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Waldon T. Rich
U. S. Seabees
31st Naval Construction Battalion
United States Navy
Image of Waldon T. Rich at work on his rock carving depicting the flag raising atop Mt. Suribachi. The rock carving was inspired by the famous image by Mr. Joe Rosenthal.
Image of the Waldon T. Rich rock carving taken in 1965
by this web master while stationed on Iwo Jima.
Waldon T. Rich -- U. S. Navy Seabees
Have you ever wondered who was the man who carved the rock carving on Iwo Jima depicting the famous flag raising atop Mt. Suribachi? Waldon T. Rich was the man. The famous image of the group of U. S. Marines raising the flag atop Mt. Suribachi was caught on film and has been forever memorialized by Mr. Joe Rosenthal. This image has been immortalized in countless ways including photos, film, movies, artwork, the Marine Corps Memorial in Washington, and others. In essence, the famous image has been the inspiration to countless young Marines since Iwo Jima was wrestled from the Japanese in February and March 1945.
The rock carving was done when Mr. Rich (a Navy Seabee) was stationed on the island. He was there at the time of the invasion according to his daughter, Patricia. She recalls him also mentioning that he saw the famous B-29, the "Enola Gay" fly over the island on it's way to destiny over Hiroshima. Mr. Rich trained as a Navy Seabee with the U. S. Marines in Hawaii before being sent to Iwo Jima.
In July of 1945, after receiving a copy of LIFE magazine from his wife which depicted the famous Joe Rosenthal image on the cover, Mr. Rich was inspired to do his rock carving. Like many other service men stationed around the world, he eventually became bored with his after duty spare time. He then used this spare time to work on his carving of the famous flag raising. As the rock carving was progressing, Mr. Rich's superior officer observed his work. The captain was so pleased with the ongoing sculpture that he offered Mr. Rich additional time to work on the carving. Mr. Rich declined the generous offer in order to maintain his normal work schedule.
Waldon's son, Dale stated, "...I wondered for years if it [the rock carving] still existed. But I did not know how to get a hold of Iwo Jima. One day on the way home, I heard a news story of the Coast Guard Commander going on a tour of stations, one stop was Iwo. When I got home, I called the coast guard and got an address for the LORAN station there. I mailed a copy of this photo and a brief message to the C.O. blind, then pretty much forgot about it. A month later, I got a color Polaroid photo of it from the Coast Guard C.O. on Iwo. I was shocked..."
"...We wrote back and forth for a year or so, then the C.O. was in Monterey, CA for training, and he drove all the way down to Los Angeles and spent part of the day with my dad, talking. He also gave my dad some nice gifts from the island..."
Dale also stated, "...To my father, Iwo was all bad memories of death, body detail, and sulfur laden water and flees. He did not like discussing it. Us kids feel the carving, the first of the memorials made, represents a big part of our family history and we are proud it still exists..."
The location of the rock carving is near what was the U. S. Coast Guard station on the north end of the island. The rock cropping used for Mr. Rich's carving was located directly behind his tent, according to information received from his son, Dale. The carving, for some unstated reason depicts only four men raising the flag. The U.S. Coast Guard was designated the unofficial care takers of the carving for many years.
It is sad to note that Mr. Waldon T. Rich passed away in August of last year (2002).
Dale states "...At the Marine cemetery on the island [Iwo Jima] is a flag pole stone base with a brass plaque on it. My father also helped make that plaque by melting down shell casings for the brass in the plaque and casting it..." (See attached image and additional images on next page)
The cemetery memorial with the brass plaque
fashioned by Mr. Waldon T. Rich
(Click on image to view larger versions)
Mr. Rich's son, Dale, has been attempting to locate information with regards to the current status of the rock carving so lovingly sculpted by his Dad back in 1945. He has made numerous contacts and has hoped that one day, he might be able to make the long trip to Iwo Jima and place a plaque to honor his Dad and the work that he did to memorialize the thousands of brave men who died during this horrific campaign.
It should also be noted that the Mt. Suribachi memorial that was constructed on the site of the famous flag raising was built by Mr. Rich's Seabee unit: the 31st Navy Seabee Battalion. The 31st Navy Seabee Battalion was attached to the 5th Marine Division on Iwo Jima.
The monument on top of Mt. Suribachi marks the spot of the famous flag raising depicted in Mr. Joe Rosenthal's photo.
This monument as well as the road leading up the side of Mt. Suribachi was constructed by Mr. Rich's unit -- 31st Navy Seabees'
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Click on the link below to view additional images of Mr. Rich and of his famous rock sculpture...this page is a loving tribute to a gifted father from his children.
Waldon T. Rich Tribute, Pg# 2
We have just added a second page with additional images about Waldon T. Rich and his rock sculpture located on Iwo Jima. Check it out.
The information above was compiled from e-mail messages received in February and March 2003 from Mr. Waldon T. Rich's son and daughters, Patricia, Arleen and Dale Rich.
The image above of Mr. Waldon T. Rich by his famous rock sculpture is courtesy of the children of Mr. Rich (Patricia, Arleen and Dale Rich.) The additional images taken in 1965 including a color image of the rock sculpture, an image of the 5th Marine Division cemetery marker and the image of the Mt. Suribach Memorial are courtesy of this webmaster.
Additional images, and related links with regards to Mr. Waldon T. Rich's memorial to the brave men who fought and died on Iwo Jima can be viewed at the following web sites:
31st Navy Seabees' Association
Includes a section on the recent visit to Iwo Jima in March of last year.
Image of Cliff Carving
This image and the one below are from a Japanese web site and include a dedication marker crediting the rock carving to Mr. Waldon T. Rich.
Image of Cliff Carving (Dedication Marker)
Close up view of the dedication marker to Mr. Waldon T. Rich.
Black Pearl Veterans
Additional images: If you would care to take a virtual tour of Iwo Jima -- 20 years after the battle for the island, you may do so by clicking on the following links:
Iwo Jima Photo Album 1965 - 1966
My Year on Iwo: 1965 - 1966
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