Saturday, August 13, 2005
A kiss is just a kiss - but not this kiss.
The photograph of the exuberant kiss by a sailor on the lips of a surprised nurse in Times Square remains, 60 years later, an iconic image of the day the Second World War ended. "It was a very long kiss," Edith Shain, who says she is the nurse in the photo, recalled Thursday. "It was like a dance step, the way he laid me over in his arms." Shain said she closed her eyes and never looked at the sailor. "I just got lost in the moment," said Shain, now an 87-year-old great-grandmother from Santa Monica, Calif. To Shain's delight, a life-size colour sculpture by Seward Johnson based on the photograph was unveiled Thursday in bustling Times Square. It will be displayed through Monday. Shain recalled the pandemonium Aug. 14, 1945, VJ-Day, the day of victory for the Allied forces over Japan, when people grabbed anyone and hugged and kissed each other. "I let him kiss me because he had been in war and he fought for me," Shain said of the sailor. "I only wish now I had had a conversation with him or asked his name." Unbeknownst to Shain, the smooch was snapped by Life magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt. It was featured in the magazine the following week. Shain, then 27, said she recognized herself when she saw the photograph but didn't tell anyone because she was "too embarrassed." Soon after the photo ran, she moved to California, married twice and had three children. She gave up nursing and taught kindergarten for 30 years. In 1979, she told Eisenstaedt in a letter that she was the nurse in his photo. She said Eisenstaedt, who died in 1995, flew out to California to interview her and confirmed that she was indeed the nurse. But the sailor's identity remains a mystery. More than 20 men have come forward through the years claiming to be the kisser. One went so far as to have digital images of his face taken to create a 3-D model, which was then de-aged and transferred to the face on a copy of the kiss photograph - and he claimed it was a match. But Shain, who said she was kissed by only one sailor that day, thinks he will never be identified. "There were so many people kissing," she said, "I think they all believe they are right." Edith Shain, who claims to be the nurse in the photograph being kissed by a sailor during the celebration of the Allied victory ending the Second World War, poses with a sculpture of the event by Seward Johnson in New York's Times Square.