View Full Version : Flag completes Iwo Jima statue

09-07-06, 08:49 AM
Posted on Thu, Sep. 07, 2006

Flag completes Iwo Jima statue

By Chris Treadway

The figures atop a hill overlooking Interstate 80 aren't as imposing from afar as up close.

But Vince Ramos of Crockett guesses he has captured the essence of what someone gazing at Mount Suribachi on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945, would have seen.

The tall hill in Tormey, west of Interstate 80 and just north of the Cummings Skyway, is home to Ramos' replica of the celebrated flag-raising. The statue is a tribute to his late brother, Fernando, a U.S. Marine who served on Iwo Jima, the site of one of World War II's bloodiest battles.

Ramos, a retired Marine who is a stickler for historical accuracy, knew that after the initial flag was raised on Mount Suribachi, U.S. Marines and a Navy Corpsman put up a second, larger flag in its place. That flag-raising was captured in a photograph and became perhaps the most famous image of the war.

History was re-created in a sense Wednesday when Ramos, 75, replaced the smaller flag held by the life-sized figures he had sculpted with a 4-by-6-foot version.

The time since Ramos placed the statue on the hill in early August was marked by the death of Joe Rosenthal, the photographer who captured the Pulitzer Prize-winning image in 1945.

"Even Rosenthal didn't know what he had until he went back to Guam and had (the photographs) processed," said Ramos, who has long studied the events on Iwo Jima. "After it came out, they couldn't print them fast enough."

Ramos, a retired former employee of C&H in Crockett and Bio-Rad Laboratories in Hercules, worked on his statue for about a year and a half at the ranch he leases in tiny Tormey. He fashioned the figures individually using concrete donated by Sugar City Building Materials.

Getting them into place was another matter, requiring permission from oil refiner ConocoPhillips, which owns the portion of the hill where the statue sits, and Caltrans, which owns the portion he needed to get access to the site.

Tall grass covering the steep hill was another obstacle. Steve Archer, a partner in Richmond contracting firm W.R. Forde, donated his labor and heavy equipment to extend a fire trail to the top of the hill.

Ramos said his goal was to have everything in place before this month's reunion of his Marine outfit, Able Co., 1st Battalion. He accomplished his mission and plans to have binoculars ready so battalion members can see his creation on a stopover before heading to Sonoma. Ramos also is preparing a solar-powered light to illuminate the work at night.

He said it "feels great" to see the statue atop the hill.

"It's a dream I've had quite a while," Ramos said. "It was the people who came to look at it and really looked at it. That's what gives me the sense that I did something pretty good."
Reach Chris Treadway at 510-262-2784 or ctreadway@cctimes.com.