Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Something New I Learned Today

When I discovered that it was only in the low 70s this morning, I decided I might as well be outside while I could! So I walked down to this monument, which is where I go when I'm not sure where else to go. I knew a little bit about the monument and it's significance, but as most things do over time, it all seemed jumbled up in my brain. So I took some time and read all the different plaques that are posted around the memorial and learned some interesting things (that I probably already knew.) 

For those of you who are WWII buffs, you'll probably think this is abysmally simplified, but this is some basic info about the Battle of Iwo Jima and how there came to be a gigantic monument down the hill from my apartment. 

Iwo Jima is a little island south of the main islands of Japan. In 1945, it stood about halfway between Japan and the US base on the Mariana Islands. Because it was such a long way from the Marianas to Japan, there was no way for damaged bombers to make it back if they were hit by Japanese artillery. So Iwo Jima turned out to be a perfect stepping stone to get to Japan, and on Feb 19, 1945, the battle began. 

The Japanese surely realized how important the island was for the allies, and defended it fiercely. There were about 70,000 American troops, fighting about 21,000 Japanese on the island. One might think that the battle wouldn't last long--especially after this flag was raised on Mount Suribachi on Feb 23, just a few days after the battle started. But the Japanese dug their heels in and fought for another month, finally surrendering on March 29, 1945, after nearly 7,000 Americans and almost 20,000 Japanese died in the struggle. 

Joe Rosenthal was the news reporter who took the Pulitzer Prize winning photo that inspired this sculpture. Felix de Weldon made and cast the sculpture with his assistants. And in case you're wondering how he made a sculpture of 4 men from just one photograph, he didn't! Three of the men that originally raised the flag lived through the battle, and sat as models for de Weldon. The men in the monument are 32 ft high, and the flagpole is 60 ft long--hard to tell from a photo, but the monument is unbelievably huge. (If you look in the top photo, there's a man standing on the far right, and you can see how very small he is compared to the statues!)

All in all, the monument cost about $850,000, all paid for by donations from Marines, navy men, and friends. The Memorial was dedicated in November 1954 by President Eisenhower.

1 comment:

  1. If you're interested in the war in the Pacific, I HIGHLY recommend a book called "With the Old Breed" by E. Sledge. He was a Marine in the Pacific--not on Iwo Jima, but in a number of other battles. The book does a remarkable job of describing his experience fighting the dug-in Japanese defenders.

    Actually, even if you are not really interested in the topic, it's still an amazing book.