Return
Bio image
Flag

Return

Popham, Anne | Posey, Capt. Robert K. | Poste, Lt. Leslie I.


Posey, Capt. Robert K.  

Major, Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Officer, United States Third Army

A well-known architect in civilian life, Robert K. Posey served as Monuments Officer for Patton’s Third Army in the advance across northern Europe and into Germany. He began his military service in 1942 with the Army Corps of Engineers building airstrips in the town of Churchill, in northern Canada. Posey arrived in Normandy just after D-Day, after working on MFAA preparations in Great Britain. Traveling with front line troops, he inspected historic monuments, made temporary repairs, prevented billeting in buildings of cultural importance, and made contact with local art officials. He alone was responsible for the entire Third Army area in France. In January 1945, Pfc. Lincoln Kirstein was assigned as Posey’s assistant. The two were based in Nancy, France for nearly three months. From there, they inspected the eastern, more remote towns of France before moving on through Luxembourg and into Germany in early spring.

During his time in Nancy, Posey realized that there was a natural curiosity of the troops to learn more about the city they were living in. He wrote a brief history of Nancy and included basic information on monuments of cultural importance, which was in turn distributed to the billeted troops. Because of the project’s success, he later wrote bulletins for the cities of Metz, Luxembourg City, and Trier.

Posey’s first major discovery was in late February at the Priory Church of Mont Saint Martin in France, near the border of Luxembourg. As he entered the 11th century church, which had been locked since its roof was blown off during bombing in 1940, he discovered plaster walls peeling away from the rain. Under the layers of plaster was a rare wall painting of the Annunciation dating from 1350-1375, which had likely been hidden for centuries. Soon after, in Hungen, Germany, Posey and Kirstein discovered the eight buildings that comprised the Race Institute, used by Alfred Rosenberg to “research” the various people overrun by the Nazis. There they found rooms full of Torahs, anti-Semitic clippings, Jewish archives, and other confiscated materials.

Perhaps Posey’s greatest accomplishment during his time as a Monuments Man was the discovery of the salt mine at Altaussee. Just days after the German surrender he found the Van Eyck brothers’ Ghent Altarpiece, Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna, Vermeer’s The Astronomer, along with thousands of other works of art hidden in numerous chambers deep within the mine. For his remarkable work as a Monuments Man, Posey was awarded the Legion of Honor from France, and the Order of Leopold from Belgium. In 1946, he wrote an article based on his experiences for the College Art Journal, entitled “Protection of Cultural Materials During Combat.”

Upon Posey’s return home from the war, he resumed his career as an architect. He had graduated from Auburn University with a B.S. in Architectural Engineering in 1926, and a B.S. in Architecture in 1927. As a student activist, Posey spoke out against Huey Long, Fascism, and the Ku Klux Klan. He then taught at his alma mater until 1928. Before the war, he worked for various architecture firms, but in 1946 he began his nearly three-decade career at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in New York City. As a senior associate, Posey worked on such notable projects as the Union Carbide Building and the Lever House in New York City, and the Sears Tower in Chicago. After marrying Alice Montgomery in 1933, they had two sons, Carnot Dennis and Robert Michael. Posey retired after a successful career in 1974, and died three years later in White Plains, New York.

 

 


Copyrighted by Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art