The “Kissing Sailor” image, in many ways, defined the heroism of the Greatest Generation. The photograph, taken on August 14, 1945 by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, portrays a U.S. Navy sailor passionately kissing a seemingly random woman in Times Square, New York City shortly before President Truman’s formal nationwide proclamation that evening of American military victory in Japan. As CBS News writes, it “became one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century.”
On Sunday, George Mendonsa, the Navy sailor identified as the titular “Kissing Sailor,” passed away. He would have turned 96 years old today. “He was very proud of his service and the picture and what it stood for,” said Mendonsa’s daughter, Sharon Molleur, as reported by NBC News. “Always, for many, many years later, it was an important part of his life.”
On Monday, the day after Mendonsa’s death, a prominent Sarasota, Florida statue based on the “Kissing Sailor” image was apparently vandalized by #MeToo partisans. NBC News reports:
The Unconditional Surrender statue in Sarasota, Florida — depicting the iconic image of a sailor kissing a woman in a nurse’s uniform in Times Square after the end of World War II — was vandalized Monday, only a day after the veteran in the photo, George Mendonsa, died at 95.
Officers responded at about 12:55 a.m. Tuesday to a report of a person spray-painting the statue, the Sarasota Police Department said in a statement.
When officers arrived, they found the words “#MeToo” in red covering the length of the woman’s left leg. The #MeToo movement supports the survivors of sexual abuse, assault and harassment.
The graffiti was subsequently removed.
Graffiti has been removed from the Unconditional Surrender statue. pic.twitter.com/dSrq1MbfsJ
— City of Sarasota (@CityofSarasota) February 19, 2019
Local Sarasota police do not currently have any strong leads as to the defacer(s), as Fox News reports. “There was no available surveillance video in the area that captured the incident. There are no known witnesses. It’s believed the incident occurred on Monday, February 18, 2019, between the mid-afternoon and evening hours, however, it is unknown exactly what time,” local police said in a released statement.
In a 2005 interview, Greta Zimmer Friedman — the dental assistant who Mendonsa kissed in the iconic photo — told the Library of Congress that she did not necessarily want to be kissed. Rather, she said at the time, “The guy just came over and kissed or grabbed. I felt he was very strong, he was just holding me tight, and I’m not sure I — about the kiss because, you know, it was just somebody really celebrating. But it wasn’t a romantic event. It was just an event of ‘thank God the war is over’ kind of thing because it was right in front of the sign.”
It is for this reason that the image has come to be seen in a less positive light in the #MeToo era. As CBS News claims, “Critics argue the photograph didn’t depict romance because Mendonsa, who said he was drinking, simply grabbed and kissed Friedman without knowing her. …Others said the image was symbolic of a time when men controlled women and normalized sexual assault.”
It now remains to be seen whether the vandalizer of Sarasota’s Unconditional Surrender statue was indeed a #MeToo activist.