Findlay tie to The Monuments Men - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Findlay tie to The Monuments Men

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The Monuments Men was a group charged with helping save pieces of artwork stolen by the Nazis in World War II. A movie based on the real life story is now in theaters and we have a couple connections here in Northwest Ohio. Last week we told you about Otto Wittmann, the head of the Toledo Museum of Art, who helped return a lot of the looted art to its rightful owners. A Findlay man was one of the soldiers who were there when they discovered one of the mines filled with artwork, money and other cultural treasures in the small German town of Merkers. He's been dead for more than 30 years but his son is keeping his place in history alive.

It's been called one of the greatest treasure hunts in history but The Monuments Men is more than a movie. It's a true story and Jack Ammons was part of it, "I think dad and his mates found out much later the value of what they had seen."Ron says his father Jack was a 19 year old GI who landed in Normandy two days after the invasion. After fighting his way through Europe to Germany he was one of the soldiers given a unique assignment involving a salt mine and stolen property, "Some of the GI's were put on a detail to bring the treasures including the artwork and statues out of the mines and dad was one of them by happenstance." Ron says it all started with a tip from a German villager, "They went and checked it out and found the mine shaft. They went down 1200 feet and they went to the side of a huge room that had been dug out and it was filled with treasures. There were statues, jewels, money. They was even artwork from the Berlin Museum which of course was German property."

After the war his father was able to see some of the pieces that had been saved during an exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art, "He visited the museum in 1949 to see the pieces and I think he was able to truly appreciate them. Rather than being in a uniform and looking at crates and loading Jeeps I think he was able to have a new appreciation for what he was able to help save." Ron is the softball coach at The University of Findlay. He's a history buff in his spare time and he's excited to see the movie that features a piece of his family history, "So many people tell me they've seen the movie and they know dad had a small role in the operation. The movie has dug up a piece of history that had been bypassed like a lot of great stories in history."

According to Ron, the Merkers mine contained more than 1,000 paintings and statues, 100 tons of gold bullion, five billion German marks as well as American money and jewelry. Jack was one of four brothers who fought in World War II and they all made it home. After he came home Jack went to college, played a year of minor league baseball and then he taught history here in Northwest Ohio. Jack died in 1979. Two of his brothers are still alive.

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