NEW YORK — A long-forgotten piece of America’s military history is going on sale.
The original smaller statue of the iconic raising of the US flag at Iwo Jima in 1945 is expected to bring as much as $1.8 million this month at a New York auction of World War II artifacts.
Most Americans are familiar with the 32-foot-tall Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va. Felix de Weldon’s 1954 bronze depicts five Marines and a Navy Corpsman raising the flag on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi as Allied forces struggled to capture the Japanese-held island.
Less well-known is the 12½-foot-tall statue created soon after the event.
De Weldon, a sculptor serving as an artist in the Navy, became transfixed by an Associated Press image of the Feb. 23, 1945, flag planting, which would earn photographer Joe Rosenthal a Pulitzer Prize.
‘‘It’s an incredibly iconic image of bravery,’’ says Marci Reaven, vice president of historic exhibits at the New York Historical Society. ‘‘It immediately captured Americans’ imaginations, their hopes for victory and their fears at a difficult time.’’
De Weldon canceled a weekend leave to model a wax sculpture of the photo to present to the chiefs of staff. Congress called for construction of a large statue. De Weldon agreed to fund it himself.
Done in three months, his cast stone monument rose in Washington, outside what is now a Federal Reserve Building. It stayed there until it was removed in 1947, to make room for a new building.