie and Phil remained optimistic while Mac was hopeless, seemingly doomed by his pessimism. Why are some people hopeful and others not? How important are attitude and mind-set in determining one’s ability to overcome hardship?
        9. What did you find most remarkable about the things Louie and Phil did to survive on the raft?
        10. After more than forty-seven days on the raft, the men lost half their body weight and were rendered mere skeletons. Yet they refused to consider cannibalism, which had not been uncommon among castaways before them. Would you, in the same situation, ever consider cannibalism? If it could ensure that two men survived, when otherwise all three would almost certainly perish, would it be a moral decision?
        11. Louie believed he was the beneficiary of several miracles, among them his escape from the wreckage of his plane, the fact that he and the other men were not hit with bullets when their rafts were strafed, and the appearance of the singers in the clouds. What is your interpretation of those experiences?
        12. The POWs took enormous risks to carry out thefts, sabotage, and other acts of defiance. Men would risk their lives to steal items as trivial as pencil boxes. What benefit did they derive from defiance that was worth risking death, or severe beatings?
        13. In the 1930s and 1940s, Germany and Japan carried out what are arguably among the worst acts of mass atrocity in history. What leads individuals, and even whole societies, to descend to such a level? What motivated the notoriously sadistic POW camp guards in Japan, particularly the Bird? Do you think we all carry the capacity for cruelty?
        14. After the war, Louie would say that of all the horrors he witnessed and experienced in the war, the death of the little duck, Gaga, was the worst. Why was this event especially wrenching for him and the other POWs?
        15. Louie, Frank Tinker, and William Harris planned to escape from Ofuna, walk across Japan, steal a boat, and make a run for China. It was a plan that very likely would have ended in their deaths. Was it foolish, or did it offer a psychological benefit that was worth the enormous risk?
        16. Louie joined a plot to kill the Bird. Was he justified in doing so? Would it have been a moral act? Do you think Louie could have found peace after the war had he killed the Bird?
        17. Unbroken reveals that, under the “kill-all order,” the Japanese planned to murder all POWs, a plan that was never carried out because of the dropping of the atomic bombs. The book also explores the lengths to which the Japanese were prepared to go to avoid surrender. How did the book make you feel about America’s use of the atomic bomb on Japan?
        18. “Anger is a justifiable and understandable reaction to being wronged, and as the soul’s first effort to reassert its worth and power, it may initially be healing,” Laura Hillenbrand wrote in an article for Guideposts magazine. “But in time, anger becomes corrosive. To live in bitterness is to be chained to the person who wounded you, your emotions and actions arising not independently, but in reaction to your abuser. Louie became so obsessed with vengeance that his life was consumed by the quest for it. In bitterness, he was as much a captive as he’d been when barbed wire had surrounded him.” Do you agree?
        19. Many of us struggle to forgive those who have wronged us, especially since forgiveness is often so difficult to find. What makes it so hard to let resentment go?
        20. “What the Bird took from Louie was his dignity; what he left behind was a pervasive sense of helplessness and worthlessness,” Hillenbrand continued in her Guideposts article. “As I researched Louie’s life, interviewing his fellow POWs and studying their memoirs and diaries, I discovered that this loss of dignity was nearly ubiquitous, leaving the men feeling defenseless and frightened in a world that had become menacing. The postwar nightmares, flashbacks, alcoholism and anxiety that were endemic among them spoke of souls in desperate fear. Watching these men struggle to overcome their trauma, I came to believe that a loss of self-worth is central to the experience of being victimized, and may be what makes its pain particularly devastating.” Do you agree?
        21. Hillenbrand wrote that among the former POWs she interviewed, forgiveness became possible once each POW had found a way to restore his sense of dignity. Was this what Billy Graham gave to Louie? If so, what was it about that experience, and that sermon, that gave Louie back his self-worth?
        22. Do Louie Zamperini’s wartime and postwar experiences give you a different perspective on a loved one who was, or is, a veteran?
        23. Why do you think most World War II literature has focused on the European war, with so little attention paid to the Pacific war?

      Thursday, October 9, 2014

      The Monuments Men

      Book: The Monuments Men
      Author: Robert M Edsel
      Edition: eBook, read on OverDrive from Fresno County Library
      Read: Oct 10, 2014
      760 pages
      Rated: 3 1/2 out of 5

      This is a historical account of some of the people whose assignment it was to save the art of Europe during World War II. The book traces the actions and works of about 5% of the MFAA personnel during this war. They range from privates to Captains, but almost all have a background which has an appreciation of beauty.

      What is the place of saving art during war? Besides the recounting of certain peoples actions in World War II, this is the central issue in the book. Edsel's indicates that art, because it is an expression of humanity, it must not be destroyed. But I am not sure how you do that without endangering human life. Edsel uses Eisenhower's directive as a model: It is the responsibility of every commander to protect and respect these symbols [historical monuments and cultural centers]  whenever possible. ... the lives of our men are paramount. (92) That is a good balance to work towards, particularly if you are winning.

      Edsel states that Hitler had found his true calling. I think Edsel was saying that the calling was as a maker of an empire which would be a cultural marvel even a millennium later, not to create, but to remake; to purge and rebuild. (35) Of course that remaking is in Hitler's own image.You would think that eventually all art would be ones which Hitler would approve of. Eventually, the only art would resemble Hitler and not the full image of humanity.

      What kind of art was Hitler interested in? It sounds like all the arts-paintings, sculptures, music, dance, picture....  (38)

      Mortimer Wheeler, a soldier in the British army, noted when he saw the ruins of Leptis Magna that this is what power looks like. But the corollary also resides in these ruins-it is a lesson in our own mortality.(67) When we think we build for eternity, time will destroy our works, wearing them down. We are to remember, the works of our hands is only momentary; but that the works of our spirits lasts forever.
      No one had in the army had considered the historic and cultural value, and therefore the propaganda value .... (69) Is that all which historic sites are good for, propaganda? Or is this a residual value? I am thinking of the later, these things have an intrinsic value to us, rather than utilitarian. The value is that things like this express who we are as a people.

      If we have to choose between destroying a famous building and sacrificed our own men, then our men's lives count infinitely more and the buildings must go. General Eisenhower, report of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in a War Areas, pg 48

      George Stout's thoughts about seeing an English Chapel, as reported by Edsel, there wasn't anything overtly beautiful, but there was nothing out of place, nothing extravagant or shabby, and that held a beauty all it's own. (108) Simplicity will win out over complexity to hold our imagination. Complexity is a thought already imagined; simplicity allows us to imagine.

      ... Here death had been so fouled by degradation that it both stunned and numbed us. (438) words by General Omar Bradley. These were spoken after Bradley saw one of the concentration camps. Edsel describes the effects of seeing or hearing about the camps on the Monuments Men. Some visited, some declined because of concern it would have on their relations with their German contacts. All were affected, mostly negative in their thinking about the German people. 

      Perhaps one of my weaknesses has been that I love to be surrounded by luxury and that I am so artistic in my temperament that masterpieces make me feel alive and glowing inside. (595) From the Nuremberg Interviews, spoken by Herman Goring. It is interesting to me that what makes Goring feel alive is art. I wonder why. I picture people like Goring as having a deaden core, else how can they live with what they have done. What would bring Goring alive in a painting? Might he be mistaking the thrill of the chase, the coveting of another s possessions, with the warmth of being loved?

      When Goring discovered that a painting he possessed and probably bought from a looter was a fake, it is reported that Goring for the first time ... had discovered there was evil in the world. (595) If the worst Goring ever experienced was being duped, I am not sure this qualifies as a great epiphany. Discovering that ones self is capable of evil, or even worst has done evil, that is true revelation.

      Edsel is a person who is passionate about the subject of Monuments Men-those who were charged with saving the art of Europe during World War II. He speaks well and is very worthwhile hearing. But this evaluation is not about his talks but about his book, The Monuments Men. Like many true believers in a cause, he has lots of information to tell, but whose talent is not necessarily one whose is highly skilled in the conveying of that information through the art of writing. 

      liked the subject matter and Edsel's style of writing is easy to read. But Edsel is telling a story, a true story, but still a story. As such, there should be a flow to the book. Instead there was a lack of focus in the story. He writes about several people in the MFAA (Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives). He would have done better to have selected three of the people he wrote about and told their stories, weaving the other men's stories into theirs. Who would have been those three people? I would have picked Rose Valland, James Romier and George Stout.

      The other thought which I was having was, was this written with the thought of making a movie? It sometimes feels like a movie would tell this story better., and there was a hit movie made from this book with George Clooney.

      So would I recommend this book? Yes, particularly if you are interested in either World War II or the visual arts. He has much material which is a good place to  launch off onto other writings on this subject.

      Book References:
      • Extensive Bibliography and end notes
      • The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and World War II by Lynn Nichols
      • Feuilles by  Jacques Jaujard
      • The Battle for Art by Rose Villard
      • Survival by James Rorimer

      New Words:

      • Sacristan (158): an officer charged with care of the sacristy, the church, and their contents
      • Amontillado (429): a variety of Sherry wine characterized by being darker than Fino but lighter than Oloroso.
      • Filigraine (466):French word-not sure what it means
      • Gauleiters (469): the second highest Nazi paramilitary rank, ranking below the new rank of Reichsleiter (National Leader)
      • Reliquary (508): a container for holy relics

      Good Quotes:

      • First Line: This is a long road we have to travel. Eisenhower in a letter to General Vernon Prichard
      • Last Line: No one seemed interest in the fact that the painting was the Rembrandt from the museum in Karlsruhe, and that the nineteen-year-old solder standing next to it was a German Jew who had grown up three blocks from that museum, and by chance had descended seven hundred feet into a mine to behold, for the first time, a painting he had always heard about, but never had the right to see.
      •  These monuments are not merely pretty things, not merely valued signs of man's creative power. They are expressions of faith, and they stand for man's struggle to relate himself to his past and to his God. pg 53 quoted from George Stout's pamphlet entitled Protection of Monuments: A Proposal for Consideration During War and Rehabilitation
      • An expert and a precisionist makes his analysis first, then his decision. pg 59,  quoted from George Stout to Francis Taylor, "General Museum Conservation", December 31, 1942 
      • Destiny is not one push, .... but a thousand small moments that through insight and hard work you line up in the right direction, like a magnet does with metal shavings. pg 300, thoughts of Rose Valland
      • The crowd will succeed in remembering only the simplest concepts repeated a thousand times. 345, quoted from Adolf Hitler in Mein Kamf
      • It is amazing how the world can change during the life span of a fruitcake. 358 as quoted from George Strout
      • The eyes have one continual feast. 463, quoted from a letter from Walker Hancock to his wife
      • No age lives entirely alone; every civilization is formed nor merely by its own achievements but by what it has inherited from the past. If these things are destroyed, we have lost a part of our past, and shall be poorer for it. (552)  Ronald Balfour, draft lecture to soldiers, 1944
      • There are fights that you may lose without losing your honor; what makes you lose your honor is not to fight them. (608) Jacques Jaujard in Le Figaro, Nov 21, 1968
      • it is not enough to be virtuous, we must also appear to be so. (625), quote from Edith Standen in Report on Germany
      Table of Contents:
      1. I The Mission
        1. 1 Out of Germany 3
        2. 2 Hitler's Dream 10
        3. 3 The Call to Arms 16
        4. 4 A Dull and Empty World 25
        5. 5 Leptis Magna 32
        6. 6 The First Campaign 37
        7. 7 Monte Cassino 44
        8. 8 Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives 50
        9. 9 The Task 63
      2. II Northern Europe
        1. 10 Winning Respect 70
        2. 11 A Meeting in the Field 83
        3. 12 Michelangelo's Madonna 97
        4. 13 The Cathedral and the Masterpiece 102
        5. 14 Van Eyck's Mystic Lamb 113
        6. 15 James Rorimer Visits the Louvre 120
        7. 16 Entering Germany 139
        8. 17 A Field Trip 146
        9. 18 Tapestry 155
        10. 19 Christmas Wishes 164
        11. 20 The Madonna of La Gleize 173
        12. 21 The Train 177
        13. 22 The Bulge 190
        14. 23 Champagne 193
      3. III Germany
        1. 24 A German Jew in the U.S. Army 209
        2. 25 Coming Through the Battle 214
        3. 26 The New Monuments Man 220
        4. 27 George Stout with His Maps 230
        5. 28 Art on the Move 239
        6. 29 Two Turning Points 242
        7. 30 Hitler's Nero Decree 250
        8. 31 First Army Across the Rhine 253
        9. 32 Treasure Map 259
        10. 33 Frustration 270
        11. 34 Inside the Mountain 280
        12. 35 Lost 284
        13. 36 A Week to Remember 287
      4. IV The Void
        1. 37 Salt 303
        2. 38 Horror 309
        3. 39 The Gauleiter 314
        4. 40 The Battered Mine 316
        5. 41 Last Birthday 322
        6. 42 Plans 327
        7. 43 The Noose 332
        8. 44 Discoveries 339
        9. 45 The Noose Tightens 344
        10. 46 The Race 348
        11. 47 Final Days 353
        12. 48 The Translator 359
        13. 49 The Sound of Music 362
        14. 50 End of the Road 367
      5. V The Aftermath
        1. 51 Understanding Altaussee 373
        2. 52 Evacuation 382
        3. 53 The Journey Home 391
        4. 54 Heroes of Civilization 400
        5. Cast of Characters 427
      6. Notes 431
      7. Bibliography 447
      8. Acknowledgments 455
      9. What Is Your Connection to the Story? 459
      10. Index 461


          • Wikipedia-Book
          • Wikipedia-Author
          • Amazon-Book
          • Amazon-Author
          • Barnes and Noble
          • GoodReads-Book
          • GoodReads-Author
          • Harvard Magazine on The Art Army
          •  Just Us Gals web site
          • LitLovers web site
          •  Monuments Men Foundation
          • The New Yorker
          • Archives of American Art
          • Smithsonian
          •  Records of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas 

          • Notes from my book group:
            How many lives is an irreplaceable piece of art worth?

            Why did the French give in so easily to the Germans? Was it worth the cost?

            What is art?

            Study Guide Questions
            From Just Us Gals web site:

            1. Robert Edsel calls the Monuments Men, “The Heroes of Civilization.” What do you think Edsel means and do you agree? 
            2. What do you think drove the Men to do what they did and how did they find the strength given circumstances at the time?
            3. Discuss Hitler’s obsession with art and his personal connection to art. Do you think there was any correlation between art and power for him? Do you think there is a correlation in society today with art and power?
            4. At any point while reading Monuments Men did you think of the war in the Middle East? Are there similar atrocities taking place today? Examples? What’s different?
            5. Why do you think this is a relatively unknown story? Is it not interesting? Exciting?
            6. During the book did you feel differently about national treasures being stolen rather than a families' personal items being stolen and destroyed during the war?
            7. We happened to read this book when new pieces were discovered in Germany. Did this give you any hope that more pieces are soon to be discovered?
            8. If found, should they be returned to their original owners?

             From LitLovers web site:

             1. "It was a good group, he had to admit. A group [Stout] himself might have chosen, if given the chance." Talk about the original group of 11 men put together to salvage the world's artwork. What made George Stoat believe that it was the right team for the job? What were the men's individual qualifications, both personal and professional?

            2. What kind of man was George Stout? How would you describe James Rorimer? Why was his service so invaluable to the mission? Who else stood out among the Monuments Men?

            3. What role did Rose Valland play? How critical was she to the success of the Monuments Men mission?

            4. Why were the pieces of art so important to Hitler? Why was he so intent on creating his "Führermuseum...the largest, most imposing, most spectacular art museum in the world"?

            5. Should the team who rescued the stolen art be elevated to the level of heroism as Robert M. Edsel indicates? Or should we consider them as good men doing a hard job very effectively—and extend our gratitude and respect?

            6. Another question that must be asked is the degree of importance accorded to the mission. Is protecting art worth the price of a human life—or diverting resources otherwise used to protect lives? What do you think? What does Edsel suggest?

            7. If you have seen the George Clooney directed movie, how does it compare to the book? What do you think of the's music (especially), visuals, and actors. If you haven't yet seen the film, do you intend to after reading and discussing the book?

            8. What have you learned from reading The Monuments Men—about the war, the Nazis, and most of all about art?

             From Hol Arts Books web site and the Mint Museum
            1. Robert Edsel calls the Monuments Men, “The Heroes of Civilization.” What does he mean? What common traits or aspects did these men possess? What kept them going during incredibly difficult and often miserable times?
            2. Discuss the Monuments Men. Which ones were you more drawn to? Why? What in their personal stories drew you in? Which Monuments Men sacrificed the most?
            3. Would museum employees, librarians, and artists do today what the Monuments Men did during and after WWII?
            4. Are there similar atrocities taking place today? Examples? What’s different?
            5. Discuss Hitler’s fascination with art and its power. What about societies’ fascination with art? Is it strictly monetary fascination or is there more to it?
            6. On page 393, Monuments Man Harry Ettlinger states, “My knowledge of the Holocaust started really with the realization that it was not only the taking of lives—that I learned much later in my experience—but the taking of all their belongings …” Discuss the difference in stealing personal belongings and stealing national treasures. Is there a difference? What effect does this have on a nations’ collective mental health?
            7. Robert Edsel has said, “Rose Valland is my candidate for the greatest heroine of WWII.” Do you agree? What about Rose made her so special? Discuss her relationship with James Rorimer and Jacques Jaujard.
            8. Discuss George Stout. How did his knowledge and passion for art conservation come into play? Discuss his creativity in the field. What was his relationship with the other Monuments Men?
            9. Why do you think this is a relatively unknown story? Is it not interesting? Exciting?
            10. Where do you think the thousands of still missing works of art are located? Once found, should they be returned to their original owners?
            11. Discuss what you found the most fascinating about Monuments Men. The brazen theft of the Bruges Madonna with the Allies mere days away? The discovery of the Ghent Altarpiece in the Altaussee mine? Which story touched you the most? Or shocked you?