Findlay GI Helped Save Artwork During World War II
The University of Findlay has a real-life connection to the “Monuments Men,” depicted in the recent movie, who recovered art masterpieces stolen by the Nazis during World War II.
Ron Ammons (’81), head softball coach at The University of Findlay, recently shared his father’s role in the rescue mission. Jack Ammons, who attended Findlay College on the GI Bill for three years in the late 1940s and played on the Findlay baseball team before graduating from Florida State University, was among the men who descended into a salt mine in Merkers, Germany, and helped bring out looted artwork.
According to his son, Jack was a member of the 90th Infantry Division of the 3rd Army commanded by General George Patton. At age 19, Jack landed at Utah Beach, Normandy, two days after the main invasion, and was engaged in frontline combat for 11 months, fighting through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and into Czechoslovakia. He was with the advance division that made the important discovery in the mine. By the time his unit, the 357th Regiment, spent several days in the spring of 1945 retrieving stolen treasures from the mine, he was one of three men of his original company of 180 men who had not been wounded or killed.
Ron shared a copy of an article from the April 1, 1949, edition of The Republican-Courier in which his father was interviewed about his role in saving the plundered art. Jack described the lighted underground tunnels where he and five others loaded the crated paintings onto Jeeps, which were taken by a mine-shaft elevator to ground level.
The occasion of the article was a traveling exhibition of a portion of the recovered artwork on display at the Toledo Museum of Art, where Jack got a second look at the paintings. The article reported that the mine contained a cache of more than 1,000 paintings and statues, as well as 100 tons of gold bullion, five billion in German marks, two million in American money and an untold amount of jewels.
After graduating, Jack spent a season playing minor league baseball with the Washington Senators, and then taught history at McComb Junior High and Glenwood Junior High School until his passing in 1979.