Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photo of a sailor on grabbing a nurse and planting a kiss on her in the middle of Times Square summed up the euphoria felt by all Americans on Aug. 14, 1945 when the Japanese surrendered, finally bringing World War II to a close.
Ever since Life magazine published it, the photo has been an enduring image of patriotism, as iconic as the flag raising on Iwo Jima, the allied landing on D-Day and General McArthur’s triumphant return to the Philippines.
The original can’t be duplicated, but on the 65th anniversary of V-J Day, the so-called “Greatest Generation” will be celebrated with a Times Square event that will include a recreation of the famous kiss and the unveiling of a 26-foot replica of the sailor and the nurse. Indeed, they’re calling the event a “kiss-in,” meaning that the public is invited to get into the act.
The first 250 kissers will get complimentary sailor caps or roses. But the couple that is deemed the “Most Symbolic” or “Best Themed” will win grand prize consisting of a two-day stay at The W New York at Times Square, dinner at B. Smith restaurant and tickets to a Broadway show. Other prizes to runner-ups will also be awarded.
The event is sponsored by Maybelline and is being put on by The Times Square Alliance.
Incidentally, the couple in the original Eisenstaedt photo were never officially identified. Over the years, many men and women have claimed credit. However, the nurse was probably Edith Shain, who died this past June at the age of 91.
Eisenstaedt met her in 1979. All he had to do was look at Shain’s beautiful legs and he knew that she was the one whose image he captured on what must have been the happiest day in the 20th century.