It is amazing that our government provided this service that saved hundreds of thousands of treasures stolen by the Nazis ("Monumental Mission"). These soldiers did a wonderful job with limited training, and the world owes them a great debt of gratitude. What a contrast with current leaders who did little to prevent looting in Iraq, despite warnings that the Iraq Museum was vulnerable.
E. Murray Tate Jr.,
Hickory, North Carolina
Rescuing Stolen Art
Lynn H. Nicholas wrote the definitive work on this subject. Her brilliant 1994 book, The Rape of Europa, was published after ten years of ground-breaking research, during which Nicholas interviewed most of the surviving "monuments men," as these soldiers are called, and it won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her research also spurred the retrieval of more stolen artworks, thereby helping to carry on the soldiers' mission. She has also contributed to a documentary movie of the same title.
Edmond R. Du Pont
Curator Frank Goodyear III, of the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, says the exhibit featuring museum-commissioned graffiti is "not glorifying the illegal activity" (Around the Mall, "Aerosol Art"). So what is it doing? Graffiti—the defacement of property with spray-painted "signatures"—may be an art form, but part of its appeal to artists is its illicit nature. It's an updated, more fanciful version of "Kilroy was here," and it assumes that the artist has more rights than the property owner. If the curators of this exhibit found graffiti on their cars or on their homes, would they still feel it is worth featuring? Instead of replicating art that is a form of vandalism, why doesn't the Smithsonian purchase canvases for budding graffiti artists? It's interesting that the Smithsonian itself did not allow the graffiti artists to paint directly on museum walls.
Yuba City, California
I was part of a Combat Engineer Battalion, the 231st, Baker Company, which witnessed some of the early nuclear test explosions discussed in the Points of Interest item "Atomic Legacy." While bunkers were present in various field fortification display areas, the soldiers who participated were out in the open. Animals of various species were caged in a miniature village constructed of different materials in an attempt to discover ways of building structures that could withstand the explosions. Our observation site was only a few miles away. After the blast, we walked back toward ground zero, and the closer we got, the more the animals suffered, from singed wool to terrible burns to death. We were met by men wearing what looked like white spacesuits, who waved wands over us—Geiger counters—that clicked like mad. Since then, several members of our group have suffered from cancer.
E. D. Footit
After reading about Marc van Roosmalen ("Trials of a Primatologist"), I have to agree with those who say that his problems are of his own making. I was disheartened that your excellent publication devoted 12 pages to his plight. Clearly he thinks that the rules do not apply to him. The extensive paperwork required to pursue his chosen vocation, while tedious, is intended to protect the researcher as well as the research institution(s) and subject(s). His failure to comply suggests contempt for the agencies. That he had an extramarital affair, but thinks his family has betrayed him, shows just how deluded he is. Obviously, he has spent too much time in the jungle and madness has overtaken him.
M. L. Carr
A photograph on page 20 accompanying a Points of Interest item about Arches National Park in Utah actually shows another Utah site, Canyonlands National Park. We regret the error. —Ed.