|Photograph of Flag Raising on Iwo Jima, 02/23/1945 |
(NWDNS-80-G-413988; ARC Identifier: 520748);
General Photographic File of the Department of Navy, 1943 - 1958;
General Records of the Department of the Navy, 1804 - 1958;
Record Group 80; National Archives.
Although the famous photograph has long led people to believe that the flag-raising was a turning point in the fight for Iwo Jima, vicious fighting to control the island actually continued for 31 more days and three of the six soldiers seen raising the flag in the famous Rosenthal photo, were killed before the conclusion of the Battle for Iwo Jima in late March.
By March 3, U.S. forces controlled all three airfields on the island, and on March 26 the last Japanese defenders on Iwo Jima were wiped out. Only 200 of the original 22,000 Japanese defenders were captured alive. More than 6,000 Americans died taking Iwo Jima, and some 17,000 were wounded.
In 1951, work commenced on creating a cast bronze memorial based on the photo, with the figures 32 feet tall and the flagpole 60 feet long. The granite base of the memorial bears two inscriptions:
- "In honor and memory of the men of the United States Marine Corps who have given their lives to their country since 10 November 1775"
- "Uncommon Valor Was a Common Virtue."
The location and date of every major Marine Corps engagement up to the present are inscribed around the base of the memorial.
The memorial was officially dedicated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the Marine Corps. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued a proclamation that a Flag of the United States should fly from the memorial 24 hours a day, one of the few official sites where this is required.Less well-known is the fact that the large bronze memorial was not the first statue created. The first was a 12 1/2-foot-tall statue created soon after the event. The original smaller statue of the U.S. flag raising at Iwo Jima in 1945 went up for auction recently at a New York auction dedicated to World War II artifacts but went unsold. You can read that story here.
What a great tribute to the men who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.