Lifting a treasured World War II memorial

09 August 2023

Inspired by the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph taken by Associated Press combat photographer Joe Rosenthal of six marines raising a United States flag at Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, the Marine Corps War Memorial is a 78-foot-tall bronze sculpture that sits near the gates of Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Monuments, statues and artifacts require extra specialized hauling and rigging. Photo: Joe Rosenthal

Iwo Jima is an island about 550 miles south of Tokyo, and one of the islands the Japanese had captured in the early years of the war. By 1945, U.S. troops had captured back most of the Pacific Islands, and getting back Iwo Jima was among the final stages of the plan to bring the Pacific campaign to an end. Rosenthal caught the raising of the American flag in his famous photo.

Sculptor Felix de Weldon was so inspired by the photo that he constructed a scale model of the photo and later a life-sized model in plaster. The initial plaster sculpture was cast in bronze and trucked in 12 pieces (plus the 60-foot flagpole) to Arlington in a three-truck convoy. Cranes rigged with slings placed the pieces that were bolted into place. The sculpture sits atop a base of black diabase granite from Lönsboda, Sweden.

The sculpture was dedicated in honor and in memory of the men of the United States Marine Corps who gave their lives to their country by President Dwight Eisenhower in November 1954.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued a proclamation that U.S. flag should fly over the memorial 24-four hours a day.

Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl Donald M. Sutton


■ The men are about 32 feet tall.

■ The M-1 rifle and carbine are 16 and 12 feet long.

■ The canteen would hold 32 quarts of water.

■ The memorial statue is about 78 feet tall.

■ The entire cost of the statue was $850,000, donated by U.S. Marines, Friends of the Marine Corps and members of the Naval Service.

■ According to the U.S. National Park Service website, the Marine Corps War Memorial was completely rehabilitated from 2016 to 2020. “The project included new engravings, cleaning and waxing of the memorial, brazing bronze seams and re-gilding letters and inscriptions on the sculpture base,” the website said. “Every inch of the 32-foot-tall statues of Marines raising the flag was examined. Holes, cracks and seams on the bronze sculpture were brazed to prevent water damage.”

■ For more information visit


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