The moment was spontaneous…the doers were unknown – or so they seem…When Alfred Eisenstaedt snapped the ‘Kissing Sailor’, a photo of a US sailor kissing a nurse in New York’s Times Square, USA was in jubilation over then President Harry S. Truman’s announcement of the end of the war on Japan, Victory over Japan Day (V-J Day). A week later, it was among the series of pictures which appeared in Life magazine and from then on had become a cultural icon.
68 years and a larger-than-life statue after that poignant shot right after WWII, one of the many men who claimed to be that sailor in the photo, WWII veteran Carl ‘Moose’ Muscarello of Plantation, Florida, came to visit the landmark that marked that iconic kiss.
According to him, he was 18 years old at that time and was on leave from the Navy in New York. He was walking with a buddy along Times Square when the news about US’ victory over Japan broke out. having lost six friends who he grew up with in Brooklyn over the course of the war, he felt immense gratefulness that the war was over he started kissing most anyone within his sight.
“I was very, very happy,’ he said in an interview with WTSP. ‘I would kiss all of the girls who would stand still – I even kissed a couple of guys. I was just in a kissing mood, it was great.”
His story sounded so much alike with what Mr. Eisenstaedt, the photographer, recounted about how he came up with the picture:
“In Times Suare on V-J Day I saw a sailor running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight. Whether she was a grandmother, stout, thin, old, didn’t make a difference’ the photographer recalled in his book Eisenstaedt on Eisenstaedt.
‘I was running ahead of him with my Leica looking back over my shoulder but none of the pictures that were possible pleased me.
‘Then suddenly, in a flash, I saw something white 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 had worn a white uniform, the same. I took exactly four pictures. It was done within a few seconds.”
Tom Bozza, identified as the sailor in white uniform in the photo, also visited the statue the same time as Muscarello did.
“I was there amongst thousands of veterans who were sharing the day. The war was over and this gentleman was kissing the nurse,” Tom Bozza recalled.
Both Tom and Carl met that fateful V-J Day but both claimed that they have not met again until the their recent meeting while visiting the ‘Kissing Sailor’ statue.
For Carl, the said monument does not reflect a personal event in his life, rather, it was a general cry of relief that the war has indeed ended.
“That statue is not about me. It’s about what it represents – unconditional surrender. Everyone was happy the war was over,” he stated.
The 25-foot ‘Kissing Sailor’ sculpture in Sarasota, Florida was, however, not based on the Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photo but on a lesser known but very much the same photo taken by U.S. Navy photo journalist Victor Jorgensen at a different angle.
Many men and women laid claim over the identity of the sailor and the nurse in the picture over the years.