Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Unconditional Surrender The Kiss" Statue is Back in Sarasota, the Statue Depicts the Famous Times Square Photo Taken on VJ Day.

Popular statue is back on Sarasota bayfront; SARASOTA, Oct 22, 2008 - It's back by popular demand. The giant statute of the sailor kissing a nurse started going back up on Sarasota's bayfront Tuesday. It will be there through the end of March next year. The statue is made out of aluminum instead of the resin, like the one before. It will be able to withstand winds from a category 3 hurricane. An anonymous donor came up with the money to bring it back to Sarasota. A private citizens group is now working to raise $700,000 to keep the statue here permanently. The 25-foot tall statue, which was placed in Times Square to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. The statue was in Sarasota, Florida, in 2005, then moved 3,000 miles to San Diego, California, in 2006. Now they’ve returned east to Sarasota, and this time their Florida fans hope that it’s for keeps. Passionate reaction to Johnson's "Unconditional Surrender" ranged from couples who identified with the figures and wanted their picture taken beneath the statue, to anti-war "Jackass" protesters who marked it with graffiti, to a Sarasota citizens movement's objection to it for aesthetic reasons (obstructed their view of the Sarasota Bay).

Art critics hated Unconditional Surrender when it first appeared in Sarasota, and hated it in San Diego too. But the public loves to imitate the big smoochers wherever they appear. "The Kiss" statue in Sarasota is a depiction of the famous Life magazine photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt. "I let him kiss me because he had been in war and he fought for me," Nurse Edith Cullen Shain said of the sailor. One of the most famous photographs ever published by Life, V–J day in Times Square was shot in Times Square on August 14, 1945.  See his web page and photos at Alfred Eisenstaedt page.

Alfred Eisenstaedt was in the square taking candids when he spotted a sailor "running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight," he later explained. "Whether she was a grandmother, stout, thin, old, didn't make any difference. I was running ahead of him with my Leica looking back over my shoulder... Then suddenly, in a flash, I saw something white being grabbed. I turned around and clicked the moment the sailor kissed the nurse." Eisenstadt was very gratified and pleased with this enduring image, saying: "People tell me that when I am in heaven they will remember this picture."

The participants in the kiss were never confirmed by Eisenstaedt, whose notes on the photo were not found after his death in 1995. Life, however, accepted nurse Edith Cullen Shain's claim to this honor in a handwritten letter to Eisenstaedt 35 years later. Shain was 27 on V-J Day. Over 20 men have claimed to be the sailor, but none has been positively identified. The sailor was identified by a team of volunteers at the Naval War College in August 2005 as George Mendonça, of Newport, Rhode Island, although many other men have claimed the honor.

Shain once said she believed the man to be former New York City police detective Carl Muscarello, but recanted that statement in 2005. Houston Police biometrics expert Lois Gibson identified the sailor in the picture as Glenn McDuffie after conducting a thorough forensic analysis in which she conclusively identified McDuffie, while also conclusively excluding Mendonça and Muscarello.

Bill Warner
Private Investigator