Appreciating all that makes America special

History: VJ Day in Times Square

A number of people have come forward over the years, claiming to be either the sailor or the nurse in this iconic photo. It happened so quickly, and the scene became so chaotic, that photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt was unable to get their names. Uploaded by

It’s a thing of wonderment when a photographer can capture the mood of an entire nation in a moment of spontaneous excitement. When a great photographer like Alfred Eisenstaedt accomplishes it and publishes it in the pages of Life Magazine, the country’s leader in photojournalism, it achieves iconic status.

Alfred Eisenstaedt, by Mark Lennihan, AP.

It was early evening on August 14, 1945, and President Truman had just announced Japan’s surrender, and people began to flock to Times Square to celebrate. Right before the streets became crowded with revelers, Eisenstaedt saw his opportunity developing. The sailor was “running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight,” Eisenstaedt said. “Whether she was a grandmother, stout, thin, old, didn’t make any difference.”

The memorable kiss between the sailor and the nurse has been a subject of curiosity ever since, because Eisenstaedt didn’t have the opportunity to get the subjects’ names. Dozens of people have laid claim to that distinction over the years, but the identities are destined to remain unverified. You have to love Life’s caption to the photo: In New York’s Times Square a white-clad girl clutches her purse and skirt as an uninhibited sailor plants his lips squarely on hers.


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