THE MYSTERY OF A FAMOUS KISS SOLVED?
Immediately after President Truman announced Japan’s surrender in World War II,
at 7:03 p.m. on August 14, 1945, amid the crowds celebrating victory in Times Square,
an American sailor shared a passionate kiss with a nurse who was passing by. Or, at least,
that’s how the story went.
In fact, as reported by the New York Time
s in 2010, Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous photo
“The Kiss” might have been taken hours earlier. Gloria Bullard, who was in Times Square that
day, claimed that she had seen the pair who were in the photograph kiss. However, in her
eighties, when interviewed by the New York Times
, she said that she had returned home on
August 14 by dusk. As her house was 40 miles from Times Square, a long train ride away, she
can’t have been in New York as late as 7 p.m.
There were also some other doubts as to the circumstances in which the photo was taken.
Online comments under the New York Times
article pointed to a distinctive shadow that
appears on one of the buildings in the photo, cast by another building, now identified as
the Astor Hotel. Three academics set out to examine the length and direction of that shadow
to determine the time the photo was taken. They found out that the sun must have been
“at azimuth 270 degrees and at an altitude of +22.7 degrees” in order to create such a shadow.
It could only have achieved that position on the day in question at 5:51 p.m., much earlier than
when the victory was announced.
Although the scientists’ detective work didn’t solve the mystery of the kissing couple’s identity,
it helped to eliminate dozens of people who had claimed to have been in the photo.
The photographer himself had tried to establish the couple’s identity, and in 1979,
he announced that he had found the long-lost nurse. For the next thirty years, Edith Shain was
thought to be the woman in the photo. But Eisenstaedt’s attempts to determine the sailor’s
identity failed. It was Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi who provided ultimate proof of
the identity of the couple in their book The Kissing Sailo
r. They identified the man in the photo
as George Mendonsa and excluded Edith Shain as the nurse he kissed. They concluded
without any doubt that the woman was Greta Zimmer, a dental assistant from Queens.
Why did Edith Shain claim to be the nurse who was kissed? It’s hard to say. The most credible
explanation is simply that she wanted her moment in the limelight. Can we be sure that the last
word about the mysterious photo has been said?
adapted from www.history.com