The Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia may depict one of the most iconic events that happened during World War II – the second flag-raising over Mount Suribachi during the battle for Iwo Jima – it is also dedicated to Marines who have fought for the nation "in every clime and place".
Here are nine facts you may not know about what is arguably one of the nation’s most photographed memorials.
1. The Marine War Memorial is more widely known as the Iwo Jima Memorial because it is modeled after Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal’s 1945 Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of the second raising of the American flag on the island during World War II. Both flags can be seen at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia.
2. No taxpayer dollars were used to build the statue. Instead, donations came from Marines, sailors and their supporters.
3. The memorial is 78 feet tall. Its two rifles are 12 and 16 feet long, and its canteen would hold 8 gallons of water if filled.
4. Casting the bronze statue took three years. In order to transport it to D.C., the statue was broken into 12 pieces and then bolted and welded together upon arrival.
5. The memorial was officially dedicated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on Nov 10, 1954 – the Corps’ 179th birthday.
6. The flag flying on the pole at the memorial does so at full mast 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, due to a Presidential Proclamation signed by John F. Kennedy in 1961.
7. Three of the six flag raisers depicted in the statue died fighting on Iwo Jima. Survivors Rene A. Gagnon, Ira Hayes, and John H. Bradley posed for the memorial’s sculpture, Felix W. de Weldon. He used clay to model their faces.
8. On the base of the memorial, made from Swedish granite, are inscriptions detailing the locations and dates of every major battle the Marine Corps has taken part in.
9. The National Park Service received a $5.37 million donation in April of 2015 and restored the base and statue.
Bonus fact: Rosenthal’s photograph continues to stir controversy, even after seven decades. Late last year, the Marine Corps corrected the historical record of the photograph after private historians asserted there was an error in identifying the Marines shown in the photo.
Originally, Pfc. Rene A. Gagnon was identified as the Marine pictured on the far side of the flag pole, with only his helmet visible. With the assistance of historians, new evidence and modern technology, it was determined that while he contributed to the flag-raising, he is not the one depicted in the photograph — instead, Cpl. Harold P. Keller has been identified as the Marine located on the far side of the flag pole.