Iowa’s Own Monuments Man: George Stout

Jun 20, 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Conference Room B Council Bluffs Public Library


Nancy Trask, founder of the George Stout Fellowship for Art in the Public Sphere, will share the story of Lieutenant George Leslie Stout, one of the Monuments Men, a group of men and women who worked to protect and preserve cultural treasures during World War II.

With war raging in Europe, and his personal knowledge of war,  Stout wrote a plan to prepare a troop of trained cultural preservation officers ready to preserve the world’s art and monuments in the field. Stout’s plan was developed into the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFAA) group. He volunteered to return to active service in the Navy Reserve and was one of the first MFAA officers to go to Normandy.

The MFAA group’s primary mission at first was to warn Allied troops not to bomb known locations of cultural treasures, and to provide “first aid and protection” for damaged treasures. When they learned how much art had been confiscated or stolen by the Nazis and hidden away, finding and retrieving the art became imperative. With Hitler’s forces failing and his threat to blow up Germany rather than let the Allied forces take it, the MFAA raced to find and retrieve treasures. Even after the Nazis fell, the MFAA worked fast to reclaim art in the area that was to be occupied by the Russians, knowing that they would plunder Europe’s art just as the Germans had.

In all, an estimated 5-20 million pieces of art or cultural treasures were stolen and hidden in 1,500 different locations during World War Two. The Monuments Men reclaimed 5 million of them.

Stout, a Winterset native, was the inspiration for George Clooney’s character in The Monuments Men. Trask is retired from the Winterset Public Library, where she was director from 2004-2016.

This event is free and open to the public and was made possible with support from the Council Bluffs Public Library Foundation.