The Iwo Jima Memorial - Cape Coral, Florida
As commuters cross the Midpoint Bridge from Fort Myers into Cape Coral, they are greeted by the site of a 20 foot statue depicting five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman raising the American flag on 560-foot Mount Suribachi, the highest point on Iwo Jima, a small island located 660 miles south of Tokyo. It is one of only three replicas of the 60-foot-tall Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.
Both the original and the replicas were created by sculptor Felix de Weldon. The Cape Coral replica stands proudly on the southern edge of Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve, within view of traffic motoring by on Veterans Parkway.
At 20 feet from base to the tip of the steel flagpole, it is roughly one-third the scale of the memorial in Arlington. But while the original was sculpted in bronze on a base of granite, the 67,000 pound Cape Coral replica is made from concrete poured over a steel superstructure, a structural design fraught with problems in southwest Florida's intense heat and humidity.
The sculpture was inspired by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal's Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of the actual flag raising. Depicted are PFC Rene A. Gagnon, Pfc. Ira Hayes, Pharmacist Mate Second Class John Bradley, PFC Harlon Block, Sergeant Mike Strank and PFC Franklin Sously.
Block, Strank and Sously died a short time later in combat on the northern end of the island. DeWeldon sculpted them using their photographs and measurements. Hayes was also sent to the northern end of the island, where he was wounded in a mortar attack. But he survived, as did Gagnon and Hayes. All three survivors modeled for DeWeldon’s tribute to all Marines who have died in action since 1777.
To create the statue, DeWeldon first built the figures’ bone structures with a steel framework. He then put muscles and skin over this framework. The strain of the soldiers’ muscles dramatically show through their uniforms, which were added later.