Loading the Canon #8: The Marine Corps War Memorial

Loading the Canon #8 by Helena-Anne Hittel

The Marine Corps War Memorial

By the time all of you fellow Drunken Odysseans read this, I will be in Parris Island, South Carolina. My little brother, Jeffrey Hittel, reported here for boot camp on July 8th, 2013. 12 grueling weeks later, on October 4, 2013, he graduates and joins the ranks of the United States Marine Corps. Naturally, I’m extremely proud and excited about this event, so this week, I’ve elected to load your canons with something military flavored (and no, I don’t mean the food). I’m writing this week about an iconic image and time in America’s history that most everyone has seen or learned about at some point in their lives. Today, I’m going to give you some history about the Marine Corps War Memorial at Arlington, Virginia.

There are many other memorials I could have elected to write about-in fact, a Vietnam Memorial was installed in Veterans’ Memorial Park in Winter Park, Florida. I also could have chosen Maya Lin’s Vietnam memorial in Washington, DC, of which I am a huge fan. Instead, I opted for something with a specifically Marine Corps-related history.

The Marine Corps War Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, was born of a photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945. Five Marines and a sailor were forever immortalized raising the United states flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. The sculpture, cast in bronze by Felix de Weldon, was officially dedicated on November 10, 1954 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The statue is located outside of Arlington National Cemetery. In addition, there also happens to be a scaled-down copy of this specific memorial on the base at Parris Island, as well as multiple others at different sites in the United States. The closest one to any of you in Orlando is in Cape Coral.

The six men are depicted over life-size at 32 feet tall, hoisting a 60 foot tall flagpole.The base is granite and bears two inscriptions: “In honor and memory of the men of the United States Marine Corps who have given their lives to their country since November 10, 1775,” and, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

The terms “art” and “war memorial” are not usually adjacent to each other in my mind. That said, the photograph and resulting monument are iconic moments in American history and even American art, that were brought on by times of war. If you don’t believe me, consider the photograph V-J Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt. We remember what moment in history that photograph belongs to. Art, in this case, is not only what you find in a museum. An artist will paint, draw, sculpt and photograph what they know. It’s a living timeline. The six men raising the stars and stripes over Iwo Jima are permanently immortalized in bronze doing just that. We may not remember who these men are in specific and which one is which, but we remember the moment they represent.


Helena-Anne Hittel (Episode 35, essay) is an Art History Major at the University of Central Florida and Intern at the UCF Art Gallery.

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