A little bit of history now! The Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial), a 32 feet (9.8 m) tall military memorial statue in Arlington, Virginia is dedicated for all personnel of the United States Marine Corps who have died in the defense of their country since 1775. Designed by Felix de Weldon and based on the iconic photo Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, the statue has been unveiled on November 10, 1954.
Did you know about existing the original, smaller statue of the iconic Iwo Jima Memorial? Well, not only such a long-forgotten piece of America’s military history really exists, it even goes under the hammer this month Bonhams’ auction dedicated to World War II artifacts. A 12 1/2-foot-tall statue is expected to fetch up to $1.8 million at a New York auction dedicated to World War II artifacts. The statue was found by military historian and collector Rodney Hilton Brown while researching material for a biography on de Weldon. He said he wants to sell the statue now because “it doesn’t fit in my living room. I want to find it a good home so we can pass the flag onto somebody else.”
The successful bidder will also get the tools the sculptor used to build the statue, plus his drawings, sketches and pictures of the monument. Also included is the June 4, 1945, Orders for Joe Rosenthal and de Weldon to report to the White House to present a model of the monument to President Harry S. Truman.
The story of how he came to own the statue is, like Rosenthal’s photograph, one for the history books.
While researching material for a biography on de Weldon, Brown learned about the old studio and amazingly found the monument still covered by the tarp. He purchased the 5-ton monument from de Weldon in 1990, paying with “a Stradivarius violin, a 1920s solid silver Newport yachting trophy and a lot of money.”
But years of neglect had taken their toll. The joints of the sculpture’s inner steel skeleton suffered extensive damage. Brown was told by a restoration house that it could build a brand-new monument for a quarter of the cost that it would take to restore it.
“They said, ‘You’re crazy.’ And I said, ‘You’re right, I’m crazy. I’m crazy for my Marine Corps. I’m crazy for my country,’” Brown says. “This is the original first Iwo Jima from the last year of WWII and it’s going to get restored.”
Brown unveiled the restored version of the statue in 1995 on the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York on the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima. It remained on the aircraft carrier until 2007 and was then moved to a storage facility in Connecticut.