Ever wonder what the heaviest bronze sculpture in the United States is? Felix De Weldon’s 100-ton Iwo Jima Monument, located near Arlington National Cemetery in Rosslyn, Virginia. The memorial is dedicated to all personnel of the U.S. Marine Corps who have died in the defense of the United States since 1775.
Making of a Memorial
Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press caught the afternoon flag-raising in an iconic photograph that eventually won a Pulitzer Prize. Sculptor Felix W. de Weldon, then on duty with the US Navy, was so moved by the image that he constructed first a scale model and then a life-size model of it. Gagnon, Hayes, and Bradley, the three survivors of the flag raising (the others were killed on Iwo Jima), posed for the sculptor as he modeled their faces in clay. All available pictures and physical statistics of the three who had given their lives were collected and then used in the modeling of their faces.
Once the statue was completed in plaster, it was carefully disassembled and trucked to Brooklyn, N.Y., for casting in bronze. The casting process, which required the work of experienced artisans, took nearly 3 years. After the parts had been cast, cleaned, finished, and chased, they were reassembled into approximately a dozen pieces–the largest weighing more than 20 tons–and brought back to Washington, D.C., by a three-truck convoy. Here they were bolted and welded together, and the statue was treated with preservatives.
Thirty-two foot high figures are shown raising a 60-foot bronze flagpole. The flag at the top of the pole flies at full mast 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by presidential proclamation.
The figures in the statue occupy the same positions as in Rosenthal’s historic photograph. Ira Hayes is the figure farthest from the flagpole with both hands reaching up. Franklin Sousley is in front of Hayes, to the right. John Bradley is in front of Sousley. Michael Strank is in front of Hayes, to the left. Rene Gagnon is in front of Strank. Harlon Block is at the foot of the flagpole.
The M-l rifle and the carbine carried by two of the figures are 16 and 12 feet long, respectively. The canteen would hold 32 quarts of water.
The figures stand on a rock slope above a granite base. The entire memorial is about 78 feet tall.
Granite for the base came from Sweden. The names and dates of every principal Marine Corps engagement since the founding of the Corps form a gold ring around the base.
The entire cost of the statue ($850,000) was donated by US Marines, friends of the Marine Corps, and members of the Naval Service. No public funds were used for this memorial.
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