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Iconic WWII Sculpture Headed For NYC Auction Block

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A sculpture that helped rally Americans during World War II is headed for the auction block and is expected to fetch a hefty price. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.

The famous depiction of five Marines and a Navy Corpsman raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi in 1945 is quite the sight in the sculpture garden at 590 Madison Avenue. The month-long battle for the island of Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest and hardest-fought engagements of World War II.

"Those guys were in danger, they were being shot at. Three out of these six flag raisers were killed within 24 hours after the flag was raised," said Rodney Hilton Brown, the monument's owner.

It is the original Felix de Weldon monument based on the picture taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. It's one of hundreds of items from the pacific theater of World War II on the auction block Friday at Bonham's Auction House.

The monument was unveiled in 1945 in Washington D.C., but unlike the larger and better known second version at Arlington National Cemetery, the one set for auction wound up in the back of the artist's studio until Brown found it in the 1980's.

"And made a deal to buy it directly from Felix when he was alive. And it took five years to restore it," Brown said.

Afterwards it was displayed on the USS Intrepid for 12 years until the museum was refurbished and it was put into storage. Now, Brown says, it is time to sell it.

"For the last eight years, nobody's been able to enjoy it. So it's got to get out there and go someplace where people can love it and worship it as I do," Brown said.

Bonham's estimates it could sell in the million-and-a half dollar range or more. Other notable items in the auction include flags from the USS Arizona, which was sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"These show the battle wear and having been in the oil soaked water, and having been recovered from the flag locker or on board the ship, so there's absolutely no doubt where these flags came from," said Bonham's Auction House Maritime Specialist Gregg Dietrich.

Ten percent of the proceeds from the auction will go to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, which provides scholarships to children of those killed in action.

Visitors can see the monument at the sculpture garden through Friday.

For more information on the auction, visit www.bonhams.com.

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