Original Iwo Jima monument to go under the hammer

Last Updated: Sat, Feb 09, 2013 09:10 hrs

A 12 1/2-foot-tall statue of the iconic raising of the US flag at Iwo Jima in 1945 is expected to fetch about 1.8 million dollars this month at a New York auction dedicated to World War II artifacts.

Most Americans are familiar with the 32-foot-tall Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, Felix de Weldon's 1954 bronze depicts five Marines and a Navy Corpsman raising the flag on the Japanese-held island's Mount Suribachi as Allied forces struggled to capture it.

De Weldon, who was transfixed by an Associated Press image of the February 19, 1945, flag planting, cancelled a weekend leave to model a wax sculpture of the photo to present to the chiefs of staff.

Congress soon called for construction of a larger statue but burdened with war debt, it could provide no financing and de Weldon funded it himself.

Completed in just three months, his cast stone monument was erected in Washington, DC, in front of what is now the Federal Reserve Building on Constitution Avenue and remained there until it was removed in 1947 to make room for a new building.

At around the same time, the government authorized a foundation for de Weldon to build a much larger statue in bronze - the 32-foot Iwo Jima monument in Arlington.

The 12 1/2-foot version was returned to de Weldon, who covered it with a tarp behind his studio, where it remained largely forgotten for more than four decades.

The statue was found by military historian and collector Rodney Hilton Brown while researching material for a biography on de Weldon.

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. (ANI)

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