The WWII Vet Who Became Famous for a Kiss

90-year-old Carl Muscarello still recalls the day of August 14, 1945. On that day, he took a starring role in the most iconic photo taken at the close of World War II.

Muscarello lives in Plantation, Florida, west of Fort Lauderdale.  For fifty years he has said that he is the sailor kissing a nurse in that photo taken in Times Square taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt.

“We went to New York, I had ten beers in my belly, I felt pretty good and I saw everybody kissing all the girls and I kissed the girls too and they took that picture,” Muscarello said.

Muscarello is the fourth of eight brothers and sisters.  He did not notice his picture taken at the time but knows that he was in Time Square on that day.  He also remembers being scolded by his mother when she saw the photo: “Don’t you know that if you French kiss women you’ll catch diseases?”

His mother gave birth to Muscarello on the kitchen table.  She recognized his birthmark on his right hand.

Fifty years later, Muscarello was encouraged by his family to go public with his role in the photo.  He met with Edith Shain, the nurse in the photo, in 1995.  Shain passed away in 2010.

Muscarello underwent questioning.  He answered much better than other people claiming to be in the photo.  Shain also endorsed him as the sailor in the picture. The two of them toured to promote the photo on television shows and public events.

18 years old at the time of the kiss, Muscarello was on a ship preparing to head to the Pacific to fight when word came out that the war had ended.  His superiors gave 72-hour furloughs to the crew.  Muscarello left the ship with $30 in his pocket ready to celebrate, Fox News Latino reported.

“Everybody was drunk. You had to be there to understand, it was the end of a terrible war. Everybody had a son, a brother, a cousin in the war. Some returned home, but unfortunately, others didn’t,” said Muscarello, who later became a New York police officer.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE