From Plunder to Preservation: A Conference on Cultural Heritage, World War II, and the Pacific

Nov 05, 2012, 09:37 ET from Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation (LCCHP)

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- This Thursday and Friday, November 8 and 9, archaeologists, historians, lawyers, veterans, and other experts will meet at the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C. to attend the international conference, From Plunder to Preservation: The Untold Story of Cultural Heritage, World War II, and the Pacific.

Last year marked 70 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor. Now, a lifetime has passed since the United States entered the Second World War on December 8, 1941. This anniversary revived interest in World War II, and in particular, the Pacific Theater of Operations. With 2012 also commemorating the Battles of the Coral Sea, Midway, and Guadalcanal, focus on the War in the Pacific has continued to increase this year. 

"This emphasis is welcome but belated," said Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, which is organizing the conference. "The European Theater has long overshadowed its counterpart in the Far East. Despite its unfathomable atrocities, WWII in the West was the last of the so-called 'great' wars, with its front lines, conventional combat, and massive land campaigns. It was a familiar horror, as it had been fought before many times, in some cases on the same battlefields, and even by many of the same men."

The Pacific Theater — with its Kamikaze suicide bombings, guerrilla tactics, and nuclear weapons — was instead a harbinger of terrors to come. A take-no-prisoners fight to the death through island jungles exotic to both the Americans and Japanese. Like the conflicts today in Afghanistan and Iraq, and earlier in Vietnam and Korea, it was a clash between East and West. And because it was fought between civilizations, heritage was a major target, and thus a major casualty. 

"This cultural cost of the Pacific War, like its broader toll, has also been eclipsed by the devastation in Europe," said Davis. "We have condemned the Nazi looting of art, mourned Monte Cassino's loss, reconstructed old Warsaw, applauded Holocaust restitution, and tended graves at Normandy. But what do we know of the Empire of Japan's systematic pillaging of Asian treasures from Mongolia to Singapore? Or the US plan to first destroy — and ultimately spare — historic Kyoto? The race to find, and then smuggle to overseas collectors, downed "warbirds" in the jungles of Papua New Guinea? The neglect suffered by the cemeteries at Tarawa?  Or the environmental time bomb of sunken battleships, and gravesites themselves, in pristine South Pacific?"

From Plunder to Preservation seeks to tell these stories. The conference is organized by the Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation and sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Herrick, Feinstein LLP, and Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE). Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits will be available. To learn more and register, visit:

Tess Davis, Executive Director
Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation (LCCHP)
+1 (202) 681-3785

SOURCE Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation (LCCHP)