Seventy-five years ago last month, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal shot an iconic photo showing U.S. Marines raising the American flag atop Mount Suribachi on the Island of Iwo Jima in the Pacific Ocean.
For more than a quarter-century, a mural depicting that photo adorned the east entrance to the former Kansas Free Fair grounds in Topeka, which is now the site of Stormont Vail Events Center.
This week’s History Guy video at CJOnline focuses on that mural, which is on display in the Combat Air Museum at Topeka Regional Airport at Forbes Field.
A Topeka Daily Capital article published in August 1948 told how the mural would be put up facing east at S.W. 18th and Topeka Boulevard, at the base of a tower that would stand more than 65 feet tall.
The Daily Capital reported more than 3,000 people were clustered around that tower’s base on Sept. 11, 1948, as it was dedicated to the veterans of World War II. A large bronze plaque stood below the mural.
Rene Gagnon, who was credited at the time with being one of the six Marines shown in the photo Rosenthal took on Feb. 23, 1945, was among the speakers at that day’s ceremony. The Marine Corps announced last October it had determined that Gagnon, who died in 1979, wasn’t actually in the photo.
The fairgrounds subsequently became the MidAmerica Fairgrounds in 1958.
The tower was dismantled in the mid-1970s, said Dave Murray, deputy chairman of the board of directors for the Combat Air Museum.
The mural panels and bronze plaque were sold at auction, then stored in a farm building in Osage County, said Gene Howerter, chairman of that museum’s board of directors.
Owner Gerald Curtis donated the mural to the Combat Air Museum in 1993, by which time its condition had suffered considerably from the effects of Kansas weather and from having stones thrown at it, Murray said.
Volunteers with the museum then spent more than a decade having the mural repaired and restored. It was dedicated on Feb. 23, 2005, the 60th anniversary of the day Rosenthal’s photo was shot.
The Combat Air Museum is open between March and December from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from noon to 4:30 p.m. Sundays.
Admission is $7 for adults 18 and older; $5 for children ages five through 17; $5 for active military in uniform or with an activity military identification card; and free for children under five.