Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Nurse from Famous "Times Square Kiss" Photo Dies at 91

One of the many famous photographs of World War II is this one:  on VJ Day, August 14, 1945, a sailor kisses a nurse in Times Square, bending her backwards.  The photo depicts spontaneous joy over the end of the war.

The lady in the picture, Edith Shain, died yesterday in Santa Monica, California.  She was 91.

The identities of both the sailor and the nurse were unknown for many years.  Finally, in 1970, Edith Shain contacted the photographer, Alfred Eisenstaed, claiming to be the girl in the photo.  Several other women came forward with the same claim, but Shain's claim has never been seriously disputed.  She was a nurse in New York at the end of the war, and Eisenstaed said he believed that Shain was the woman he photographed.

However, the identity of the sailor was more problematic.  According to the UK Online, at least ten men have come forward to claim that they were the man in the picture.  One of them was Carl Muscarello, and Shain accepted his claim as true.  In later years he posed for pictures with Shain in Times Square to commemorate that historic kiss.

But not so fast.  Another man eventually came forward, insisting that it was he who was the famous Navy kisser.  He was Glenn McDuffie, who tried for years to prove that it was he in the famous photo.  His claims were roundly rejected, probably because belief had already gelled around Muscarello, and firm opinions are not easily changed.

However, McDuffie had a well-known forensic artist, Lois Gibson, of the Houston Police Department, take many photos of him kissing a pillow in a recreation of the event.  The U.K. Online quotes the Gibson's findings:
She compared the pictures using digital imaging techniques and precise measurements of his bone structure including his forehead, ears, wrists, knuckles and arms. "I am positive it's Glenn. What I do is usually a matter of life or death, so I don't mess around when I identify someone," she said.
The Sydney Morning Herald has the details on Gibson's analysis here, and quotes her view of other men who have claimed to be the kissing sailor:
"All other people who have come forward I have eliminated based on their facial bones," she said. "To me that's definitive. Everything is consistent. I'm as positive as you can be."
After viewing photos of both Muscarello and McDuffie, I feel that McDuffie is the real deal.  View the pics at the U.K. Online and judge for yourself.  More pics are below.


Side Notes:
I was always intrigued by the "BOND" sign in the famous picture.  I looked it up -- it was a men's clothing store, famous for its sale of men's suits with two pairs of trousers.  Bond began in 1933 and went out of business in 1979.  The "O" in BOND was also a clock that showed the time of day.  Here's another view of the Bond building in Times Square on VJ Day 1945.

 There is a BOND 45 restaurant in New York today that uses the old Bond name, and its neon sign also uses the "O" for a clock.  I love nostalgia!

It isn't surprising that several sailors believed they were the ones in the famous kiss scene.  There were many girls and sailors in Times Square that day and many kisses as well.  Once victory over Japan was announced, Times Square quickly filled with thousands of people -- see a photo of the crowd here.

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