Iwo J⁠i⁠ma Memor⁠i⁠al: From ⁠i⁠ron⁠i⁠ng board ⁠t⁠o ⁠i⁠con

February 21, 2023

February 21, 2023

“My father, Alfred Bryan Bonds Jr., was born in a log cabin (really) in a poor agrarian region of Arkansas. At the age of 7, his clothes caught on fire while playing near a wood stove in the kitchen, and suffered from severe burns. His burns were so severe that he was pronounced dead when he arrived at the hospital. His suffering must have been unimaginable, and his mother always believed that he was spared for a reason, that his life would have purpose.”

“She was right.”

“After graduating from college, he dedicated his life to education, and had worked his way up to assistant to the dean of the Louisiana State University graduate school when, on December 7th, 1941, the United States was plunged into World War II and the world changed forever. Shortly afterward, my father enlisted in the Navy and was sent to officer training school, becoming what the navy called a ‘90-day wonder’.”

“After a short stint at sea, he was assigned to the Pentagon as the assistant to Admiral Denfeld. During his time there, my father met Dr. Felix Weihs de Weldon, an Austrian baron who had fled during the Anschluss – when the Germans took over Austria. Once he had escaped to the United States, he joined the navy. Since there was a severe housing shortage in Washington, DC during the war, the Admiral sent de Weldon home to live with my father.”

“It was while living with my parents that the famous photo of the Iwo Jima flag raising came to de Weldon’s attention, and he made the first model of the now-iconic monument on my mother’s ironing board.”

“My father recognized the potential of that model and set the wheels in motion for it to become a full sculpture. He and de Weldon showed it to Admiral Denfeld, who arranged for it to be shown to the Marine Corps. My dad was there to get the ball rolling for it to be built.”

“The model that my family has became the ‘touring’ model, and my mother sewed a red, white, and blue bunting for it to sit on when it was displayed. There was also a life-sized model – I believe it may still exist – that also toured to raise awareness for the monument and to raise money for the continuance of the war in the Pacific.”

In this photo, one of de Weldon’s early models of the iconic Iwo Jima flag raising is displayed on my mother’s ironing board.

“I could not be more proud that my father played a big part in taking the Rosenthal image from paper to the bronze that now stands in Arlington.”

Stephen Bonds
Berea, Ohio

Stephen Bonds is the son of Alfred Bonds, Jr. In addition to being inspired by his father’s role in the Iwo Jima monument, he is proud of his father’s military service and work in education.