This presentation is part of Preserving U.S. Military Heritage: WWII to the Cold War, Fredericksburg, Texas, June 4-6, 2019.
by Claudia Chemello
The Iwo Jima Monument located at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island South Carolina is a one third scale model of the well-known United States Marine Corps War Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, in Arlington Virginia, sculpted by Felix Weihs de Weldon. The monument represents six servicemen, five Marines and one Navy corpsman, raising the flag of the United States on Mt Suribachi, Japan, during the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. The monument is a depiction of a famous Pulitzer-prize winning photograph of the raising of the second flag of the United States by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. The Parris Island monument, also sculpted by Felix W. de Weldon, is made of steel reinforced concrete set into a concrete base and predates the larger and more famous bronze memorial in Arlington, Virginia. It was erected on the Parris Island Depot parade ground in 1952 and dedicated in September of that year.
In 2014, the authors led a technical analysis of the monument using X-radiography, 3-D laser scanning, and visual inspection, providing a detailed condition assessment of the sculpture and recommendations for conservation treatment. The assessment revealed advanced deterioration of the sculpture caused by severe cracking of the concrete from corrosion of internal rebar, continuous ingress of water, dissolution of the clay core, and the application of impermeable and inflexible coatings preventing the escape of moisture from the saturated concrete. The challenging environment on Parris Island added considerable obstacles for long-term stabilization.
Based on the technical analysis and detailed visual inspection by conservators, seventy-one high priority areas of the sculpture were opened up for treatment. The treatment included removal of all coatings and previous repairs, removal of saturated and failed core material and replacement with a new, composite grout, corrosion mitigation and replacement of failed rebar, application of a migrating corrosion inhibitor, crack and surface repair, repair of the flagpole, and the application of a new coating system appropriate for concrete.
This monument holds significant value to the Marine Corps representing all Marines who bravely died in service to their country. Conservation and preservation encompassed not only the physical materiality of the monument, but also the rich emotional ties it has to the Marines and the rich culture, history and esprit de corps of Parris Island.
Claudia Chemello is co-founder and senior conservator of Terra Mare Conservation, LLC, a conservation firm specializing in the conservation of archaeological, industrial, fine art and architectural materials. Prior to working in private practice, she was senior conservator at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan and a conservator for the Agora Excavations, American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Claudia has a graduate degree in conservation from the University of Western Sydney, Australia. She is a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation and Coordinator of the ICOM-CC Metals Working Group.