I came across this article, I could not help myself but reminisced on this popular iconic picture, most of us seniors must have seen or familiar with this “KISSING SAILOR”
Many of you have seen the iconic image of a sailor sweeping a nurse off her feet while they get lost in a kiss. We have all at some point in our lives looked at this picture in awe as we admire the two love birds celebrating the U.S. victory over Japan, also known as V-J Day. It is one of the most enduring photos from the 20th century, signifying the end of World War II.
But many of us have wondered – who is this sailor and his beloved nurse? It turns out there is a little more to the story than we thought.
The first thought, of course, is to ask the photographer himself to shed light on this mystery. Albert Eisenstaedt was a photographer for Life magazine, and the man behind it all. However, because of the chaos in the streets, he could not tell you who he captured on that victorious day, according to the article.They Didn’t Know Each Other
The iconic photo known as “The Kissing Sailor” was taken in 1945 on VJ Day, at the end of World War II, by Life magazine photographer Albert Eisenstaedt.
It further says that although the photo known as The Kissing Sailor was taken in 1945, it didn’t become popular until the 1960s. Before its fame, editors already had discovered the woman in front of the lens – or at least they thought they did. For years, the nurse was thought to be a woman named Edith Shain, but in reality it was Greta Zimmer Friedman, who was a dental assistant, not a nurse. It turns out they had dressed very similarly. As soon as Friedman saw the picture, she wrote to Life to make her claim. Even though editors believed they had identified Shain, further research indicated Friedman was, in fact, the true “nurse” in the famous photograph.
Friedman, 21 at the time, was working at a nearby dental office when she heard that the war was ending. She walked right down to Times Square to see for herself, and the rumors were true. Suddenly, she was grabbed by a sailor and smooched on the lips. He was so happy he didn’t have to go back to war, that he took it upon himself to show his gratitude toward a nurse by planting a kiss on one. Friedman also said she received a peck on the cheek from another sailor on the way home.
SO WHO IS THE SAILOR?
The happy sailor is thought to be George Mendonsa, who was a Navy quartermaster on leave from the Pacific theater. He didn’t see the picture until about 20 years after it was taken. Multiple other men were thought to be the sailor, but Mendonsa is the most well-known.
Why? It turns out, there’s someone else in the picture – Mendonsa’s date, Rita Petry, his future wife. They say she’s the woman “photobombing” the pic from behind the sailor’s right arm, in about four snapshots that were taken at different angles. She and Mendonsa were in Times Square for the same reason as Friedman, and out of happiness, Mendonsa grabbed what he thought was the closest nurse he could find to celebrate. It was not a romantic gesture, but a celebratory event that was taking place.
Did this eminent photo cause an end to their relationship? Interviews with Petry claim that the kiss never bothered her. It was just a happy day, she said.
Throughout the years, some 20 men have claimed to be the sailor, and three women say they were the nurse. Though various accounts continue to exist of this amorous moment, everyone is free to make up their own mind.
What’s indisputable is that the war was over, victory had been claimed, and this picture exemplified it perfectly.
In fact, VJ Day in Times Square, a photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt, was published in Life in 1945 with a caption “In New York’s Time Square a white cladded girl clutches her purse and skirt as an uninhibited sailor plants his lips squarely on hers”. It was also known as VDay and the Kiss.
At those times, kissing was a favorite pose encouraged by media photographers of service personnel during the war, but Eisenstaedt was photographing a spontaneous event that occurred in Times Square soon before the announcement of the end of the with Japan was made by U.S. President Harry S. Truman at seven o’clock.
According to Donald W. Olson and his researchers, the mysterious photograph was taken at 5:51 pm E.T and was taken with a Leica Illa camera. Because its was taken rapidly and with changing events during the celebrations, Eisenstaedt did not have an opportunity to get the names and details.
The photograph does not clearly show the face of either person involved, and numerous people have claimed to be the subjects. The photograph was shiot just south of 45th Street looking north from a location where Broadway and Seventh Avenue converge.
In two different books he wrote, Alfred Eisenstaedt gave two slightly different accounts of taking the photograph and of its nature, as follows:
“In Times Square on VJ Day, I saw a sailor running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight. Whether she was a grandmother, stout, thin, old, did not make a difference. I was running ahed of him with my Leica looking back over my shoulder but none of the pictures were possible pleased me. Then suddenly, in a flash, I saw something with being grabbed. I turned around and clicked the moment the sailor kissed the nurse. If she had been dressed in a dark dress I would never have taken the picture. If the sailor worn a white uniform, the same.Only one is right, on account of the balance. In the others the emphasis is wrong : the sailor on the left side is either too small or too tall. People tell me that when I am in heaven they will remember this picture.”On another story, he narrated it as :
“I was walking through the crowds on VJ Day, looking for pictures. I noticed a sailor coming my way. He was grabbing every female he could find and kissing them all : young girls and old ladies alike. Then I noticed the nurse, standing in that enormous crowd. I focused on her, and just as I would hope, the sailor came along, grabbed the nurse, and bent down to kiss her. Now if this girl hadn’t been a nurse, if she’d been dressed dark clothes, I wouldn’t have had a picture. The contrast between her white dress and the sailor’s dark uniform gives the photograph its extra impact.”
The rest is history, as it became a cultural icon overnight and by establishing his copyright, Eisenstaedt carefully controlled the rights to it, only allowing a limited number of reproductions which determined how it could be used.
The original interpretations of the photo centered around the jubilation of the VJ day celebrations. Art critic Michael Kimmelman summarized the composition in 1977 as reflective of that mood: the sailor representing returining troops, the nurse to represent those who would welcome them home, and the Times Square stood for home.
Since then, bloggers in 2015’s have called the photo documentation of a type of normalized sexual assault. The people pictured in the photograph did not previously know one another. Drunk at the time of the photograph, the sailor is shown kissing an unwilling partner. The widely agreed upon identity of the female subject in the photo, dental assistant Greta Zimmer Friedman, had also explicitly expressed that the kiss in question was not a consensual act.
MY PERSONAL VIEW
However it may be interpreted but if it happens here in Philippines, the leftist groups like Gabriela, Kababaihan Party, Human Rights for Women, etc, would have shouted “male chauvinism” , disrespect to women, subordinate to men, and perhaps even rape. The rightist would love it, and may even praise it as “the kissing sailor and the kissable nurse”.
For me, this scene reminds me of our struggling OFW’s. The sailor being a Filipino, the nurse a Filipina. With so many hundred thousands out there, and should there be a jubilation, if ever and after a World War 3 happens, the probability that the next partners taken in this type of scenario could be them. .
Since no one knows the real identity of that “Kissing Sailor” seventy years ago, we might as well claim that he too could be a Filipino sailor.