The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo that Ended World War II
Naval Institute Press
, 2012 - History
- 267 pages
On August 14, 1945, Alfred Eisenstaedt took a picture of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square, minutes after they had learned of Japan’s surrender to the United States. <em>LIFE</em> magazine published that photograph two weeks later. From then onward everyone who saw the picture knew what it felt like when World War II ended. They wanted to know more. However, Eisenstaedt spoke neither to the nurse or the sailor, and recorded no notes of the occurrence. Mystery surrounded Time Square’s most cherished moment. <br><br>In the coming years, Eisenstaedt’s photo grew in fame and popularity. In 1979 Eisenstaedt thought he discovered the long lost nurse in his V-J Day photograph. He did not. But, for the next thirty years almost everyone assumed Edith Shain was the woman that the assertive World War II sailor kissed. In 1980 <em>LIFE</em> attempted to determine the sailor’s identity. The campaign confused matters more than they clarified them. Soon afterward <em>LIFE</em> stepped aside from the wave they helped put into motion. They decided the sailor would remain anonymous. The void presented an irresistible opportunity for former World War II sailors to explain their way into the famous image. Many aging warriors made persuasive arguments to support their claims. <br><br>While <em>LIFE</em> took a backseat to the growing controversy, experts weighed in to support one candidate over another. The authorities’ opinions differed. Their forwarded proof and testimony became entangled. Claimant kissing sailors’ declarations turned combative. <br><br>Some readers supported Carl Muscarello. Others thought Ken McNeel was the kissing sailor. Many believed Glenn McDuffie to be the kissing sailor. But most who read about the competing claims didn’t know what to think. Chaos ensued. The real kissing sailor aged. A national treasure’s story went untold. <br><br>Between 2007 and 2011, Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi undertook a comprehensive study to determine the real kissing sailor’s identity and share the story of the kiss. The gathered evidence propelled one claimant kissing sailor’ case far ahead of the others, and dethroned the supposed kissed nurse. Another lesser-known female candidate’s claims proved more credible. <em> The Kissing Sailor </em>calls attention to the overwhelming forces that plotted to prevent the photographed meeting. A war, a typhoon and genocide tried to slaughter the photograph’s three main participants. However, the photographer, the sailor and the dental assistant survived the destructive powers that killed millions. On the day World War II ended, the spared and the saved crossed paths in Times Square.<br><br>Until now, no one knew the whole truth behind one of the world’s most celebrated pictures. <em>The Kissing Sailor</em> tells the story of a photograph, a place, a publication, pretenders and proof. When overlaid, an ageless tale of survival, fate and perseverance comes into clear focus. The view is most befitting of Alfred Eisenstaedt’s beloved image.