The Marine Corps War Memorial is known colloquially as the Iwo Jima Memorial. It is based upon Joe Rosenthal’s poignant photograph of service members raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi during the epic battle for Iwo Jima. The Felix de Weldon sculpture is dedicated to all Marine Corps personnel who have died while defending the nation since the organization’s inception in 1775. The monument was dedicated in 1954 by President Eisenhower. In 1961, President Kennedy directed that the flag atop the monument’s 60 foot bronze pole fly 24 hours a day. This is one of the few official locations where this action is authorized.
The six 32-foot tall bronze figures represent Navy corpsman PM2 John Bradley, Marine infantrymen Sgt Michael Strank, Cpl Harlon Block and PFCs Franklin Sousley, Ira Hayes and Rene Gagnon. The flag pole and figures are situated on a base of black diabase granite quarried in southern Sweden. There are two inscriptions on the base. The first inscription honors all Marines who have died. The second is Admiral Chester Nimitz’s tribute to the valor of the men fighting on Iwo Jima. Every Marine combat engagement is also listed on the base.
The Marine Barracks, a National Historic Landmark in Washington D.C., frequently uses the memorial as a backdrop for ceremonies featuring the Silent Drill Platoon and the Drum and Bugle Corps.