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Restoration nearly complete on Cape’s Iwo Jima monument

By Staff | Jun 30, 2011

MICHAEL PISTELLA Sculptor D.J. Wilkins does some work on the surface of the Iwo Jima statue in the Veterans Memorial area of Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve. Wilkins says the restoration of the statue should be done by the end of July.

Progress continues to be made on the Iwo Jima statue restoration project that began on March 19. The project has a tentative completion date for the end of July.
Sculptor D.J. Wilkins said to save the Iwo Jima replica monument they had to do a “full restrike” restoration that entailed sandblasting the entire statue, along with fixing it from the inside out.
Although the original creation date of the statue is still being researched, Wilkins said it could have been created in 1960. It was almost destroyed when the monument was found abandoned in the Rose Garden. From there the statue was sent to a bank on the corner of Del Prado Boulevard and Viscaya Parkway in 1989.
After the bank received the statue, they contacted Wilkins to do the first round of restoration. He said it was more like a salvation project than restoration at that point due to its condition.
In 1998, the statue was moved to the location it currently resides at in Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve. Wilkins said in 2006 it was discovered that the steel was collapsing inside of the monument, which lead to the restoration project it is currently undergoing.
The Iwo Jima statue replica is 20 feet high from the base to the top of the flag pole and weighs 67,000 pounds.
Wilkins said the statue is made out of cast stone, otherwise known as concrete, which was never made to be used for a public monument.
Don Meek, who is an expert in repairing concrete structures due to his 30 years of experience, said since Florida has extreme temperature changes from cold to hot it makes the concrete expand, which sometimes can create cracks.
The concrete that was poured, never made it to the bottom of the statue, Wilkins said due to its thickness, which created problems. The thickness of the plaster used also created problems.
Wilkins said they had to shoot high pressure water through the structure to clear out the plaster.
The Iwo Jima statue had 200 feet of cracks that needed repair.
The cracks were fixed due to an epoxy that Meek introduced to Wilkins. Meek said the epoxy injection welds two pieces of concrete to make it one solid piece. He said the method is also used for ramps and bridges to make the structure stronger.
“This thing is going to last a long time,” Meek said.
Two-hundred and fifty holes were drilled so epoxy could be injected into the monument to make the structure stronger. This portion of project took two and a half weeks to complete. Fifteen gallons of epoxy was injected into the small port holes in the monument.
“Now it is structurally stronger than it has ever been, including when it was created,” Wilkins said.
George Colom, commandant for the Marine Corps League said it was interesting to watch the epoxy enter the statue because the coloring of the cement changed once the cracks were eliminated.
He said his biggest concern with the restoration project was fixing the inside of the monument first and then making the Iwo Jima statue look as much like the original as possible.
Colom has documented the entire restoration project by taking pictures daily with an explanation of what was done.
Wilkins said the records of what has been done is important because they will know how to fix something if an area needs attention in the future.
Meek said they also will now be able to do an annual inspection due to the daily documentation.
Wilkins said the biggest repairs he is working on right now includes remodeling all of the hands on the flag pole, along with the continuation of refining details of missing equipment on the soldiers.
Eighteen months before beginning the restoration project Wilkins said he examined the monument to see what needed to be done. After looking at the heroes’ hands on the flag pole he believes the severe damage was caused by lighting due to it being an iron pole.
Wilkins took all shocks off of the hands by adding a rubber sleave over the pole to eliminate the vibration from occurring.
Depressions in the concrete will also be sought out and fixed by Wilkins to eliminate shadows from occurring on the monument.
He said he has enjoyed watching the statue be put back together knowing that it is strong and is as everlasting as you can make it. Wilkins said the community has a monument that is ranked as one of the most precious and representable statues in the world.