Local effort to put Iwo Jima memorial at Camp Pendleton may be entering homestretch
By BRADLEY ZINT | The Daily Pilot (Tribune Newds Service) | Published: December 29, 2016
After about four years of work, a Newport Beach-based nonprofit's effort to bring an Iwo Jima memorial to Camp Pendleton is inching closer to reality.
Laura Dietz, founder and trustee of Iwo Jima Monument West, said Wednesday that her organization submitted a final proposal and design to the Marine Corps base last month.
The Newport Beach resident hopes to make a formal announcement in February — the 72nd anniversary of the start of the World War II battle — that the memorial has been given the green light by all the proper authorities.
"We are quietly working on getting the approval as quickly as possible," Dietz said, noting that the memorial will be considered a gift to the military.
The memorial is planned to be a smaller version of the Marine Corps War Memorial near Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. That memorial, which is maintained by the National Park Service, contains a large statue replicating Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal's iconic image of Marines raising an American flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945.
The West Coast version, however, will not be as easily accessible to the public.
Iwo Jima Monument West proposes to put the memorial within the Marine base on a hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean behind the Pacific Views Event Center. It should be easily visible from ships at sea and by motorists on the 5 Freeway, Dietz said.
"I anticipate it being the most seen landmark on the West Coast of the United States," she said. "The East Coast gets all the monuments. What do we get out here?"
If approved, she added, visitors who don't have Camp Pendleton access could visit the memorial by being shuttled there from off the base.
Iwo Jima Monument West originally sought to have an existing Iwo Jima flag-raising statue shipped to Camp Pendleton and displayed as the centerpiece of the memorial. That statue had been on display in the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City.
It was made by Felix de Weldon in the 1940s and was later used as a model for the Marine Corps War Memorial, which de Weldon also made.
But Dietz said plans to acquire de Weldon's statue fell through after its owner and Iwo Jima Monument West couldn't agree on a purchase price.
The backup plan, Dietz said, is to make a bronze statue measuring about 27 feet tall, 16 feet long and 9 feet wide. It would be enclosed in a glass structure to help protect it from the elements.
The entire memorial, which also would include a garden and a wall with to-be-determined content, is estimated to cost $10 million, most of which has not yet been raised, Dietz said.
Dietz said the memorial has been her pet project for some time, even though she doesn't have a direct connection to the battle that left nearly 7,000 Americans dead and an additional 20,000 wounded. Most of the Japanese forces stationed there — 22,000 by some estimates — were killed.
"This is sort of my way of saying thank you, and we're a stronger nation because of the Marines," Dietz said.
Time is of the essence to make the memorial happen, she added.
"We're losing our Iwo Jima veterans," Dietz said. "Their generation is going far faster than I would like."
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