The Marine Corps War Memorial, or more colloquially known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, is located outside of Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington Ridge Park, Virginia just across the Potomac River from DC. This memorial honors all of the Marines who have perished serving the United States since 1775—before the nation was officially formed. The memorial statue features the six men who raised the second American flag over Iwo Jima, based on the iconic photograph by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. According to the National Park Service, the Marine Corps War Memorial receives over one million visitors per year.
The history of the memorial begins with the raising of the second American flag at Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945, signifying the conclusion of the American campaign in the Pacific during World War II. Rosenthal’s photograph inspired sculptor Felix W. de Weldon, who eventually constructed a life-size model of the image. Rene A. Gagnon, Ira Hayes and John H. Bradley, the three survivors of the flag raising (the others were killed in battle at Iwo Jima), all posed for de Weldon so he could model their faces in clay. The completed statue was then disassembled so it could be cast in bronze and was eventually brought back to DC on three trucks. The memorial was dedicated on November 10, 1954 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The grounds of the Marine Corps War Memorial are open from 6 a.m. until midnight, year-round. Ranger programs can be requested beforehand by calling 703-289-2553. During the summer, hour-long drum and bugle performances, called Sunset Parades, are held by the U.S. Marine Corps on Tuesday evenings. While access to the memorial is not permitted, the parades are open to the public at no cost and a large lawn can accommodate visitors. Parking is not permitted during the parades, but guests may park at the nearby Arlington National Cemetery Visitors’ Center for a small cost, which comes with free shuttle service to the memorial grounds.
The Marine Corps War Memorial can be accessed by car via the VA-110 South route or US-50 East or West routes. Parking is available at the memorial as well, except during Sunset Parades. If you wish to take Metro it is a 10-15 minute walk from either the Rosslyn or Arlington National Cemetery stations.
The memorial is located in Arlington Ridge Park, along the axis of the National Mall. It is in close proximity to the Arlington National Cemetery. A view of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol building is available from the memorial grounds. The Mount Vernon Trail and Theodore Roosevelt Island are nearby as well, and the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River provides access directly to the National Mall.
- The base of the memorial is composed of rough Swedish granite, which contains inscriptions of the location and dates of every major battle involving the U.S. Marine Corps.
- The figures in the memorial are 32 feet high, while the flagpole measures 60 feet.
- The flag at the top of the pole flies at full mast 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by presidential proclamation.
- The carbine and the M-1 rifle held by two of the figures are 12 and 16 feet long.
- The $850,000 cost of the memorial was donated by U.S. Marines, members of the Naval Service and friends of the Marine Corps. No public funding was used.