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Army sets sights on next generation of Monuments Men

The U.S. Army is joining forces with the Smithsonian to train the next generation of ‘Monuments Men,’ the celebrated experts who saved artworks and historical treasures during World War II.

The U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) and the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative recently signed an agreement “to train and support soldiers whose mission is to ensure cultural property is not destroyed or damaged during armed conflict.”

“The training continues the legacy of the World War II Monuments Men and Women, a group of curators, architects and other cultural heritage specialists who served in the Army Civil Affairs Division and were tasked to save many of Europe’s cultural treasures,” the Army explained in a statement.

ANCIENT TREASURES LOOTED FROM SYRIA AND IRAQ ARE BEING SOLD ON FACEBOOK, EXPERTS WARN

The destruction of historical treasures has been thrust into the spotlight in recent years as Islamic State militants have wrought devastation across swaths of Iraq and Syria. In the past, ISIS has launched a series of wanton attacks on sites of historic and religious importance such as the ancient city of Palmyra.

7th Army soldiers carry three valuable paintings that were looted by the Nazis down the steps of Neuschwanstein Castle at Fussen, Germany – file photo.. (Bettmann/Getty)

ISIS infamously released a video in 2015 that showed militants using sledgehammers and drills to destroy artifacts in Iraq’s Mosul Museum.

Experts also have warned that militants smuggled priceless Iraqi artifacts out of the country for sale on the black market to fund the terrorist army.

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The Army and the Smithsonian hope that their partnership will help boost the military’s ability to protect and preserve treasures at times of conflict.

“The Smithsonian has helped train USACAPOC personnel in the past, but this new collaboration will build real long-term capacity, starting with a Revitalizing the Monuments Men and Women workshop at the Smithsonian in 2020,” said Cori Wegener, director of the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative and a retired Army Reserve officer.  During her time in the military, Wegener served as a civil affairs arts, monuments, and archives officer in Iraq.

The program is only available to traditional reserve officers.

The exploits of the original ‘Monuments Men’ were recently depicted in the 2014 movie, “The Monuments Men,” which starred George Clooney, Matt Damon and John Goodman.

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In 2015, Congress awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the Monuments Men and Women.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

SOURCE : https://www.foxnews.com/science/army-next-generation-monuments-men

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