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Pritchard Park

Plans scaled back for planned Iwo Jima memorial at Pritchard Park

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RACINE — Organizers of the Iwo Jima memorial planned for Pritchard Park have temporarily put fundraising on hold until late October due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

They have also decided to scale the project back from the original $4 million plan to a new $250,000 design.

The project was first announced on Feb. 23 in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the United States Marine Corps’ historic flag-raising on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, part of Japan’s Ogasawara Archipelago of volcanic islands.

The United States Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va. is one of the nation’s most iconic war memorials, depicting six Marines victoriously raising the American flag over 554-foot Mount Suribachi in the middle of a five-week Pacific Theater battle during World War II. The U.S. military occupied Iwo Jima from 1945-68.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal on Feb. 23, 1945, the Iwo Jima Memorial, sculpted by Austrian-born American sculptor Felix Weihs de Weldon, is located in Arlington Ridge Park near the Ord-Weitzel Gate to Arlington National Cemetery.

The original tabletop model of the monument has Racine ties, with De Weldon using Racine-manufactured SC Johnson floor wax to craft the model reviewed by the Marine Corps.

COVID impacts timeline, scale, funding

Shortly after the Feb. 23 announcement about the memorial project for Pritchard Park, 2800 Ohio St., the COVID-19 pandemic struck the U.S. with force, impacting plans. The original project plans called for a 40%-scale, 20,000-pound version of the original bronze monument for Racine.

“Within the next 10 days the COVID pandemic hit,” recalled Project Director John Capriotti. “We realized that people would be suffering loss of income, jobs and businesses ... Everything was in peril. Everyone’s priorities have shifted. Potential corporate sponsors advised us that donation commitments would be delayed.”

Fundraising for the Iwo Jima Memorial Midwest Project is slated to relaunch in late October with a new fundraising offer.

“Donors can opt to receive a free gift with donation,” he said. “Based on the amount donated, they can receive free embroidered jackets, polos and sweatshirts, collector posters, mugs, T-shirts and other unique items being added soon.”

Special corporate donation packages and commemorative bricks will also be available.

In the wake of COVID-19, Capriotti said the project has been revising the size, design and expense of its planned Iwo Jima/World War II monument at Pritchard Park, as well as devising phases to add additional smaller monuments for America’s Korea/Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan veterans.

Instead of a single sculpture, each monument will be comprised of a combination of bronze statues and large laser-etched granite panels featuring the work of renowned combat artists depicting the various conflicts. Designs are in process for the first phase Iwo Jima/World War II combined memorial.

“We had to get the cost down so it’s much more feasible to work with the present-day situation,” Capriotti told The Journal Times on Friday, noting project organizers had to scrap “most” of their original plans due to COVID-19. “We come in at around $250,000 or so. It’s a lot easier to get 250 corporations or people to give a thousand dollars than it is to do a 3-year, $4 million fundraising project right now.”

Despite the change in the size, design and expense of the memorial by the project’s “all volunteer team,” Capriotti said the group’s objective of providing a memorable, attractive and educational war memorial will still be reached by the collaborative grouping of the three proposed memorials, creating a “Veterans Walk” at Pritchard Park. Each component will be built through successive fundraising efforts.

“I think it’s going to have the same impact at a smaller price,” Capriolli noted. “You’ll still have the same impact, probably a better impact, with the Veterans Walk, because we cover all these different wars as opposed to just the Marines at Iwo Jima.”

Updates and additional project information are available online at ijmmproject.org. Visitors to the site can sign up to receive email notices from the IJMM Project.

Support for vets organizations urged

With project fundraising put on hold until late October, memorial organizers are encouraging area residents to support local veterans organizations responding to the needs of veterans during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“During our revision stage the IJMM team is urging potential donors to shift contributions to veterans aid and support groups actively responding to the needs and services of veterans and their families during the pandemic,” said Nicholas Fauso, an IJMM Project official. “Notable organizations are the Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin and the Veterans Center-Legacy Museum in Racine.”

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