The flag raising photo caused an immediate sensation. Just two days after it was first seen in the US, Senators rose on the floor of the US Senate calling for a national monument modeled on the picture. The California State Legislature petitioned the Federal Government to build a grand monument. Thousands of ordinary American’s wrote the President appealing or a monument to immortalize the picture they loved. Felix DeWeldon, an ambitious sculptor, had a clay replica of the picture sculpted within 72 hours of seeing the picture.
Sculptor DeWeldon with Gagnon.The three who died on Iwo Jima, Harlon Block, Mike Strank and Franklin Sously, had their bodies recreated using pictures and measurements.
Here we see a three-truck convoy crossing the George Washington Bridge with the gigantic figures. Skilled artisans at the Bedi-Rassy Art Foundry, Brooklyn, NY took three years to cast them. They’re on their way down Interstate 95 headed to Arlington, Va. 1954
Erection of the Statue began September, 1954.DeWeldon first built the figures’ bone structures with a steel framework. He then put muscles and skin over this framework. The strain of the men’s muscles show dramatically through the clothes that were added later.
Rene Gagnon, Polly Gagnon, John Bradley, Elizabeth Bradley, Ira Hayes. Union Station Washington, D.C. Nov. 1954. (In town for the Dedication Ceremony.)Gagnon was an airlines clerk, Bradley was an entrepreneur and Hayes lived in a $50 hut on the Gila Indian Reservation.
The last photograph of the three survivors together, Bradley, Hayes and Gagnon.Within 10 weeks Ira Hayes would be found frozen, face down in an irrigation ditch. He died of exposure and alcohol at the age of 33, almost 10 years to the day he helped raise the flag on Iwo Jima.
Each figure is 32 feet high. The flagpole is 60 feet in length. It’s the world’s tallest bronze statue. It’s stands 78 feet high. A cloth flag flies from the pole.The cost of the statue was $850,000 (1954 Dollars.) No public funds were used. Private donations picked up the tab.