Sculptor Felix De Weldon

De Weldon was the official artist for U.S. Naval Aviation, stationed at Patuxent Naval Air Station in Maryland in early 1945, when a copy of Joe Rosenthal’s now-famous photograph of Marines raising the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi came over the Associated Press wire. “When I saw the picture, I immediately recognized it would capture the imagination of the American people,” De Weldon told the Washington Times in 1995. “The strength, the unison of action, the will to sacrifice to hold our flag high — that symbol of our liberty and freedom.”

Inspired by Rosenthal’s powerful image, De Weldon worked nonstop for three days and nights creating a 3-foot-tall model using only the materials he could find: a mixture of SC Johnson Floor wax and sealing wax. The model so impressed his Commanding Officer that he sent De Weldon and the wax statue to Navy HQ in Washington. De Weldon said he never forgot the sound of applause as the model  was wheeled down to the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Government officials asked De Weldon to create a 9-foot plaster version of the statue, which toured the country to help sell War Bonds. The 7th Bond Tour raised a staggering $24 Billion dollars in 1945. That’s equivalent to $341.5 Billion dollars in 2019!

At the conclusion of the War in 1945, the Congress of the United States commissioned De Weldon to construct the statue for the Marine Corps War Memorial (called Iwo Jima Memorial) in the realist tradition, based upon the Pulitzer Prize winning Rosenthal photograph. De Weldon made sculptures from life of the three surviving servicemen raising the flag. The other three flag-raisers were sculpted from photographs.

De Weldon took 9 years to make the Memorial and 100-ton bronze statue, six years for the model and three for the bronze, which was dedicated on November 10. 1945. The $850,000 cost was paid for by Donations to the Marine Corps War Memorial Fund.

Carbine 12 ft. long being craned

Figures 32 ft. tall being placed to base

More Than A “Statue”

To understand the complexity of the IJMM Monument sculpting and casting it is imperative to review the original . De Weldon spent three years creating a full-sized master model in plaster, with figures 32 feet tall. This was disassembled like a giant puzzle, and each piece was separately cast in bronze.

The bronze pieces of the sculpture were assembled in Brooklyn, New York for casting in bronze. This took about 3 months to complete. The bronze cast consisted of 108 individual pieces. After that, they were reassembled into a dozen pieces and were shipped back to Arlington, Virginia in a three semi-truck convoy.

Shipment and Construction

The statue weight was roughly 100 tons and the base made of concrete faced with granite around 700 tons. The figures are 32 ft. tall and measured to the top of the flagpole is 78 ft. The M1 Rifle is 16ft tall. The Carbine is 12 ft long. The canteen on one figure would hold 32 gallons of water.

Monument Design Revisions

De Weldon sculpted the faces of the six Marines (although not exact) by doing live sittings with three of the survivors, Gagnon, Bradley and Hayes.  The three Marines in the Rosenthal photograph that were killed on Iwo Jima, Sousley, Strank and Block had their face sculpted using photographs.

Figures being placed on base

Iwo Jima Memorial Midwest Project, Inc.

Press Release

July 27, 2020 ----Racine, WI

The Iwo Jima Memorial Midwest Project has temporarily put the promotion of the Memorial Statue fundraising on hold until this coming Fall. The Project will still be located at Pritchard Park in Racine, WI. with some modifications.                                                                      

The Project was launched on the 23rd of February, the 75th Anniversary of the flag-raising. “Within the next ten days the Covid pandemic hit. We realized that people would be suffering loss of income, jobs and businesses. Everyone’s priorities have shifted. Potential Corporate sponsors advised us that donation commitments would be delayed.” said John Capriotti, Project Director.

The Project will re-launch in late October, 2020 with a new unique fundraising offer. “Donors can opt to receive a free gift-with-donation. Based on the amount donated, they can receive free IJMM embroidered Jackets, Polo's, Sweatshirts, Collector Posters, Mugs, T-Shirts and other unique items being added soon.”  said Capriotti. Special Corporate Donation packages and Commemorative Bricks will be available.

IJMM is revising the size, design and expense of the Iwo Jima/WW2 Monument and devising phases to add additional smaller monuments for Korea/Vietnam, and Iraq/Afghanistan. Instead of a single statue, each monument will be comprised of a combination of bronze statues and large Laser-Etched granite panels featuring renowned Combat Artist‘s work of the various conflicts. Designs are in process for the first phase Iwo Jima/WW2 combined memorial.

The objective of providing a memorable, attractive and educational monument will still be reached by the collective group of three  Memorials creating a “Veterans Walk” at Pritchard Park. Each will be built through separate fundraising efforts, one after another.

“During our revision stage the IJMM team is urging potential donors to shift contributions to Veteran aide and support groups actively responding to the needs and services of veterans’ and their families during this pandemic; Notable organizations are the Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin, and the Veterans Center-Legacy Museum in Racine” said Nicholas Fasulo a Project Official.

Extending the program to include other Memorials, over time, signifies Racine County resident’s commitment to preserve and honor all their Military Veterans.  Many of whom paid the ultimate price to protect our freedoms.