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[2] Biography: Captain Mason Hammond (1903-2002)

Captain Mason Hammond (source: Monuments Men Foundation).

Born in 1903, Mason Hammond became a distinguished Professor of Classics at Harvard University in the USA (BA 1925, MA 1932). Right before the war, he was also head of the School of Classical Study at the American Academy in Rome (Italy) (1937-39). Mostly for our project and research purpose, he was a Monument Officer of the AMGOT between 1942 and 1946 acting in a variety of war contexts, including Northern Africa, Germany and (of course!) Sicily. He was initially a Captain of the Air Force intelligence and was then first Monument Officer of the USA Army assigned to this role. He moved also in London working on the Roberts Commission. After the war, Hammond was awarded and honoured by the German and Italian governments for his efficient duty in their countries during the conflict. He lastly retired at Harvard in 1973 keeping his studying and research activity on Greek and Latin inscriptions. He died on 13 October 2002 right before his 100th birthday.

What was Hammond’s role in Sicily? The captain played a crucial role in the immediate aftermath of Operation Husky. He was responsible to evaluate all war damages occurred to Sicilian monuments (churches, antiquities, archaeological sites, museums, etc.) preforming essential tours in the island to inspect them. He went many times around Sicily together with Bovio Marconi and Griffo, who guided him at archaeological sites. Particularly, Hammond operated strictly collaborating with Bovio Marconi in Palermo. He was extremely efficient in evaluating all war damages occurred in the provincial sites and helped the curator to deal with the reconstruction of the museum, partially destroyed by an Allied bomb in April 1943. The early allocations of ’emergency’ funds were approved by Hammond. His conduct in Sicily can be considered very successful. Indeed, he created a series of networking contacts between the AMGOT and the local/regional authorities and efficiently dealt with a problematic, hard situation after the Allied landing, which had left Sicily in a chaotic context.

As a scholar, Hammond wrote various books; we can mention: The War and Art Treasures in Gremany (1946), The Augustan Principate, The City in the Ancient World, City-state and world state in Greek and Roman political theory until Augustus (1951), The Antonine Monarchy (1959), Latin: A Historical and Linguistic Handbook (1976).