United States Marine Corps War Memorial, Marshall Drive, Arlington, Arlington County, VA
Significance: The immediate importance of the second flag-raising that occurred on 23 February 1945 on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima lies in how it resonated with the U.S. Marines as they continued their thirty-six day invasion, boosting their morale in battle. Equally as important is how the Associated Press image of the five marines and one sailor struggling to place the American flag on Mount Suribachi, as captured by photographer Joe Rosenthal, resonated with those at home. Many, in fact, interpreted the photograph as a sign that the battle was won. However premature this understanding was, the capture of Iwo Jima in World War II was indeed a seminal point in the Pacific war front, turning the tide in the American forces' favor. A reminder of a significant military engagement, and emotionally compelling, the image of the six men raising the flag on Iwo Jima quickly became iconic. The photograph, ultimately, inspired sculptor Felix de Weldon to fashion a three-dimensional model of the event; it was this model that was adapted by architect Paul Franz Jaquet initially, and later by Horace W. Peaslee, for use as the memorial to the Marine Corps's dead of all wars. No other form was considered.
The connection between the Rosenthal photograph, and later the statue, with the generation that lived through the second world war and with successive generations is the intangible quality that keeps the memorial sacrosanct, that enables one site to link past and present sacrifices, lives, and lessons hopefully learned. This connection also sustains the commemorative purpose of the memorial grounds so that respect for place accompanies recreational needs for open space.
The second flag-raising on Iwo Jima was one of the most compelling, documented events in Marine Corps history and so evocative an image that it was chosen - by them - to represent that past, and their sacrifices in the memorial. For the Marines, who celebrated their 179th birthday "by unveiling in Washington on Virginia's bank of the Potomac, the soul-stirring statue by Felix de Weldon of the never-to-be-forgotten flag-raising at Iwo Jima [,] every member [...] sincerely believe[d] that no more fitting symbol of the glory and accomplishments of the Corps could have been selected than this [...] dramatization of the Corps's trademark, 'the Marines have landed and have the situation well in hand.'" Many concurred. The Evening Star reported on the dedication, noting that the statue "commemorate[d] one of the greatest moments in Marine Corps annals." General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., Commandant, on the other hand, reiterated that the monument was meant to honor "the memories of [all] the brave men who have died in the service of their country." Shepherd also declared it was not "monument to war." Instead the memorial was intended, and has become, a national symbol heralding the achievements of the Marine Corps and an enduring tribute to them in times of war and in peace.
Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: N9
Survey number: HALS VA-9
Building/structure dates: 1953-1955 Initial Construction
The United States Marine Corps traces its roots to the Continental Marines of the American Revolutionary War, formed by a resolution of the Second Continental Congress on 10 November 1775. That date is celebrated as the Marine Corps's birthday. Throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries, Marine detachments served aboard Navy cruisers, battleships, and aircraft carriers. About 600,000 Americans served in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II, performed a central role in the Pacific War. The Pacific theatre battles saw fierce fighting between Marines and the Imperial Japanese Army. The Battle of Iwo Jima was arguably the most famous Marine engagement of the war with high losses of 26,000 American casualties and 22,000 Japanese. By the end of WWII, the Corps expanded totaling about 485,000 Marines. Nearly 87,000 Marines were casualties during World War II (including nearly 20,000 killed), and 82 were awarded the Medal of Honor. The Korean War saw the Corps expand from 75,000 regulars to a force of 261,000 Marines, mostly reservists. 30,544 Marines were killed or wounded during the war. During Vietnam War Marines evacuated Saigon. Vietnam was the longest war for Marines. By its end, 13,091 had been killed in action, 51,392 had been wounded. Marines participated in the failed 1980 Iran hostage rescue attempt, the invasion of Grenada, the invasion of Panama. On 23 October 1983, the Marine headquarters building in Beirut, Lebanon, was bombed, causing the highest peacetime losses to the Corps in its history. 220 Marines and 21 other service members were killed. Marines liberated Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War, participated in combat operations in Somalia (1992–1995), and took part in the evacuation of American citizens from the US Embassy in Tirana, Albania. Following the attacks on 11 September 2001, Marine Corps, alongside the other military services, has engaged in global operations around the world in support of War on Terror. Marines were among first sent to Afghanistan in November 2001. Since then, Marine battalions and squadrons have been engaging Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces. U.S. Marines also served in the Iraq War.