Airborne Soldier Statue, Fort Bragg
The statue depicts a World War II-era paratrooper with one foot propped on a pile of rocks and holding a Thompson submachine gun. It was originally proposed by Lt. General Robert Sink as a tribute to airborne soldiers. The 15 feet tall bronze statue stands on a pink marble base four feet tall, eight feet wide and fifteen feet long. This statue is a replica of one created in 1961 made of polyester and steel. The original was restored and installed at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in downtown Fayetteville in 2011. The plaques on the base appear to be original to the 1961 statue as the smaller of the two describe the sculptor and builder of the original.
Front, large plaque: IRON MIKE/ IN HONOR OF/ AIRBORNE TROOPERS/ WHOSE COURAGE, /
DEDICATION, AND / TRADITIONS MAKE THEM/ THE WORLD’S FINEST/ FIGHTING SOLDIERS
Front, small plaque: SCULPTRESS LEAH HIEBERT / ASSISTANT / SCULPTER KENNETH J. KUNTSON / TECHNICIAN / & CONSTRUCTOR ZINTARS ZAMELIS
United States Army
September 23, 2005
35.148500 , -78.990500 View in Geobrowse
“Airborne Trooper Statue to Be Unveiled Saturday,” The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, NC), September 21, 1961, 1C
"Leah L Penner Hiebert," Find a Grave, findagrave.com, (accessed August 18, 2015) Link
"The Airborne Trooper-'Iron Mike'," Statues-Hither & Thither, statues.vanderkrogt.net, (accessed December 2, 2020) Link
Broadwell, Charles. “Have Gun, Have Jump Wings, Will Travel,” The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, NC), September 25, 2005
Maurer, Kevin. “Mike Is Home,” The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, NC), August 6, 2005
“Local Briefs,” The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, NC), September 22, 2005
“Monument to Airborne Unveiled,” The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, NC), September 24, 1961, 11A
“Statue Honoring Airborne Unveiled,” The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, NC), September 23, 1961, 1B
Grant from the Army Communities of Excellence Program
Maj. General Virgil L. Packett II, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Ft. Bragg was host to the dedication of the new Iron Mike. Packett said the statue symbolized the spirit of the Airborne and service to the country. He also noted that Iron Mike carries the posture of a paratrooper who appears to have had a long day. Also present was retired Sgt. Maj. James L. Runyon the model for the statue in 1960 and Dennis Hiebert son of the sculptor, Leah Hiebert.
The sculptor, Leah Hiebert was the wife of the deputy post chaplain Samuel L. Hiebert. She
studied painting and sculpture in Japan, Germany, Holland and the United States. In 1947 she
became the first western female to have a solo show in Korea. She had four of her sculptures in
the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art, the first American Woman so honored. She wrote three
books, one an autobiography titled 50 Journeys (1982) and one titled The Making of Iron Mike
(2006) published when she was 96.
Sgt. Major James L. Runyon dressed in World War II uniform and combat equipment modeled for the statue. He was intended by General Sink to resemble the artwork from the cover of Ross Carter’s book Those Devil’s in Baggy Pants.
Active duty military personnel aided the sculptor in construction of the original of the statue. The name of one of these men has come to light. Sgt. Edward L. Brown was reported to have helped weld the frame for the fiberglass version of the statue that now stands in front of the Airborne & Special Operations Museum.
Continuum Digital of Orlando Florida created a 3-D map of the original 1961 statue and used that to create a foam model. That model was sent to Bronze Services in Colorado for casting.
The statue is located on Fort Bragg military post in the traffic circle at Randolph and Armistead Street. Access to base without a military or Department of Defense identification is possible by requesting a temporary pass and having a background check performed at the Visitor Center located on All American Freeway. Photography is not permitted on base without permission of the Public Affairs Office.
Another bronze replica of the statue is located at Sainte- Mère-Église, France. It stands in a memorial park honoring United States airborne soldiers’ actions on the night of 5-6 June 1944 during the invasion of Normandy. It was dedicated on June 7, 1997.
The 1961 statue was moved from its original location at the Knox Street entrance of Ft. Bragg to its second location on Randolph Street in 1979. It had become a common target for vandals and anti-war protesters and was moved for its protection.
This 2005 statue is located in the traffic circle at Randolph and Armistead Streets, Ft. Bragg, NC