While the statue depicts one of the most famous incidents of World War II, the memorial is dedicated to all Marines who have given their lives in the defense of the United States since 1775.
The 32-foot-high figures are shown erecting a 60-foot bronze flagpole from which a cloth flag flies 24 hours a day in accordance with Presidential proclamation of June 12, 1961. They occupy the same positions as in Rosenthal's historic photograph. Hayes is the figure farthest from the flag staff; Sousley to the right front of Hayes; Strank on Sousley's left; Bradley in front of Sousley; Gagnon in front of Strank; and Block closest to the bottom of the flagstaff. The figures, placed on a rock slope, rise about 6 feet from a 10-foot base, making the memorial 78 feet high overall. The M-l rifle and the carbine carried by two of the figures are 16 and 12 feet long, respectively. The canteen would hold 32 quarts of water.
The base of the memorial is made of rough Swedish granite. Burnished in gold on the granite are the names and dates of every principal Marine Corps engagement since the founding of the Corps, as well as the inscription: "In honor and in memory of the men of the United States Marine Corps who have given their lives to their country since November 10, 1775." Also inscribed on the base is the tribute of Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz to the fighting men on Iwo Jima: "Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue."