There are actually two Follow Me statues currently at Fort Benning. The first was designed and sculpted by PFC Manfred Bass, assisted by PFC Karl H. Van Krog. The model was MAJ(R) Eugene Wyles, at the time an officer candidate.
Cast of resin with an inner frame of steel rods, the original statue was named The Infantryman and unveiled by Secretary of the Army Wilber M. Brucker May 3, 1960, on Eubanks Field.
When Building 4 became the new Infantry Hall in 1964, the statue was renamed Follow Me and moved to an honored location in front of the main entrance facing York Field.
The years of exposure to the elements took a toll on the resin and maintenance became more difficult. In 2004, the original statue was taken down from its pedestal to act as a model for a new version. Cast of bronze, the new Follow Me Statue was unveiled and dedicated the same year by the Infantry Center Commander MG Benjamin Freakley on the same pedestal as the original. The original sculptor and model were on hand for the ceremonies.
While Building 4 is renovated to become Maneuver Hall, the new bronze version is located on the grounds of the former Infantry headquarters, Building 35, known as Ridgeway Hall. The original statue became a part of the National Infantry Museum collection and is currently the copula centerpiece at the entrance to the new National Infantry Museum.
In a way, both statues are still performing duty as symbols of Infantry leadership.
Because of a title in bold letters on a bronze plaque located on the pedestal, the Follow Me statue is sometimes referred to as The Infantryman. Actually, an older statue by that name is still on Fort Benning, though it has been moved several times over the years. It is currently the centerpiece of a greenspace park on Edwards Street directly across from Eubanks Field and the airborne practice towers.
Another common, but mistaken, nickname for the Fort Benning Follow Me Statue is Iron Mike. The best-known Iron Mike statue is located at Fort Bragg, N.C. Officially named the Airborne Trooper statue, there is also an association with LTG John W. “Iron Mike” O’Daniel, who received the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart in World War I, served in the 11th and 24th Infantry regiments at Fort Benning, commanded the 3rd Infantry Division in World War II, and became the Infantry School commandant and Infantry Center commander after World War II.
There are at least three statues on Marine bases also unofficially known as Iron Mike, including “Crusading for Right,” the statue of a World War I Marine at Quantico, Va., and others at Parris Island, S.C., and Belleau Wood, France.
At least 39 identical statues standing as memorials across America portraying a Spanish American War Soldier are named The Hiker and are also called Iron Mike by some locals.
There was another inspiration for the Follow Me Statue that dates back to 1920. A photograph of a Doughboy in the same position as the Follow Me statue appears on the cover of a central Georgia railroad booklet showing visitors the wonders of taking a train trip to visit the new Infantry School at Camp Benning. Though the uniform and rifle are different, and the upraised hand clutches a hand grenade, the pose is almost identical to the Korean War style of the later Follow Me statue. This is a common theme of memorials designed by E. M. Viquesney called “The Spirit of the American Doughboy.” Designed while Viquesney worked in Americus, Ga., these sculptures still exist in dozens of cities across the United States. While the uniform and rifle are different, it is still the timeless and iconic portrayal of the Infantryman leader encouraging his men to Follow Me!