Mr. Dagley is honored for his participation in returning to Poland cultural treasures
robbed by Germans during World War II; and also in recognition of the imprisonment he suffered at the hands of the communist authorities of Poland.
On April 30, 1946, Pvt. Curtis L. Dagley was a member of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives U.S. Army unit that arrived in Poland, carrying the first shipment of significant works of art and cultural objects recovered by the US Army from various locations in Germany.
Among the recovered objects was the Veit Stoss Altar which has been compared, in its significance to the Polish Nation, to the US Liberty Bell. The return of these cultural and artistic treasures coincided in time with the 3rd of May anticommunist demonstrations in Poland in 1946. The returned objects, as national treasures, became the emotional focal point of the demonstrations.
On May 5, 1946 there was a shooting incident in Krakow involving a US serviceman and Polish militiamen. One militiaman was wounded. A standoff between the communist security apparatus and the US military delegation occurred. In order to secure the safe return of the US delegation from Poland to Germany, Pvt. Dagley, although innocent of any wrongdoing, agreed to be arrested by the communist authorities. He remained in prison for four months. During his imprisonment Pvt. Dagley was not once allowed to bathe, to take a walk outside or to change his clothing. By the end of his ordeal, he was physically and emotionally exhausted.
Curtis L. Dagley in Krakow. Photo: http://gloucester.wickedlocal.com/article/20120821/NEWS/308219665
Through his generous and brave action, Pvt. Dagley insured the safety of the remaining members of his mission and averted a potentially dangerous political incident from occurring between the Government of the United States of America and that of the Peoples Republic of Poland.
The award will be made by the acting Consul General of the Republic of Poland in New York, the Hon. Katarzyna Padlo with the assistance of Dr. Agata Wolska, a Polish historian who authored the historical study involving Pvt. Dagley and the Hon. Marek Lesniewski-Laas, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Poland.
Participating in the ceremony will be the Mayor of Gloucester, the Hon, Sefatia Rome
Theken; Governor’s Councilor, the Hon. Eileen Duff; State Representative, the Hon.
Ann-Margaret Ferrante; and State Senator the Hon. Bruce Tarr.The „Bene Merito” distinction is conferred upon citizens of the Republic of Poland and foreign nationals in recognition of their merit in promoting Poland abroad. „Bene Merito” is awarded by the Minister of Foreign Affairs at the Minister’s own initiative or at the request of heads of other Polish Ministries or heads of foreign missions.
Consulate General of Poland in New York, 233 Madison Avenue, (Jan Karski Corner), New York, NY 10016