Richard M. Barancik (1924-2023)
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Richard Morton Barancik enlisted in the Army Enlisted Reserve Corps (ERC) in December 1942 and attended the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) studying basic engineering in 1943 at the University of Nebraska. In 1944, Pfc Barancik was sent to Camp Rucker to join the newly-formed 263rd Infantry Regiment of the 66th Division and was soon transferred to England for additional training. On Christmas Eve 1944, his division boarded transports crossing the English Channel to France and the Battle of the Bulge. However, tragedy struck when members of his division onboard a separate boat, the SS Léopoldville, were killed by German torpedoes. In all, over seven hundred US servicemen lost their lives. Due to such heavy losses, the 66th Division instead replaced the division surrounding nearby St. Nazaire, France, rather than continuing on to join the Battle of the Bulge. Following the German surrender, Barancik and his division were sent to Marseilles, France, to wait for deployment to Japan. However, the Japanese surrendered, and Barancik joined the 232nd Infantry Regiment of the 42nd Division in Austria.
In Austria, Barancik first learned of the MFAA and immediately applied for duty. He was given temporary assignment with the Education, Religion, Fine Arts, and Monuments Office in Salzburg, Austria, alongside Cpl Clyde J. Davis, also of the 42nd Division. For several weeks, Barancik and Davis assisted in the movement of stolen art treasures to the central repository of Property Control Branch and served as guards. Barancik later remarked that, “When I arrived in Salzburg, I was not only overwhelmed by the beauty of the town but the quality of the men in the Fine Arts Section. They were typically older and very well educated in the Fine Arts.” During his service with the MFAA, Barancik worked under Monuments Man Capt Charles Sattgast.
His work with the MFAA complete, Barancik traveled to London to participate in a short-term program with the Royal Institute of Architects designed to help professional architects assimilate back into civilian life. Afterward, he returned to Austria, where he was given orders for detached duty to the London Area Command, where he was able to attend Cambridge. Barancik studied architecture at the University of Cambridge in 1946 and later at the École des Beaux-Arts at Fontainebleau, France. He received bachelor’s degrees in general studies and architecture at the University of Illinois in 1947 and 1948, something he had started before the war began.
Barancik enjoyed a long and successful career as a Chicago architect from 1950 to 1993. His firm Barancik, Conte and Associates specialized in high-rise apartment buildings, office campuses, shopping centers, and hotels. A member of the American Institute of Architects, he was a trustee for the San Francisco Asian Art Museum Foundation. His affiliations included the Monterey Museum of Art, The Arts Club and The Casino Club of Chicago, as well as the Pebble Beach and Tennis Club and the Old Capital Club in California.
Richard M. Barancik died in Chicago, Illinois, on July 14, 2023. He was the last known living Monuments Man. Here for the Foundation's message about Barancik's passing.