Creating the Magnificent US Marine Corps War Memorial

Photo Credit: USMC Archives / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0
Photo Credit: USMC Archives / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0

The US Marine Corps War Memorial – also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial – stands as an iconic symbol of valor and sacrifice. Located just outside of Arlington National Cemetery, in Virginia, this sculpture serves as a powerful tribute to the Marines who serve and sacrifice their lives for their country.

US Marines raising the American Flag on Mount Suribachi
Photo Credit: Joe Rosenthal / Associated Press / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The creation of the US Marine Corps War Memorial began in the aftermath of the Second World War. Inspired by the bravery and resilience displayed during the Battle of Iwo Jima, a group of veterans envisioned a lasting memorial to honor the fallen. They wanted to create something that would capture the spirit of the Marine Corps, while serving as a reminder of the sacrifices made by those who served.

Felix de Weldon, a sculptor and former painter second class with the US Navy, was commissioned to bring this vision to life. Working tirelessly, he crafted a plaster model of the monument.

His design depicted the photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal showing six Marines raising the American flag atop Mount Suribachi, one of the most iconic images from World War II. The sculpture was cast in bronze, with the figures standing at an impressive 32 feet tall. They’re raising a 60-foot flagpole and flag.

The Featured Image of this article shows de Weldon putting the finishing touches on the plaster model before it’s cast in bronze.

US Marine Corps War Memorial surrounded by construction equipment
Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images

On November 10, 1954, the US Marine Corps War Memorial was dedicated in a ceremony attended by thousands, including President Dwight D. Eisenhower and many veterans of the Pacific Theater.

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The memorial’s location holds special significance, as it overlooks Arlington National Cemetery, where many Marines are laid to rest. The monument’s inscription reads, “In honor and in memory of the men of the United States Marine Corps who have given their lives to their country since November 10, 1775.” It stands not only as a testament to the courage of the Marines who fought on Iwo Jima, but as a tribute to those who have and continue to serve.

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.