Some people have referred to the 500-pound statue in the National Infantry Museum’s rotunda as “Iron Mike.”
OK, a lot of people have. But it’s actually the “Follow Me” statue.
Why the confusion?
In 1960, the 10-foot-6 replica of an infantryman was designed and sculpted by Pfc. Manfred Bass and assisted by Pfc. Karl H. Van Krog, under the direction of Maj. Gen. Paul L. Freeman Jr., then the commandant of the U.S. Infantry School. The model was an officer candidate named Eugene J. Wyles.
It was named “The Infantryman” — simple enough — and installed on Eubanks Field.
In 1964 it got a new location, Infantry Hall, and a new name, “Follow Me,” after the motto of the Infantry.
At some point, soldiers started calling the statue “Iron Mike,” after the nickname of Lt. Gen. John W. O’Daniel. Why wasn’t he “Iron John”? Who knows?
But, actually, “Iron Mike” has long been the de facto name for statues of soldiers around the world. In the Army, though, “Iron Mike” is used to refer to the statue at Fort Bragg originally known as “The Airborne Trooper.”
Meanwhile, that hard-charging 10-foot-6 guy, moved to the new museum in the winter of 2009, is still known as the “Follow Me” statue. A replica sits in front of Building 4 on post.
Retired Maj. Gen. Jerry White said he believes the original statue has found the right home.
“I think that putting Jean Wyles, who’s a great infantry soldier … out in front in the rotunda sends a clear signal of what this is all about,” he said. “It’s about the soldier. It’s about the slogan ‘Follow Me.’”