The War Musuem




By Rodney Hilton Brown



A prototype chapter of the forthcoming book by Rodney Hilton Brown entitled, "The IWO JIMA MONUMENTS - The Untold Story"


Copyright 2019 by Rodney Hilton Brown.   All rights reserved





When European sculptor, Felix de Weldon, joined the US Navy at the outbreak of World War II, few people knew he had recently done Coronation busts for three Kings of England, having fled Nazi persecution in Austria in the 1930Õs.    And who could have predicted that in a serendipitous accident of history, he was destined to create an American icon, The Iwo Jima Monument  -  and ultimately over 1,200 other public monuments on all seven continents.


This is the dramatic story of a national monument literally born in battle.    When it was first unveiled in 1945, it became a symbol of national pride during the last year of World War II and attracted millions of visitors.   Then it was lost to history for nearly a half-century.    How did this happen?    Where is it now?




The Battle for IWO JIMA – Where It All Began



A bleak ominous dawn greeted the vast armada standing off the shores of Iwo Jima in February 1945.  For two months ships and planes of the U.S. fleet had constantly pounded the enemy's stronghold, softening it up for invasion.    On D-Day, February 19, 1945, the landing craft of the 4th  and 5th  Divisions of the United States Marines headed for the beach.    Gaining a foothold on the black sand they were pinned down by the Japanese firing from well dug in positions high on Mt. Suribachi overlooking the beach.    Casualties were high as the Marines began one of the most violent, savage battles in the history of the Corps.  One third of all Marines killed in World War II died fighting on this desolate volcanic island whose conquest provided our springboard to victory over Japan.   And a third of all Marines who fought on Iwo Jima were killed or wounded.   The battle for Iwo Jima became a symbol of the great sacrifices made by our fighting forces during all of World War II.


One cannot comprehend today the passion and symbolism surrounding Felix de Weldon's monument of the U.S. Marines raising of the Stars and Stripes on Iwo Jima (called "The Marine Corps Memorial") without first understanding the battle's significance as a turning point in history.

It is safe to say that few Americans had ever heard of a tiny dot on the Pacific about 750 miles south of Tokyo called Iwo Jima before February 19, 1945.    At dawn an invasion force of over 71,000 fighting men waited off the island, which had been bombarded and shelled for 72 consecutive days before their landing.    Many thought that was not enough.    At 6:40 AM supporting vessels of the 800-ship fleet commenced a bombardment of the island that continued for an hour and a half, then stopped to allow fighter planes to bomb and strafe.

Hitting the beach on D-Day (Joe Rosenthal photo).


the flanks of the landing beaches in a customary attempt to minimize enemy crossfire on the beach.     A second group of Navy fighters sprayed the landing areas with napalm bombs, rockets, and machine gun bullets, while a third group of heavy bombers simultaneously bombed the island.    At 8:25 AM the planes withdrew and twenty minutes later, as the Marines reached the beach, naval gunfire was resumed and continued to furnish close support to the beachfront.    The 4th  and 5th  Marine Divisions took heavy casualties after landing on the black volcanic sand.     Japanese strategy was to actually allow the Marines to land and get stuck in the soft volcanic sand before opening up with mortar and machine gun crossfire.   After taking substantial losses on the beach, the 4th  Marine Division swung right, heading to the north.  The 5th  Marine Division advanced toward the west, cutting the island in two, while the remainder of the Division was assigned to the left flank of the 4th  Marine Division, facing north.    The 3rd  Marine Division started landing on February 21, and four days later was assigned to an area between the 4th  and 5th  Marines.

Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith was Commanding General of the Fleet Marine Force for the invasion, while the actual assault and all the ground forces in the invasion were commanded                                                                                                                              Mt. Suribachi towers over Iwo Jima's "Red Beach" as Marines land on D-Day.   


by Major General Harry Schmidt of the V Amphibious Corps.   Other commanders of the V Amphibious Corps included Major General Graves B. Erskine, 3rd  Marine Division; Major General Clifton B. Cates, 4th  Marine Division, and Major General Keller E. Rockey, 5th  Marine Division.  The 28th  Marines, 5th  Division, who would capture Mt. Suribachi, was commanded by Colonel Harry B. Liversedge.


Many Japanese pillboxes and gun placements were well camouflaged  and escaped serious damage from the pre-invasion bombardments and enemy gunfire from Suribachi had caused devastating casualties and damage on the beaches below.   The Japanese constantly threatened our forces from the high 554-foot volcano and could easily observe and fire down on the entire beachhead.    Finally, late in the afternoon of February 21, Colonel Liversedge and his 28th  Marines reached the base of the mountain.    Throughout the attack they had been under constant fire from the stubborn enemy hiding in caves and other cover.



Gen. SmithÕs Plan To Capture Mt. Suribachi & Raise A Flag On It


On the eve of February 22, in the wardroom of the "USS Eldorado," General Holland (ÒHowlingÓ) Smith and Navy Secretary James Forrestal were discussing Mount Suribachi.    The 28th  Regiment was getting close to capturing the mountain fortress.    Orders went down the line to Harry Liversedge:  "Take Mount Suribachi tomorrow."    The first outfit to reach the top was ordered to raise the Stars and Stripes as a sign that Suribachi had been captured.     Forrestal himself planned to go ashore and witness the last stage of the Suribachi battle.  


Back home, the newspapers had been reporting the high casualty figures in bold headlines and there was a huge public outcry that the "big brass" was indifferent to the lives of American boys who were being slaughtered literally by the thousands on Iwo.    The 5th  Division had surrounded the base of the volcano after four days, pushing the Japanese into their caves up on the heights.    A state of                                                                       

Marines on ÒRed BeachÓ are pinned down by fire from Japanese

 dug into caves and tunnels on Mt. Suribachi.  


siege existed.    The remaining enemy was defending from the heights of the volcano.    A captured Japanese had told Marines that Suribachi contained five main caves on three levels connected underground; capable of housing 300 men and with five entrances.    Naval gunfire had destroyed paths leading up its steeply rising sides, bringing the advance to a halt while the enemy rolled hand grenades and other explosives down the cliffs onto our troops.     Damp, dirty, tired, hungry, thirsty and reeling with fatigue, the fighting men of the 28th  Marines nevertheless greeted the dawn of D+4 with renewed vigor.    They had overrun the ring of camouflaged machine-gun emplacements and pillboxes that surrounded the base of Suribachi - and survived.    The mountainside was quiet and no longer poured down a hail of mortar fire.    The rain stopped and Navy weather stations reported a moderate 69 degrees, clearing skies and a 20-knot breeze.   On this Friday morning of D+4 the horror of the last three days was replaced by a fearful anticipation.   The Japanese waited underground like a colony of ants.    The Marines were left to guess what kind of hell awaited them from above.


At about 8 AM Capt. Art Naylor of Fox Company sent Sgt. Sherman Watson with some men up the north face to reconnoiter a trail.   The detail slowly ascended.   The Japanese mysteriously stayed in their caves and held their fire, even as the Marines approached the summit.    Nobody opposed them.   The Marines jumped up on top of an abandoned machine-gun turret and other empty emplacements from which the Japanese could have cut them down easily.   They got a breathtaking view of the beach, but there was no one, anywhere (or so they thought).   They ran back down the mountain to make their report.



 The Assault On Mt. Suribachi


In the meantime, Colonel Johnson had not waited for Watson to return and had already ordered a second, forty-man detachment from Easy Company, up the north face.    That platoon passed the returning Watson at a distance as it kept on climbing with the mission of capturing the summit and planting the flag, or ensign, that battalion adjutant, 2nd  Lt. Greeley Wells had promised to plant on Suribachi.    Wells had made his offer aboard the transport the evening before as a group of officers from the Twenty-Eighth Marines met to review the invasion plan.    "You get the flag and I'll get it up on top of Suribachi!"   growled 2nd  Lt. George Haynes in his strong southern accent.     And thatÕs how it happened that in the adjutant's map case he would carry ashore the small (28 x 54 inch) American flag scrounged from the attack transport "Missoula."     Johnson's last words to his unit commander Lieutenant Harold Schrier were, "If you're able to get up the mountain I want you to take this flag.   If you can't make it all the way up, turn around and come back down.    Don't try to go overboard."     Johnson handed Schrier the flag Wells had brought ashore in his map case.


Schrier was a professional soldier having joined the Marines in 1936.    He was one of the elite Marine Raiders, and had fought at Midway, Guadalcanal, New Georgia, and Bougainville.    Schrier had just replaced 1st Lt. Keith Wells who had been wounded leading his platoon through a bitter fight in which his legs were torn by shrapnel.    Wells had trained his platoon for difficult assaults with the fanatical Marine Corps "gung ho" spirit.    "Give me fifty men who aren't afraid to die," he used to say, "and I can take any position!"     He won the Navy Cross for his leadership on Iwo, but on D+4, he lay offshore on a hospital ship.   Now Schrier was in charge and his second in command was Platoon Sgt. Ernest Ivy "Boots" Thomas who joined the Marines at the age of seventeen. 


"Boots" had taken over command from Wells and won the Navy Cross for his action on D+2 for exposing himself to machine-gun fire while directing tank strikes against enemy pillboxes.     On D+4, two days later, the Third Platoon moved out across the low ground.     Near the middle of the group strongmen Robert Goode and Chuck Lindberg carried seventy-pound flamethrowers on their backs to burn the Japanese out of their caves.   Accompanying the men of the 3rd  Platoon on the dangerous climb up Suribachi was Leatherneck photographer Lou Lowery who had joined the expedition for what he hoped might be the biggest story of the Iwo campaign.     Soon thereafter he would photograph the first flag raising by SchrierÕs men.


The patrol climbed up, passing burned-out enemy positions and mutilated stinking corpses near the bottom, getting more anxious as they approached the summit.    A few covered the exposed mouths

of caves for potential snipers.    Bringing up the rear trailed the stretcher-bearers and the Navy medical corpsmen, including the soon-to-be-famous John Bradley.     Marines had been battling for the high ground of Suribachi since their initial landing on Iwo Jima; and now, after suffering over a thousand casualties on the beaches below it, at last, they appeared to be taking it.


While SchrierÕs 3rd  Platoon had reached the rim of the volcano at 9:00AM, the 40-strong second detachment from Company E was sent to back them up and raise the small flag they carried.    They reached the rim by 10:15AM and encountered stiff Japanese resistance.    Despite this, a length of pipe was found in the wrecked Japanese radar station on the summit.    The little 28 x 54 inch flag was tied to the top and raised over Suribachi at 10:20 or 10:37AM (according to different accounts).


Furious Japanese Attack The Flag Raisers


Radio traffic had alerted the invasion fleet, so when the flag was seen, the entire fleet sounded their shipsÕ horns with a deafening roar.    The Flag Raising gave Marines all over Iwo Jima a new pride and confidence that they could turn their attack to the north without an enemy in the rear.    Then, while the Navy shipsÕ horns still blared, Òall hell" broke loose on the top of Mount Suribachi as the Japanese, infuriated by the sight of our flag, counterattacked Schrier's platoon.     One sniper suddenly jumped out of a cave and opened fire, just missing Schrier and the other flag raisers.   Robeson responded with a deadly barrage from his BAR.    Other hands reached out of the ground and drew the sniper's lifeless body back inside the cave.     Suddenly a Japanese officer appeared from out of nowhere and Bonsai charged at the Stars & Stripes, waving a broken samurai sword.    Snowjob Garett shot him down as a full-fledged firefight erupted.     Suddenly there were grenades coming from everywhere and the air was filled with the zing of bullets.


Lindberg and Goode drove the Japanese back into their caves with flamethrowers.     Feeling the heat, the defenders fled from escape tunnels, becoming easy targets for the Marines who shot them. 

Demolitions teams blew up other exits, entombing the Japanese within.     Lowery was still photographing the fight on Suribachi, when while moving away from the entrance of one cave, the Japanese inside threw live grenades out, straight toward the cameramen.     Lowery jumped backward over the crater's edge, falling thirty or forty feet down the rocky slope.     Battered, bruised, and clutching his smashed camera, Lowery got up and limped back down the mountain with a pair of wounded Marines.


At about this time, Father Suver, the Catholic chaplain and his assistant, Fisk, had made their way up a winding path to the top and standing there, they could hear the eerie sound of Japanese soldiers still trapped in the caves beneath their feet.    The official radio dispatch reached command posts all over the island:  "Lt. Gen. Holland Smith and Vice Admiral Turner join in congratulations on the capture of the summit of Suribachi at 1035."    The United States Marines had captured the enemy's strongest fortress and the defeat of General Kuribayashi was only a question of time.


AP Photographer Joe Rosenthal Captures the Second Flag Raising

Also landing that morning, AP Photographer Joe Rosenthal joined the rush toward Suribachi, lugging along his bulky Speed Graphic camera, the standard for press photographers at the time.   Along the way, he came across two Marine photographers, Pfc. Bob Campbell, shooting still pictures, and Staff Sgt. Bill Genaust, shooting movies.   The three men proceeded up the mountain together.

About halfway up, they met four battered Marines coming down. Among them was Sgt. Lou Lowery, a photographer for Leatherneck Magazine, who said the flag had already been raised on the summit.   He added that it was worth the climb anyway for the view.   Rosenthal and the others decided to continue.    The first flag, he would later learn, was raised at 10:37 AM.    


But unbeknownst to Rosenthal and shortly thereafter, Marine commanders were not satisfied with the small flag and had ordered that it be replaced with a larger, more visible flag.     To this end a  56 x 96 inch flag was taken from LST 779, beached near the foot of Suribachi.

At the top, Rosenthal tried to find the Marines who had raised the first flag, figuring he could get a group picture of them beside it.    When no one seemed willing or able to tell him where they were, he turned his attention to a group of Marines preparing the second, larger flag to be raised.

All together now....and up it goes!   Joe RosenthalÕs Pulitzer Prize winning photo.

Here, is the rest of the story, in Joe RosenthalÕs own account in Collier's magazine in 1955:

"I thought of trying to get a shot of the two flags, one coming down and the other going up, but although this turned out to be a picture Bob Campbell got, I couldn't line it up.    Then I decided to get just the one flag going up, and I backed off about 35 feet.

"Here the ground sloped down toward the center of the volcanic crater, and I found that the ground line was in my way.   I put my Speed Graphic down and quickly piled up some stones and a Jap sandbag to raise me about two feet (I am only 5 feet 5 inches tall) and I picked up the camera and climbed up on the pile.   I decided on a lens setting between f-8 and f-11, and set the speed at 1-400th of a second.

"At this point, 1st Lt. Harold G. Shrier ... stepped between me and the men getting ready to raise the flag.   When he moved away, Genaust came across in front of me with his movie camera and then took a position about three feet to my right.    'I'm not in your way, Joe?' he called.

ÔNo,' I shouted, 'and there it goes.'

"Out of the corner of my eye, as I had turned toward Genaust, I had seen the men start the flag up.   I swung my camera, and shot the scene."


Rosenthal didn't know what he had taken.    He certainly had no inkling he had just taken the best photograph of World War II and won a Pulitzer Prize.   So to make sure he had something worth printing, he gathered all the Marines on the summit together for a jubilant shot under the flag that became known as his "gung-ho" picture.

And then he went down the mountain.    At the bottom, he looked at his watch.    It was then 1:05 PM.     Rosenthal hurried back to the command ship, where he wrote captions for all the pictures he had sent that day, and delivered his film to the military press center on the command ship. 

On the caption, Rosenthal had written: "Atop 550-foot Suribachi Yama, the volcano at the southwest tip of Iwo Jima, Marines of the Second Battalion, 28th Regiment, Fifth Division, hoist the Stars and Stripes, signaling the capture of this key position."

At the same time, he told an AP correspondent, Hamilton Feron, that he had shot the second of two flag raisings that day.   Feron wrote a story mentioning the two flags. 


The Soon-To-Be-Famous PhotoÕs Journey Home

All of Joe RosenthalÕs unexposed film along with the Press reports of the event was airlifted by seaplane to CINPAC HQ on the island of Guam where it arrived just before 8AM (Guam time).     It was developed and printed immediately.     The pictures were given to Associated Press photo editor John Bodkin.    It was his job to decide which ones to send to the United States.    They would go on a machine that sent images by radio.    As history tells it, Bodkin looked and looked at RosenthalÕs first flag raising photograph, and said: ÒThis is one for all time.Ó    Within minutes he sent the picture of the six men raising the flag back to the NavyÕs wireless receiving stations in the US and to the Associated Press headquarters in New York.

From there, the photograph went to newspapers across the United States.    Most decided to print a huge copy on their front page.    The flag-raising picture was an immediate sensation back in the States.     It arrived in time to be on the front pages of Sunday newspapers across the country on February 25, 1945.     Rosenthal was quickly wired a congratulatory note from AP headquarters in New York. But he had no idea which picture they were congratulating him for.

Most photo experts will tell you that the picture Joe Rosenthal made is almost perfect.   The camera catches the flag as it rises.   The flagpole cuts across the photograph.    Wind blows against the flag.

But historians also say you must look at the picture as the American public saw it in 1945.   The world had been at war for years.    Victory was not yet certain.     Many folks were worried about family service members still in harmÕs way overseas.    Many had a deep fear of the enemy.

This single picture taken by AP combat photographer Joe Rosenthal told the Iwo Jima story.    Born of battle, it fired the imagination, and expressed the unity, drive and determination of the American people.    It was a symbol of American courage.      It suggested that six young men are working together to defeat the enemy.     Joe RosenthalÕs photograph seemed to say: the battle may not be over, but we are winning.     It was the hopeful image of a future victory that America longed for.    The President ordered the Marine Corps to send home the six men who had raised the flag.     But by then, it was too late.    Mike Strank, Harlon Block and Franklin Sousley were dead.    They were among the more than six-thousand Marines killed on Iwo Jima.      Navy Corpsman John Bradley had been severely wounded and was on crutches.     But he, Rene Gagnon and Ira Hayes returned to the United States.



De Weldon Cancels Weekend Leave For Birth Of A Monument



When the now-famous photo was wired by radio from the Pacific to the United States, a renowned pre-war sculptor, Felix de Weldon, was serving in the US Navy as an artist for naval aviation (Painters Mate First Class).     He was looking forward to spending the forthcoming weekend with Margo, his soon-to-be bride.     At the time he was painting the Battle of the Coral Sea.     He was one of the first on the mainland U.S. to see the photo because he was stationed at the Pautuxet Naval Air Station in Maryland outside Washington, D.C. which was the site of the Pentagon's large wireless communications station.    Combat pictures came in to that station from the Pacific because they had an advanced photo lab and the pictures could be developed there and quickly sent to Washington.     PawtuxetÕs distance from Washington also provided clear radio reception without the interfering signals from the city.     As an artist de Weldon constantly monitored the primitive wireless picture receiver for incoming war photos.    Also, whenever good combat pictures came in, the Executive Officer, Commander T.B. Clarke (who later became an Admiral) would call de Weldon to his office to look them over.    When he saw the picture of the Flag Raising on Iwo Jima he immediately recognized that it would catch the imagination of the American people.     It was wonderfully composed.     It showed the forward drive, the unity of action, the will to sacrifice, the holding up of our Flag, the symbol of our liberty.    Many years later de Weldon would say, ÒI had been an artist all my life.    When I first saw it I recognized the power of this photograph.     I could not take my eyes from it.    I looked at the photograph for some hours and then began working.Ó



De Weldon asked Commander Clarke if he could discontinue, for the time being, the painting of the Battle of the Coral Sea and make a model of the Flag Raising.    Although Clarke said go right ahead, the difficulty was that at the Naval Air Station they didn't have any sculpture material.    However, de Weldon knew that they had a lot of floor wax and a lot of ceiling wax.    The floor wax was too soft and the ceiling wax was too hard but if he mixed the two in a hot kettle they could be mixed to just the right consistency to model.    So he borrowed from the mess hall a large pot and put both waxes in and heated it.    A group of sailors stirred it and in a few hours it was very good modeling wax.    The Flagraising took place on February 23, 1945 and de Weldon actually started working on it the same day (technically) because the United States is on the

                                                                                                The Weekend Wax Model.        



other side of the International Date Line from Guam and Iwo Jima.     He skipped his weekend leave, worked all Friday night and all Saturday, part of Saturday night, all Sunday and by Monday morning the model was completed.     In seventy two hours, Felix de Weldon had cast a plaster statue of Joe RosenthalÕs picture, while on the other side of the globe the battle on Iwo Island was still raging and three of the six Flag Raisers were killed in combat.




ItÕs A Hit!



Executive Officer Clarke called his Commanding Officer to come and see it.    When he saw the model he said it was much too important to keep at the Pawtuxet Station so they sent de Weldon with the model to Washington to Admiral Denfeld, who was the Chief of Naval personnel.    When Admiral Denfeld saw the model he said to his aide, "Write this man a set of orders and transfer him to my office."     De Weldon never went back to the Pawtuxet Naval Air Station.



One of De WeldonÕs original plaster castings of the ÒWeekend Wax.Ó     Presented to President Truman in 1945, it is now on display at the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, MO.    Duplicate originals are owned by the author.    Left-to-right: Pres. Truman, de Weldon, AP Photographer Joe Rosenthal & a Treasury official.



Soon the Admiral Denfeld decided that the model should be shown to the Marine Corps.    General Vandegrift was Commandant of the Marine Corps during WW II, a great hero of the battle Guadalcanal, and had received the Congressional Medal of Honor.      He had his office on the second deck of the Navy Annex in Arlington and so the chief called for a Navy Captain to escort the model to General Vandegrift's office and made the Captain give his word of honor to bring the model back to the Navy.    They put the model on a table with wheels and they announced over the loud speaker that the model will be going down the corridor to General Vandegrift's office.   Admiral Denfeld's office was on one end of the building and General Vandegrift's on the other.    The Navy Annex building is a very, very long building.     All the people in various offices came out and applauded when the model went by.     The model was then wheeled into General Vandegrift's office and the first thing he said as he pointed to the model was "this model will stay right here in my office".      The Captain protested and said he had promised Denfeld he would bring it back, but the General said, "No", it will stay right here.    General Vandegrift was a Four Star General and nobody contradicted him.     


Two days later in the corridor General Benick who was the Public Information Officer of the Marine Corps during WW II stopped de Weldon and invited him to come over to the Marine Corps where they would give him an office of his own and give him a key to the office so nobody would disturb him.     De Weldon accepted and was immediately transferred to the Marine Corps.    It was into that private room where he worked that they brought the three survivors of the Flagraising who were flown back to Washington because the other three Flag Raisers had been killed two days later in the battle.


Within days, members of Congress had also seen the Iwo Jima Model.[1]     Many began to call for the construction of a huge statue based on the model.     But with the war now over, sometime between July and September 1945, de Weldon was discharged from the Navy.    However, in no way did this interrupt the plan for the ÒIwo Jima Memorial,Ó (Monument) which the Marine Corps very much wanted.     So de Weldon and the Corps worked together after his discharge from the service.     The Marine Corps worked with the Washington, D.C.  Parks Department to secure a site in front of the Navy Department Building.    


                                                            Left-to-right: De Weldon, Treasury official, Flag Raisers Gagnon, Hays & Bradley


De Weldon Builds Original IWO JIMA Monument at His Own Expense



With the government burdened by the vast war debt, there was no funding available in 1945 to build an Iwo Jima Monument.    So de Weldon agreed to build the monument at his own expense and lend it to the government at no cost.    This is confirmed by correspondence dated in 1947 and signed by no less than Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal (who himself had witnessed the Flag Raising), as well as by testimony in the Congressional Record on March 1, 1946 giving unanimous Congressional approval for a voluntary committee of friends of the Marine Corps Òfor the acquisition of the statue and its preservation in an attractive location in Washington City.Ó     See also ÒSculptor Finances Iwo StatueWashington Daily News, November 10, 1945; and ÒDedication of Iwo Statue Also a Tribute to SculptorQuantico Sentry, November 8, 1951.


To build this original monument De Weldon needed a very large sculpture studio.   With an eye toward history he chose an 18th century studio on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. used by the famous sculptor Paul Bartlett in the 19th Century to sculpt the frieze for the U.S. CAPITOL.    He first rented and then purchased the brick building and the grounds around it from the Bartlett family.   De Weldon used the studio to build both this Original 1945 Iwo Jima Monument and the 1952 Marine Corps Memorial.[2]

The Commanding Officer of the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., C. Davis, in Orders dated 30 June 1945 implemented an Order from the Commandant dated 28 June 1945 which detailed 5 marines to report for duty at de WeldonÕs sculpture studio on Randolf Street for the next three months to serve as Òmodels and as helpers in assembling and moving material which will go into the construction of this memorial.   In view of the fact that they will spend much of their time posing as models, it is important that the men chosen be excellent physical specimens and representative of the Corps.Ó



To help supervise the project, de Weldon chose an old New York art associate, Bill Petsco, as the original monumentÕs construction foreman and supervising sculptor.    Bill commuted by car from New York City to Washington every week to work on the 1945 monument.     Amazingly, within 3 months the 4 ft. model had been scaled up to become the first Iwo Jima Monument.      It was made of cast stone over a steel skeleton, which was then welded to a steel base, which in turn was set into an even larger concrete base.    In all it weighed 10,000 pounds!


Since the Marine Corps was then part of the Navy, this original Monument was erected in front of the Old Navy Department Building (now the Federal Reserve Building) on Constitution Avenue.     After its unveiling on the170th  birthday of the Marine Corps in 1945, this original Iwo Jima Monument became a symbol of National pride during the last year of World War II.     A light-weight, hollow traveling version of the monument was made and the poster of this indelible image was crucial to the 7th War Bond Drive, which, it is said,  raised enough money to erase half the debt incurred during the war.    Now thatÕs art!

TOOLS USED TO SCULPT THE IWO JIMA MONUMENTS.  De WeldonÕs Original Sculpture tools were found in his Washington, DC Studio in the 1980s.    From the Estate Sale of Felix De Weldon.    Now in the collection of the author.








Unveiling Ceremony In 1945

[Captured in a Rare Historical Sound Recording & Photos]


On the occasion of the Marine Corps' 170th  Birthday, November 10, 1945, the Original Iwo Jima Monument was first unveiled in a very moving ceremony in Washington, DC to inaugurate the 7th and last War Bond Drive during World War II.

The ceremony was recorded by a local radio station (see photo of equipment recording the ceremony).    Some 15 years ago the author purchased this original recording which was made on 2 dirty, moldy, giant 16" diameter "transcription platters."     Much too large to be played even on the authorÕs WWII USMC Field Phonograph, it took years to find experts who could conserve the records & transcribe them properly.

                                                   The Unveiling Ceremony.   Note the recording equipment in the foreground.

    Last year, for the first time since 1945 it was possible to step back in time a half-century and hear what may be the only voice recordings existent of these important historical figures.    Some of the speeches are extremely moving and the ceremony proceeded as follows:


            1 - US MARINE CORPS BAND playing "SEMPER FIDELISÓ (one of the USMC BandÕs                earliest known recordings).

            2 - USMC GENERAL ALEXANDER A. VANDEGRIFT, the 18th Commandant of

                  The Corps, 1st to receive 4 stars in wartime/active duty, Recipient - Congressional                        Medal of Honor, talks about the war, the battles and the heroes.

            3 - JOHN H. BRADLEY - IWO JIMA FLAG RAISER, and survivor, talks about visiting                  the wounded in hospitals.

            4 - FELIX DE WELDON - Sculptor of the Iwo Jima Monuments, gave the ArtistÕs                            Dedication.

            5 - USMC GENERAL GRAVES B. ERSKINE, Commander of the 3rd  Marine Division                     on IWO JIMA, talks about the war, the battles and the heroes.



The Artist's Dedication At The Unveiling





                                      FELIX DE WELDON, 1945       





Monument Lost & Forgotten For A Half-Century


The Monument stood in front of the Navy Department from November 1945 until November 1947.      It became a popular tourist attraction in Washington and the most photographed monument in town.   Plans were already in the making for an even larger 30 ft. version when disaster struck.     On 5 September 1947 de Weldon received a letter from Brig. General W.E. Riley of the CommandantÕs Office stating that the Commandant had been ordered by the Superintendent of National Parks to remove it by October 1, 1947 because Congress had approved the site for construction of an office building for the Pan American Union to begin in 3 weeks!


Original Iwo Monument stood in front of the old Navy Department Building, 1945 - 1947.


An emergency effort was launched to find a solution.    Since de Weldon had paid for construction of the monument, an effort was made to sell it to Òany person or group who would move it to a prominent place for public display.Ó      The obvious first choice was the nearby Marine base at Quantico, VA.     Correspondence in September 1947 between Maj. Gen. C.B. Cates, Commanding General, Marine Barracks, Quantico, show that, even with private funding as the source, Quantico preferred not to acquire the original monument, but rather take ÒOption 2Ó from de WeldonÕs 22 September 1947 proposal to Gen. Cates.   This option was to have de Weldon sculpt a new statue of the same size as the original in Indiana Limestone.    To facilitate this, the original monument was moved to Quantico temporarily and used to calibrate measurements in carving the limestone statue which still adorns the entrance to the base at Quantico.


Almost immediately, plans were begun to erect a much larger Flag Raising statue.    At first a 35 ft. version was planned, but this soon gave way to another plan to build what is now the 80 ton bronze Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington.


From Quantico the original Monument was returned to de WeldonÕs studio and a mold was made from it to produce several full-size copies.   Then it was moved outdoors behind the studio where it was wrapped in a tarpaulin and left to fend off the ravages of time for most of the next half century.

First Sculpture and Monument  -  Found & Restored

The authorÕs quest to find the first Iwo Jima sculpture and original monument began with a photograph and a dream -- literally.     In de WeldonÕs living room he saw a photograph of the small 4 ft. flag raising model created by de Weldon, during the battle.     "I had a dream one night about it and I knew it still existed," said Brown.    "But no one really could remember where it was, not even de Weldon.     His last memory was that it was Òthrown away."    All the author could go on was its last known whereabouts, which according to the sculptor, was in his abandoned  sculpture studio in Washington, D.C.

In the course of writing his biography on Felix de Weldon, Brown learned about this abandoned building which the sculptor had used as a studio during and after World War II.    Brown was led to the building during his interviews of the artist and his ÒIndiana Jones-LikeÓ quest to find the very first legendary sculpture de Weldon made of the famous flag raising.    Brown found the building, discovered it was a mess and that some holes in the roof had allowed so much water to leak in that many of the floor boards had rotted away.     Buried in the mud below the broken floor boards was the original crude 4 ft. sculpture Brown had been looking for.     It took almost a week and some help (from a local Marine) to dig it out of the mud and find 3 missing heads.     BrownÕs crew spent more than a week meticulously pulling pieces of the sculpture from its muddy grave.     There were actually several of them and after collecting all of the pieces, they were transported to the Sculpture House workshop in Princeton, N.J. where the arduous task of restoring them began.     Of course, even though the author rescued them, they were not free.  He still had to purchase them from de Weldon and pay for the restoration.

But the expedition was not over.    After looking around the yard behind the building, Brown saw a tarp covering a large object that was resting in the dirt and covered by fallen trees.      He cut open the tarp and there it was!   To Brown, his discovery of the original 10-ton Iwo Jima Monument was better than finding the Lost Ark.    The monument was in pretty bad shape after sitting there for more than 40 years.    Several heads were severely damaged; parts of the plaster and cement statue had completely crumbled away leaving the exposed steel skeletons of the figures and gaping holes riddled the entire sculpture.

The author purchased the Monument from de Weldon in 1990, and single-handedly undertook and funded its restoration over the next 5 years.     It was restored at Sculpture House Castings in Princeton, N.J., one of the nationÕs oldest sculpture foundries.     He found the monumentÕs original supervising sculptor, Bill Petsco, who had worked on it as foreman for de Weldon during World War II, living in nearby Queens, NY.     Bill was coaxed out of retirement to assist in the restoration.     Brown also received oversight in the restoration from de Weldon himself who was still alive at the time.  

As costs mounted, Brown admitted that at times, even he was skeptical of the whole endeavor and was told by numerous people working on the project that it would have been a lot cheaper to just make a brand new monument than to restore the old original.  

But, despite the cost and difficulties, Brown never entertained the thought of quitting.    ÒSome people thought I was crazy,Ó says Brown.    ÒAnd I am.    IÕm crazy for my country, and I am crazy about my Marine Corps and what they did on that stinking volcanic hellhole called Iwo Jima.    This is THE original Iwo Jima Monument, and it has to be saved.    It is one of our countryÕs national treasures."

The painstaking restoration was done using period photographs of the statue supplied by the National Archives and de Weldon.    Eventually, after five years of labor the restoration was complete.    BrownÕs verbal agreement with the artist was that he would not only buy the broken monument and have it restored at his own expense, but that he would also re-unveil it for the American public for the 50-year Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima.    That promised was fulfilled when the newly restored monument was unveiled at the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum in New York to honor the 50-year anniversary of the U.S. Marines raising the U.S. Flag on Iwo Jima.          

A Half Century Later  -  The Re-Unveiling

After the statue was taken to the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum, important finishing touches to the base and a bronze patina finish was applied.   

Then, on February 19, 1995, exactly 50 years to-the-day since the D-Day landing on Iwo Jima, the original Iwo Jima Monument was re-unveiled to the public by Lt. Gen. R.D. Hearney, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps.    "That battle came to symbolize all that is good about our country and our Corps," Hearney said.    "The story should be told again and again to our children and our grandchildren.     It is a story simply about courage."

Among the crowd of 7-800 who attended were some Marines who had fought on Iwo Jima and emotions ran high that day.    Tears where rolling down the deck of the ship as the crowd saw an important piece of history that had been lost for 50 years.    Once again, the old monument came alive and it triggered something inside them.

From 1995 to 2006, the Monument held a place of honor aboard the Intrepid Museum                                        and was seen by millions of visitors.    Some called it the "soul" of the museum.

Brown had also put on display at the Intrepid a unique collection of Iwo Jima battlefield memorabilia never before seen by the public, including captured Japanese flags, samurai swords, fighting knives, helmets, more wartime Iwo Jima Flag Raising sculptures, a Marine Corps KIA (killed in action) purple heart medal, the Japanese commander's defense map of the island – and much more from 45 years of collecting, including Marine Corps knives used on Iwo.  One knife still had a Japanese bullet stuck in the handle.                          


Intrepid Museum "Re-focuses" After Twelve Years

The New York Times


Published: August 1, 2007

"A 62-year-old sculpture of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima is getting the heave-ho from the museum on the aircraft carrier Intrepid while the ship is docked in Staten Island for an overhaul, museum officials and the sculpture's owner said yesterday.

The five-ton sculpture, which served as a model for the United States Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., has been on display at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum since 1995.    But museum officials, who are starting to renovate the ship's interior, said they declined to buy the sculpture from its owner, Rodney Hilton Brown, and asked him to remove it from the ship by September."

Intrepid Museum officials separately confirmed that:

"Throughout the process of pier reconstruction, ship restoration and exhibition re-planning, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum has adopted the policy that Intrepid museum exhibitions are to be re-focused, via its collection and new permanent exhibition installations, on the history of the ship and the people that served on the ship, from World War II through the present.

As the Intrepid Museum prepares for its grand re-opening in fall 2008, the Intrepid staff has been diligently working to return previously exhibited loans that are not focused on the Intrepid itself, to a variety of public and private lenders.  Though many of these items are historically significant, monumental works such as the 1945 Iwo Jima statue are being returned to lenders.

In returning the Iwo Jima Monument, the Intrepid Museum will afford other museums the opportunity to display this significant piece of American history."



The Monument gets crated and moved to storage for who knows how long.     It was a scene reminiscent of the closing moments of  RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, one of our country's greatest national treasures was recently  entombed in a wooden crate not that different from the Ark's  ---  just a lot bigger.   




Who Was Felix De Weldon and Where Did He Come From?

Felix Weihs de Weldon (April 12, 1907–June 3, 2003)




The Iwo Jima Monument's sculptor, Felix de Weldon (born Felix Weiss De Weldon),  was of Jewish heritage and had fled Nazi persecution in Austria in the 1930s.     He had become one of Europe's most noted sculptors during the 1930Õs and had made Coronation Busts for 3 Kings of England and inauguration busts for Prime Minister McKenzie King of Canada before immigrating to the United States, where de Weldon enlisted in the United States Navy at the outbreak of the World War II.   The Navy assigned him to duty as a Navy artist at the wireless receiving station at the Pautuxent Naval Air Station outside Washington, DC, where he was one of the first to see the famous battlefield photo of the Iwo Jima Flag Raising taken by AP War Photographer Joe Rosenthal.


Internationally recognized as the foremost American sculptor of the 20th century, Felix de Weldon was commissioned by governments, presidents, royalty and religious leaders.    He created more than 1,200 public monuments and is the only artist in the world with a masterpiece on all seven continents.   (A de Weldon monument of Richard Byrd is in McMurdo Sound, in Antarctica).


De Weldon was born in Vienna, Austria on 12 April 1907.    He received his early education at St. Egichins Grammar School.    In 1925, he earned an A.B. from Marchetti College, a preparatory college.     From the University of Vienna's Academy of Creative Arts and School of Architecture, he earned his M.A. and M.S. degrees in 1927 and his Ph.D. in 1929.


He first received notice as a sculptor at the age of 17, with his statue of Austrian educator and diplomat Professor Ludo Hartman.    In the 1920s, he joined artist's communes in France, Italy and Spain.


Three Kings of England:  De Weldon eventually moved to London, where he gained a number of commissions, among them the Silver Jubilee Bust of King George V, which commemorated the twenty-fifth year of his reign.   And then in December, `35, the National Portrait Gallery selected it to be placed in the National Portrait Gallery (UK).    After that de Weldon was commissioned to do the bust of Edward VIII to commemorate the Coronation but under a commission which said, "Felix de Weldon is commanded to do the official coronation bust of His Majesty, the King."    However, this led to doing two Coronation busts, because shortly thereafter when Edward abdicated, De Weldon was commissioned to do the Coronation bust for King George VI as well.

De Weldon's Pre-War Busts of Kings of England


A consequential trip to Canada to sculpt Prime Minister Mackenzie King brought de Weldon to North America, and he decided to settle in the United States.    De Weldon enlisted in the U.S. Navy during the World War II.    He became an American citizen in 1945.


At the conclusion of the war, the Congress of the United States commissioned de Weldon to construct the statue for the Iwo Jima Memorial in the realist tradition, based upon the famous photograph of Joe Rosenthal, of the Associated Press agency, taken on 23 February 1945.    De Weldon made sculptures from life of three of the six men raising the flag.    The other three, who had died in action later, were sculpted from photographs.     De Weldon took nine years to make the memorial, and was assisted by hundreds of other sculptors.    The result is the 100-ton bronze statue which is on display in Arlington, Virginia


De Weldon also created Malaysia's Tugu Negara (National Monument) when the country's first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, saw the Marine Corps War Memorial statue in his visit to America in October 1960 and personally  commissioned him to design the monument.     De Weldon was later conferred with the title Tan Sri, the Malaysian equivalent of a high-ranking knighthood.


Felix de Weldon died on June 2, 2003 at age 96 in Woodstock, Virginia.   He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.












Partial list of Felix de Weldon Monuments:


The Flag Raising on Iwo Jima, Arlington, VA

Discus Thrower, New York, NY

Cross of the Millennium, U.S. Naval Academy, St. Nicholas Church, MD

President John F. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, MA

Astronaut Statue, Richmond, KY

National Monument for Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Simon Bolivar, Washington, DC

Admiral Richard E. Byrd, McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Elvis Presley, Nashville, TN

Belleau Wood Monument, Belleau Wood, France

Waving Girl, Savannah, GA

General George Rogers Clark, Louisville, KY

Mother Joseph, Washington, DC

Seabee Monument, Washington, DC

Richard Kirkland, South Carolina

Ty Cobb, Turner Field, Georgia

Revolutionary War Memorial, Philadelphia, PA, USA

President Monroe, Fredericksburg, VA, USA

Mackenzie King(former Prime Minister) Canada

Harry S. Truman, Athens, Greece

King George VI, London, UK

Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Annapolis, MD., USA

National Guard Monument, Washington, DC, USA

Sergeant York, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

George Washington, Canberra, Australia

King Edward VIII (late Duke of Windsor), London, UK

King George V, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK

Abraham Lincoln, Mexico City

Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House, Bonham, TX, USA

Civil War Monument, Fredericksburg, VA, USA

International AIDS Memorial, HOPE, Atlanta, GA, USA

Red Cross Monument, Washington, DC, USA

General Andrew Jackson, Columbia, South Carolina, USA

Benjamin Franklin, Louisville Kentucky, USA

George Bannerman Dealey, Dallas, TX, USA

Hiroshima A-Bomb Memorial, Hiroshima, JP






The Importance Of The Iwo Jima Monument


The flag raising atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima has undoubtedly become one of the most powerful images of the 20th century.    A sacred symbol within the culture of the U.S. Marine Corps, it is also regarded as one of the most recognizable images in the world.

"Iwo Jima was a volcanic inferno of death and heroism.  The battle marked an epic finale of mankind's hand-to-hand combat before two primitive atomic bombs changed the world forever. 


Like many Americans, I feel that it is of utmost importance to our country that future generations always be reminded of the sacrifices of our brave servicemen and women who fought and died in World War II.


The flag Raising on Iwo Jima is a national symbol of the spirit of victory and unity of purpose in a most crucial point in our history.  It is an inspiration for all Americans.   It must not be forgotten.


The Iwo Jima Monument is a memorial to not only the men who died on Iwo Jima, but a tribute to all those who have served in the cause of freedom and the defense of our nation.Ó


                                                                                                Rodney Hilton Brown, 1990



Monument: Description & Specifications:



ARTIST:              Felix De Weldon

SUBJECT:           The U.S. Marines raising the American Flag on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima                        Island in the Pacific on February 19, 1945 during the MarinesÕ                                                             bloodiest battle of World War II.

PROVENANCE:  Purchased directly from the artist by the author.

MATERIAL:        Cast Stone over a Steel Skeleton.

DIMENSIONS:    Height (with flag)          20 Ft.

                               Height (without flag)     12 Ft.

                               Length:                           18 Ft.

                               Width                                9 Ft.

                              Weight                            10,000 lbs.

DATE OF MANUFACTURE:                     1945





Author & Owner:


Rodney Hilton Brown, president of a New York based mortgage-banking and investment advisory company, also claims another title to those that know of his lifetime hobby -"Indiana Jones." Thousands of his finds have been on display in museums such as the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum, Smithsonian Institute, the National Portrait Gallery, the United Nations and the Naval War College Museum, etc.    In 2004 Mr. Brown was named an Honorary New York City Marine for his life-long work to preserve Marine Corps history and for rescuing and restoring the Original Iwo Jima Monument.     So why do you do it, Brown is often asked? "To inspire young kids with a sense of history and a love of our great country," he replies.   Today's kids don't get that in school."




181 Washington Street

Fairhaven, MA 02719



Phone:  (508) 999-0540

The War Museum website:






Copyright  2009– Rodney Hilton Brown

[1] Ultimately de Weldon cast three original cement plaster models from the 4 ft. wax original, one of which soon found itself in the White House where President Harry Truman and de Weldon posed for a number of photographs with it.   Truman's model is now on display at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, and the other two were abandoned at the site of de Weldon's sculpture studio in Washington, D.C. after the war.    Over the decades the roof began to leak and the water inside rotted out the floor boards in the corner where these first models lay - forgotten in the rush to make bigger and better ones.    Crude, but powerful in their simplicity, they were the first of many to follow.   Half a century later they still lay buried in the mud beneath the studio's floorboards where they were ultimately found and restored by the author.    They have been exhibited in several museums over the last 20 years.


[2] Under its skylights many other works were made, including the casting models for the Iwo Jima monuments, Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Marines, West Point Viet Nam Soldiers Statue, General "Blackjack" Pershing, George Washington, Admiral Ernest King, Sir Winston Churchill, General George Patton and many others.    These, along with De Weldon's original sculpture tools used to build the Iwo Jima Monuments in this famous studio were later acquired and restored by the author.