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. Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes, and John Bradley posed for the sculptor as he modeled their faces in clay. These three men were believed to be the survivors of the famous flag raising (the others were killed on Iwo Jima). The US Marine Corps has since concluded that John Bradley was not in the famous image of the flag raising. To learn more about the identities of the flag raisers, please read the US Marine Corps statement on the Iwo Jima flag raisers. 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.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower dedicated the memorial in a ceremony on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps.