Marine Corps War Memorial

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Marine Corps War Memorial
United States of America
The Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., can be seen prior to the Sunset Parade June 4, 2013 130604-M-MM982-036.jpg
Marine Corps War Memorial
For all personnel of the United States Marine Corps who have died in the defense of the United States since 1775.
Unveiled November 10, 1954
Location 38°53′25.7″N 77°04′10.85″W / 38.890472°N 77.0696806°W / 38.890472; -77.0696806
near Rosslyn, Virginia
Designed by Felix de Weldon
In Honor And Memory Of The Men Of The United States Marine Corps Who Have Given Their Lives To Their Country Since 10 November 1775
Uncommon Valor Was A Common Virtue

The Marine Corps War Memorial (also called the Iwo Jima Memorial) is a United States military monument outside the walls of Arlington National Cemetery and next to the Netherlands Carillon, in Arlington Ridge Park, Arlington, Virginia. The memorial is dedicated to all personnel of the United States Marine Corps who have died in the defense of the United States since 1775.

The memorial features the statues of the six servicemen who raised the second U.S. flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, on February 23, 1945, five Marines and one Navy corpsman: Sergeant Michael Strank, Corporal Harlon Block, Private First Class Rene Gagnon, Private First Class Ira Hayes, Private First Class Franklin Sousley, and Pharmacist Mate Second Class John Bradley (USN).

The design of the massive sculpture by Felix de Weldon was based on the iconic photograph of the raising of the second flag (replaced smaller flag) on Mount Suribachi by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. Upon first seeing the photograph in 1945, de Weldon created his maquette for the sculpture, a wax model of the image, during a single weekend. It was presented at Congress to encourage funding.

Funding was not possible during the war. In 1947 a federal foundation was established to raise funds for the bronze statue proposed by de Weldon.


The identities of the six statues representing the six flag-raisers depicted on the memorial

In 1951, work commenced on creating a commissioned, cast bronze memorial based on the photograph, with the figures 32 feet (9.8 m) tall and the flagpole 60 feet (18 m) long. The granite base of the memorial bears two inscriptions:

  • "In Honor And Memory Of The Men Of The United States Marine Corps Who Have Given Their Lives To Their Country Since 10 November 1775"
  • "Uncommon Valor Was A Common Virtue" (a tribute by Admiral Chester Nimitz to the fighting men on Iwo Jima)

The location and date of every major United States Marine Corps engagement up to the present are inscribed around the base of the memorial. The base is made entirely in the deep black diabase of Lönsboda, a small town and a granite quarry in the southernmost province of Sweden.[1]

The official dedication of the memorial by President Dwight D. Eisenhower occurred on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the Marine Corps. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued a proclamation that a Flag of the United States should fly from the memorial 24 hours a day, one of the few official sites where this is required. The Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. uses this memorial as a centerpiece of the weekly Sunset Parade featuring the Drum and Bugle Corps and the Silent Drill Platoon.

Similar memorials[edit]

The 5th Marine Division memorial at the U.S. flag-raising site on Mount Suribachi

When there were no government funds for sculpture during the war, the sculptor financed a concrete version of similar design in a one-third size that was placed on a parcel of land in Washington, D.C. until 1947, when it was put into storage. It later was restored and displayed at a museum on an aircraft carrier and again, returned to storage. This small concrete statue of the second U.S. flag raising at Iwo Jima in 1945 was scheduled to be auctioned in February 2013 at a New York auction dedicated to World War II artifacts,[2] but it failed to receive the minimum bid required for the auction of it to begin.

The original plaster working model for the bronze and granite memorial statue currently stands in Harlingen, Texas at the Marine Military Academy, a private Marine Corps-inspired youth military academy. The academy also is the final resting place of Corporal Harlon Block, who was killed in action on Iwo Jima.

A small model stands in the lobby of Spruance Hall, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island. It was presented by the sculptor, a resident of Newport.

There also are scaled-down replicas at three marine bases: just outside the front gate of Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, adjacent to the parade deck at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina, and just inside the main gate at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kāne'ohe Bay, Hawaii.

A version of the memorial dedicated in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of World War II stands in the Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, Pennsylvania.

In Newington, Connecticut a similar design is used for their National Iwo Jima Memorial, which is dedicated to the 6,821 U.S. servicemen who died in the battle.

Other copies of the statue are located at Cape Coral, Florida and Fall River Bicentennial Park in Massachusetts.[citation needed]

Number of hands rumor and criticism[edit]

There are twelve hands in the memorial corresponding to the six figures depicted. A persistent rumor has attributed the existence of a thirteenth hand and speculation about the possible reasons for it. When informed of the rumor, de Weldon exclaimed, "Thirteen hands. Who needed 13 hands? Twelve were enough."[3]

In the siting controversy for the United States Air Force Memorial, originally to be near de Weldon's work, J. Carter Brown (in 1998 chairman of the United States Commission of Fine Arts) described the Marine Corps Memorial as, "I would say that the Iwo Jima memorial is kitsch. It was taken from a photograph, it is by a sculptor, even though he was a member of this commission at one point, who is not going to go down as a Michelangelo in history—and yet it is very effective, largely because of its site." This remark was met with calls for Brown's resignation from the commission, and disagreement over the categorization from the commission's staff.[4]

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.

  1. ^ (in Swedish) Translation, page 3 line 28-29: The most famous war memorial in the United States, U.S. Marine Corps Memorial in Washington D.C., stands on a base in granite pieces from Hägghult. Hägghult is the name of the quarry, just outside Lönsboda.
  2. ^ "Original Iwo Jima monument could fetch up to $1.8M at NYC auction". Fox News. Retrieved 8 February 2013. 
  3. ^ Kelly, John (February 23, 2005). "One Marine's Moment". The Washington Post (Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post Company). p. C13. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2008-07-13. [dead link]
  4. ^ "Iwo Jima memorial called 'kitsch'". Deseret News. 8 March 1998. Retrieved 20 March 2014. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°53′26″N 77°04′11″W / 38.890432°N 77.069714°W / 38.890432; -77.069714