A long-forgotten piece of America's military history is going up for sale. The original smaller statue of the iconic raising of the US flag at Iwo Jima in 1945 is expected to fetch up to $1.8 million later this month at a New York auction dedicated to World War II artifacts. That such a statue even exists is news to all but the most ardent history buffs. Most Americans are familiar with Felix de Weldon's 1954 bronze version, the 32-foot-tall Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va. Less well-known is the 12-and-1/2-foot-tall statue created soon after the event.
De Weldon, a young sculptor serving as an artist in the Navy, became instantly transfixed by an Associated Press image of the Feb. 19, 1945, flag planting, which would earn photographer Joe Rosenthal a Pulitzer Prize and resonate around the world. He modeled a wax sculpture of the photo to present to the chiefs of staff, and Congress soon called for construction of a large statue. Completed in just three months, de Weldon's 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 1947. The government authorized a foundation for de Weldon to build a much larger flag-raising statue in bronze—the 32-foot Iwo Jima monument in Arlington—and the original was largely forgotten. Click for its full story. (Read more Iwo Jima stories.)