The Marine Corp Memorial

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The Marine Corp Memorial

On February 19, 1945 five Marines and one Sailor participated in an event that would forever change the course of events for the Marine Corps. Undoubtedly one of the most powerful images of the 20th century is the flag raising atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. The flag raising captured the courage, commitment and honor that these Marines held as they reached the top. These individuals were only doing what they were instructed to do, but it was the Pulitzer Prize winning photograph that was taken by Joe Rosenthal that turned this war time event into a world wide historical event. Behind the eagle, globe and anchor, the flag raising has taken the form of a second emblem for the Marine Corps.

Felix de Weldon was at the time of the flag raising in the United States Navy. Felix was already a world-renounced sculptor. At the age of seventeen he won a sculptor contest in his native Austria. He studied in France, Italy and Spain and eventually studied archeology at Oxford. Upon arriving in the United States he fell in love with this country and its culture. He joined the U.S. Navy as a Seabee. Felix de Weldon has been referred to as the artist to the presidents and kings. Felix was so moved by the photograph that he constructed a scale model and then later a life size model of it. Gagnon, Hayes, and Bradley, the three survivors of the flag raising posed for the sculptor. The original statue which was cast in plaster went on display in front of the Old Navy Building in Washington D.C. from 1945-1946. It was used to promote war bonds around the country. In 1946 General Vandegrift was so moved by the statue that he had Felix de Weldon transferred from the Navy to the Marine Corps and commissioned him to produce the memorial we see today.

The memorial like any other in Washington was met with controversy. The primary dispute came from the National Sculpture Society. This society had done all of the big memorials in Washington and did not what to be left out on this one. The Government’s Commission of Fine Arts also joined in the attempt to stop the memorial. The commission appointed by the president, was a body of aesthetic consultants that had jurisdiction over art placed on federal property in the capital. The battle was not between the Marines and the post war modernist but a struggle among the advocates of traditional repr...

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...rsity Press.

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