Safeguarding cultural property when U.S. Armed Forces are deployed abroad is a duty under the law of war. It can also play a critical role as a force multiplier because protecting cultural property can improve relationships with local populations by evidencing a respectful and professional fighting force that complies with the law of war. When our forces show consideration of and respect for a local population’s cultural heritage and historic properties, the Military earns trust that can be built upon to improve relationships with host nations, increases the efficacy of military tactics, and promotes warfighter safety. Respect for and protection of cultural property is an expression of American values and supports the defense mission.
The tangible evidence and expressions of a culture’s heritage are reflected in it’s traditions and cultural property – inherently valuable, and often irreplaceable resources that can include:
- works of art such as paintings, murals, and statues;
- historic and ancient buildings and monuments, and ruins of such structures;
- archaeological sites and artifacts found on or beneath the land or underwater, and their associated records and materials;
- museums, libraries, and archives, and their collections; and
- sacred places, such as churches, mosques, temples, shrines, sanctuaries, and cemeteries.
Although particular aspects of the technical and subject matter expertise for international cultural property protection may fall to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment (OASD(EI&E)), policy relating to cultural property protection during armed conflict falls within the purview of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (OUSD) for Policy, specifically the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (ODASD) for Stability and Humanitarian Affairs.
Law & Policy
1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict
The Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict was adopted during the aftermath of World War II in the wake of monumental destruction of cultural heritage across the globe. The Preamble to the Convention sets forth the principle that because “damage to cultural property belonging to any people whatsoever means damage to the cultural heritage of all mankind since each people makes its contribution to the culture of the world,” it is incumbent upon States to agree to special measures for its safeguarding. The United States ratified the Convention in 2009, but longstanding U.S. military practice has been consistent with the Convention, and in large measure the practices required by the Convention to protect cultural property were based on the practices of U.S. military forces during World War II.
Pan American Treaty on the Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments
An international treaty on the Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments approved by the Pan American Union represented at the Seventh International Conference of American States, held at Montevideo in 1935.
Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, 1970.
An UNESCO 1970 Convention international treaty signed to combat the illegal trade in cultural items.
Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act, 2016, Public Law 114-151, 19 U.S.C. 2601 et seq.
The Protect and Preservation International Cultural Property Act was established “to protect and preserve international cultural property at risk due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters, and for other purposes.”
Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act, 1983, Public Law 97-446, 96 Stat. 2329; as amended in 1987, Public Law 100-204, 101 Stat. 1331.
The Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act was enacted “to reduce certain duties, to suspend temporarily certain duties, to extend certain existing suspensions of duties, and for other purposes” in regard to cultural property.
U.S. Department of Defense, Directive 2311.01E, Law of War Program
This directive establishes DoD policy that “(m)embers of the DoD Components comply with the law of war during all armed conflicts, however such conflicts are characterized, and in all other military operations.” This requirement includes the requirement to comply with the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and customary international law applicable to the protection of cultural property during armed conflict.
U.S. Department of Defense Law of War Manual, June 2015, Updated December 2016
This publication provides information on the law of war for DoD personnel and includes information on the law of war’s protections for cultural property.
Report on Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict
Submitted in compliance with the reporting requirement contained in Section 1273 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, Public Law 113-291.
This report describes DoD policy and practice in providing protection for cultural property abroad at risk of destruction due to armed conflict.
U.S. Department of the Army, GTA 41-01-002, Civil Affairs Arts, Monuments, and Archives Guide
This aid is intended to guide Soldiers’ decisions and actions in the field until heritage professionals can be summoned.
U.S. Government Accountability Office, Report, Cultural Property: Protection of Iraqi and Syrian Antiquities – Report 2016
This report describes activities undertaken by U.S. agencies and the Smithsonian Institution to protect Iraqi and Syrian cultural property since 2011, and art market experts’ suggestions for improving U.S. government activities.
“Cultural Property Protection as a Force Multiplier in Stability Operations”, Military Review Journal
This article describes lessons learned from Word War II Monuments Officers. Laurie Rush.
“Military Involvement in Cultural Property Protection: An Overview”, National Defense University Press – Article, 2014
This article discusses cultural property protection and military involvement in cultural heritage. Joris D. Kila; Christopher V. Hernodon.
“Cultural Property Protection Makes Sense”, NATO Civil-Military Cooperation Centre – Article, 2015
This article discusses cultural property protection (CPP) and the practical implications of CPP for armed forces. Major Yvette Foliant.
U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs
U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield
Conflict Culture Research Network, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution, University of Pennsylvania Museum, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities Investigations
Archaeology and Sacred Places in Iraq and Afghanistan
This catalog provides a brief visual presentation of the various training products produced by the Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands (CEMML), Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, and the Cultural Resources Management Program at Fort Drum, NY, between 2005-2010, for purposes of raising awareness among U.S. military personnel and DoD contractors in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt of the importance and value of preserving and protecting cultural property. James A. Zeilder and Alexandra V. Wallace.
This fact sheet describes a project with the objective to provide practical training and educational materials that are easily available to military personnel at all levels. The ultimate objective is to assist
in the establishment of a permanent office within the US DoD to handle cultural heritage issues. Laurie W. Rush.
This presentation stresses awareness of cultural and heritage resources in the field and discusses training with replica and actual heritage sites. The presentation also offers guidelines for addressing heritage sites in the field and associated concerns. Laurie W. Rush.
This fact sheet describes a project with the objective to provide practical training materials that are easily available to military personnel at all levels. Specifically, this project is designed to produce four main products: Evaluation of Project Products, A Panel Discussion at the World Archaeology Congress, Training Materials for Military Personnel, and Continued Improvement for Replica Sites. Laurie W. Rush.
Individualized self-taught cultural property protection instruction: a double-sided four-by six-inch card printed Soldier Pocket Guide that contains basic top-of-mind information and guidance on cultural heritage issues and cultural property protection.
Archaeological Resources in Areas of Conflict
This report on proceedings of the World Archaeological Inter Congress meeting in 2010 summarizes and evaluates recent lessons learned concerning heritage issues in conflict areas in the context of interaction with international colleagues with a goal of emerging with a more sophisticated understanding of the issues and recommendations for a way forward at the international level. Luisa B. Millington; Laurie W. Rush.
Avoiding Archaeological Sites Overseas
This presentation discusses the legal drivers and strategic importance of U.S. efforts to avoid archaeological sites in overseas operations. The presentation includes information about reading the landscape and avoiding impacts, available resources, lessons learned in Iraq, and a checklist for ground-disturbing projects. Laurie W. Rush.
This study developed and partially populated a cultural resources database and a GIS data layer for Outside the Continental United States (OCONUS) regions where DoD personnel are deployed; assessed the depth, breadth, and availability of needed OCONUS culture resource information; and made recommendations concerning how to efficiently and effectively develop these OCONUS cultural resource data layers in future efforts. Carla R. Van West.
This one page summary describes a project that developed and partially populated a cultural resources database and a GIS data layer for OCONUS regions where DoD personnel are deployed; assessed the depth, breadth, and availability of needed OCONUS culture resource information; and made recommendations concerning how to efficiently and effectively develop these OCONUS cultural resource data layers in future efforts. Carla R. Van West.