Robert Hanna Monroe (1913-1994)
Art historian Robert Hanna Monroe was born in Lawton, Oklahoma in 1913. He was an engineering student at Cameron Junior College (today, Cameron University) in Lawton, Oklahoma before studying art history at Oklahoma University and the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Prior to the start of World War II, he worked as a high school art teacher in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Monroe was commissioned into the U.S. Army Air Force in February 1942. Following extensive training in signal communications, he managed the construction and installation of signal equipment at aircraft warning centers across the eastern United States. In October 1944 he was transfered to the Philippines, where he supervised the use of cryptographic equipment in U.S. Army security offices in the Western Pacific.
After his discharge from the U.S. Army in early 1946, Monroe applied for service with the MFAA in Germany. Due to his knowledge of art history and proficiency in German, he was assigned as a Claims and Assistant Officer for the Restitution Branch of the Office of Military Government, U.S. Zone (OMGUS). During the course of his duties, he worked alongside Monuments Men Lt. Col. Richard F. Howard, T/Sgt. Henri E. Pilliod, and Hellmut Emil Lehmann-Haupt processing thousands of restitution claims for the return of looted art and other cultural objects belonging to churches, institutions, and private collectors within the U.S. Zone of Occupation. He made several trips to the Munich Central Collecting Point to investigate claims for looted art and gathered intelligence information that led to the capture of art looting suspects.
Monroe remained an active participant in the postwar restitution effort until late 1947, when he returned to the United States. He died in Millford, New Jersey in 1994. Today, the Robert H. Monroe Memorial Scholarship is awarded annually to one graduate student of fine arts at the University of Oklahoma.
Photograph courtesy of Sooner 1937, pg. 74, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries, Norman, OK.