The raising of the flag on Iwo Jima means different things to different people — usually based on different sets of “facts” — so real knowledge of history is important. It’s true that a flag was raised on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. The flag was given to the leader of a patrol climbing the mountain, who was told, “If you get to the top put it up.” After reaching the top without incident, three marines stuck it in the ground atop a tall pole. The flag was small and could not be seen well from the landing beaches. The only battle for that flag was between the Secretary of the Navy and the Commander of the 2nd Battalion — both wanted it as a souvenir.
A larger replacement flag was ordered by the battalion commander and later that day five other marines and a sailor, none of whom had been involved in the raising of the first flag, planted the second flag. They were part of a 40-man patrol that had gone back up the mountain, specifically to raise the flag, without being fired upon even once. Although Rosenthal’s photo seems to show the marines putting up the flag in a pitched battle, they are merely sticking in into the ground while being photographed and filmed. It was a photo opportunity.
Does the photo and subsequent statue “depict” the marines “defeating tyranny and sacrificing blood to gain peace?” Yes. Were these particular marines doing so at that moment? No. Did three of them die later in the war? Yes, and many others died both before and after the flag raising.
However, as the photo and statue of this incident are so closely connected in our hearts with those who did die, who were wounded, who spent years of their lives defending our freedom in this and other wars, perhaps it would best be placed at the Sarasota National Cemetery where those who did sacrifice so much are laid to rest. Seeing the statue on the crest of a hill overlooking the heroes who have served our country so well would be a stirring monument indeed — if, after due consideration, it is the right thing to do.
The Observer’s July 11 editorial says the statue is of “the original, 1945 steel-cast monument.” In fact, it is “the original, 1945 cast-stone monument.” According to the CastStone Institute, cast-stone is another way of saying “a refined form of concrete.”
Due to weathering of this original monument being offered to Sarasota, “the joints of the inner steel skeleton” within this hollow form “suffered extensive damage” and has been repaired by the current owner. A similar version of this statue is in Cape Coral and is made out of concrete poured over a superstructure (cast stone) consisting of rebar and steel. This version, similar in scope to the hastily created original, “created in just three months,” has undergone two restorations since it was installed: the latest in 2011. A quick look at how unbelievably extensive this last restoration was can be viewed on a Cape Coral website.
It is understandable that someone like Harold Ronson, whose life was so intimately connected with Iwo Jima, would, upon seeing that this statue was available, be enthusiastic about acquiring it for Sarasota.
However, it is also understandable how a majority of the Sarasota City Commissioners might think it prudent to do a background check on this monument. Did the current owner do a really good restoration? It was restored after being in Washington, D.C. — how will it fare in Sarasota’s weather? What did Cape Coral’s restoration cost? What is the monument’s estimated life expectancy? Is Sarasota responsible for building the base for the memorial, and the reconfiguration of the plaza, and the landscaping, and the insurance, and the ongoing maintenance? And, etc.
What is hard to understand is why someone who rushes into something without thinking is put up on a pedestal, while public servants receive criticism for trying to make sure a $1.4 million donated memorial, for which the city will become responsible, won’t cost taxpayers even more over the long run. Or why the public bashing of these officials, elected by the voters of Sarasota, is such sport?
Rodger Skidmore lives on Siesta Key.