After having to shut down for several months because of the COVID-19 crisis, the National Museum of the Marine Corps welcomed visitors back Tuesday with a limited-time viewing of the two flags raised on Iwo Jima.
The World War II battle for Iwo Jima saw some 70,000 U.S. Marines and sailors invade the Japanese island, with about 7,000 killed in action and another 20,000 wounded. Taking the island from Japan provided an important strategic victory in the Pacific.
February marked the 75th anniversary of the famous assault.
The battle was immortalized in a photograph of Marines and a Navy corpsman working against the wind to raise an American flag on Mount Suribachi. The iconic photo captured the second flag raising in two days. The flags will be on display for only two weeks.
Friday is the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which makes the museum’s “Terror Strikes” section of the extension of “Legacy Walk” especially timely.
“That section speaks to the events of 9/11 and the Corps' involvement,” Gwenn Adams, public affairs chief for the Marine Corps Museum, said in a Thursday email to Marine Corps Times. “We have a piece of rubble from the Pentagon and an I-beam from the World Trade Centers. In previous years, when those items were on temporary display in our exit corridor many people would visit on 9/11 to pay their respects. One lady returns each year and lays flowers because she can’t yet bring herself to go to New York.”
Many of the museum’s visitors come for many reasons, Adams said.
“Some to connect with their past, some to better understand what their veteran loved one experienced, some to experience U.S. and world history as seen through the eyes of Marines and some just to see the weapons or the Iwo Jima flag,” Adams said. “I can’t tell you how many times visitors have told us, ‘Thank you! I now understand what my husband/wife/father/mother/brother/sister (fill in the blank) went through,’ or ‘This is the first time we’ve ever heard these stories from him/her.’”
Museum officials announced that strict safety protocols have been put in place to keep visitors and staff from potentially spreading the virus. Face coverings and social distancing are required and museum staff will be working to continually clean and sanitize surfaces. Hand sanitation stations are positioned throughout the museum.
Several of the museum’s exhibits will be closed, including those with interactive elements like the children’s gallery and other play areas.
The Marine Corps museum, located near Quantico, Virginia, also is working on new exhibits and galleries remembering the years from 1976 through the global war on terror. The galleries will highlight Marine action in Somalia, Beirut, Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan.