It is located on a high ridge, overlooking the national capital.
The war memorial honouring the members of the United States Marine Corps who have served and died in defense of the United States since the founding of the Corps in 1775.
It was inspired by the iconic 1945 photograph of six Marines raising a U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
In 1947, a federal foundation was established to raise funds for the memorial.
The commission for the memorial was awarded in 1951.
Sculptor Felix W. de Weldon was commissioned by the U.S. Congress to cast a much larger than life-size (10-meter 32-foot) sculpture of the group in bronze to serve as the Marine Corps War Memorial.
The three surviving members of the group posed for de Weldon, and the sculptor used photographs as source material for the faces of the three others, who died in the fighting.
The figure group stands atop a jumble of rocks (representing the summit of Suribachi), planting, at an angle, a bronze flagpole 18 meters (60 feet) long into the rocks.
A cloth U.S. flag flies constantly from the flagpole. This assemblage sits on top of a base 3 meters (10 feet) high and weighing 635 tonnes (700 tones) that is made of concrete faced with granite.
The overall height of the monument, including the base, is 24 meters (78 feet).
The memorial consists of front and rear inscriptions, and inscribed in gold letters around the polished black granite upper base of the memorial is the date and location of every United States Marine Corps major action up to the present time.
Front (west side): “Uncommon Valor Was A Common Virtue” – “Semper Fidelis”
Rear (east side): “In Honor And Memory Of The Men Of The United States Marine Corps Who Have Given Their Lives To Their Country Since 10 November 1775”
The memorial was dedicated on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the founding of the Marine Corps.
The total cost of the memorial was $850,000, including the development of the site.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued a proclamation on June 12 that a Flag of the United States should fly over the memorial 24 hours a day, one of the few official sites where this is required.
A persistent rumor has attributed the existence of a thirteenth hand from the six statues of the men depicted on the memorial and speculation about the possible reasons for it. When informed of the rumor, de Weldon exclaimed, “Thirteen hands. Who needed 13 hands? Twelve were enough.”
On April 29, 2015, philanthropist David Rubenstein pledged over 5 million dollars to refurbish the memorial in honor of his father, a Marine veteran from World War II who died in 2013, “and all Marines who have died in service to the United States.”