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What Is the Iwo Jima Memorial?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2016
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The Iwo Jima Memorial is officially known as the Marine Corps War Memorial, and it is a statue outside the gates of Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, United States. The memorial is dedicated to all United States Marines who have died in service since the United States declared independence. The Iwo Jima Memorial statue is based on a photo taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima that took place during World War II. The photo was taken by photographer Joe Rosenthal, and the statue was designed by Felix De Weldon.

The battle being commemorated by the Iwo Jima Memorial took place in 1945 between the United States and the Empire of Japan. The island of Iwo Jima was strategically important to the U.S. forces, since it provided a valuable landing strip from which planes could be dispatched to the front during battles on mainland Japan. The fighting lasted for more than 30 days, and the U.S. forces were ordered to capture the top of Mount Suribachi, which was at the southern end of the island. A flag was raised early on in the fighting, replaced with a larger American flag shortly thereafter. The Iwo Jima Memorial is based on the photo taken of servicemen raising the second flag, which was erected only a few days after fighting began.

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The statue itself was originally sculpted in plaster, which was then cast in bronze. The process of sculpting the memorial took several years, and several sculptors worked on the project under the direction of De Weldon. Once the statue was completed in plaster, it was shipped to New York where, over the course of several years, it was cast in bronze. The statue is actually made of several individual pieces that were broken down for shipping, and it was assembled on site by bolting the pieces together from within. A trap door is built into the statue to allow for construction in this manner. Some of the surviving military members from the original photograph posed for the sculpture during construction.

An American flag flies from the Iwo Jima Memorial 24 hours a day, as ordered by President John F. Kennedy, Jr. It is one of the few sites in the United States where this is allowed. The statue was dedicated in 1954 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Several replicas of the Iwo Jima Memorial exist throughout the United States, and the original plaster mold still exists and is on display in Texas.

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