Newswise — Findlay, Ohio — “The Monuments Men,” a movie about men who recovered art masterpieces stolen by the Nazis during World War II, recently opened in theaters, and the story hit very close to home for a softball coach and history buff in Ohio.
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 local Findlay, Ohio, newspaper, 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 in Toledo, Ohio, 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 in McComb, Ohio, and Glenwood Junior High School in Findlay, Ohio, until his passing in 1979.
Ron has long been interested in history and has interviewed many World War II veterans about their experiences. Interestingly, Ron learned about his father’s role in the Monuments Men story only after happening upon the saved article from The Republican-Courier.