Upon first seeing Joe Rosenthal’s photograph of the second flag raising, sculptor Felix de Weldon created a scale model for a sculpture based on the photo in a single weekend while he was serving in the Navy. He and architect Horace W. Peaslee designed the memorial. Their proposal was presented to Congress, but funding was not possible during the war. In 1947, a federal foundation was established to raise funds for the memorial.
The commission for the memorial was awarded in 1951. De Weldon spent three years creating a full-sized master model in plaster, with figures 32 feet tall. This was disassembled like a giant puzzle, and each piece was separately cast in bronze. Peaslee’s base for the memorial is made of black diabase granite from a quarry in south Sweden. It features a number of inscriptions. Groundbreaking was held on February 19, 1954. Construction of the memorial began in September. The bronze pieces of the sculpture were assembled, to which was added a 60 feet flagpole.
The total cost of the memorial was $850,000, including the development of the site. It was paid for with donations from U.S. Marines, former Marines, Marine Corps Reservists, friends of the Marine Corps, and members of the Naval Service; no public funds were used.
The memorial was dedicated on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the founding of the Marine Corps. (Source: Wikipedia: Marine Corps War Memorial)
Foretelling the future, a photo of Rosenthal’s photograph appeared in a March 1945 Philadelphia newspaper with the caption: “The Spirit of ’45 would be an apt title for this remarkable news photograph, more like the work of a sculptor…” Although there was a big offensive raging on the Western Front in Europe, the Paris edition of Stars andStripes thought so much of this photo that it was given a full spread on page one, relegating news to the inside.