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Bronze Restoration on the USMC Memorial

In the late 1940s private funds helped launch the development and construction of the United States Marine Corps War Memorial near Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC. The iconic flag raising over Iwo Jima was sculpted by Felix de Weldon then cast from plaster into bronze. The giant bronze pieces were assembled on site. In the nearly 70 years since the memorial was constructed, it’s never had a major restoration — until now.

Through the donation of philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, the Marine Memorial was brought back to its former glory with a full bronze restoration. The wax that had kept the bronze protected since its dedication was failing, exposing bronze patina to the elements. The wax was removed by expert conservators from the Tradesmen Group using Sponge Media™. Special care was taken to leave the bronze patina unchanged before the memorial was recoated with new wax.



The black granite base was also cleaned using a different Sponge Media. Mineral staining had built up since the 1950s, showing streaks on the polished stone. The gold lettering on the base had become tarnished. As part of the restoration, old gold lettering was removed and regilded by the Gilder’s Studio.

Workers were able to clean the memorial without having their view of the bronze obstructed by dust. This low dust atmosphere allowed conservators surgical precision to clean the detailed folds on the uniforms of the Marines, the complexity of their rifles, and even the camouflage pattern on their helmets.

The Tradesmen Group noted, “The experience working with Sponge-Jet on the U.S. Marine Corp War Memorial project was exceptional. When we faced challenging tasks for cleaning both the bronze sculpture and granite plinth base with other cleaning systems we inquired with experts at Sponge-Jet about possible applications of the SJ system on this project. To our knowledge Sponge-Jet had not previously been used to clean patina bronze surfaces or polished granite surfaces on a monument of similar significance. Sponge-Jet provided outstanding onsite technical support that enabled our company to offer betterments in cleaning both the bronze sculpture and granite base over other cleaning methods considered for the project. Sponge-Jet is in a league all to its own.”

Sponge-Jet is honored to have been a part of this historic restoration.

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