Wednesday, August 14, 2013


August 14, 2013


New York City (JFK+50) Sixty-eight years ago today, August 14, 1945, the largest crowd in history jammed into Times Square here in the Big Apple to celebrate the surrender of Japan.

There were many hugs and kisses about Times Square, but the one best remembered was between a sailor and a nurse that was captured by photographers for posterity.

The most famous of the photographs was made by Alfred Eisenstaed and published the following day in the New York Times and later in Life Magazine.

Since that picture is still protected by copyright laws, JFK+50 cannot post it, but another shot of the same scene by Lt. Victor Jorgensen and titled "Kissing the War Goodbye,"  is part of the National Archives collection which you see below.

             "Kissing the War Goodbye"
                Times Square, NY City
                     August 14, 1945
         Photo by Lt. Victor Jorgensen
            National Archives Image

Neither photographer was able to get the names of the sailor and the nurse, but in 1978, Edith Shain, who was 27 years old in 1945, wrote to Mr. Eisenstaed identifying herself as the girl in his iconic photograph.

Edith Shain was born in Tarrytown, NY on July 29, 1918 and graduated from New York University.  She moved to Los Angeles shortly after the war.

She delayed coming forward because she thought "the kiss" to be less than "dignified," but at the age of 60, she decided "times had changed."

Ms. Shain described the circumstances as...

"The happiness was indescribable.  It was a very long kiss."

Edith Shain died in June 2010.

As far as the sailor, we don't seem to know his identity.  Richard Goldstein of the New York Times wrote "many men have claimed to be the sailor."

           "Unconditional Surrender"
Photo by David A. Brandenburg (2007)
                   US Navy Photo

President Harry Truman announced the surrender at his news conference at the White House at 7 p.m. August 14, 1945.

The President said...

"I have received this afternoon a message from the Japanese government (which) I deem...a full acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration which specifies the unconditional surrender of Japan.  In the reply, there is no qualification."

 President Truman's News Conference
        Oval Office at The White House
                     August 14, 1945
                          NARA Photo

Mr. Truman went on to acknowledge that arrangements were being made for the signing of surrender documents ASAP and that General Douglas MacArthur would receive the surrender along with high ranking British, Russian and Chinese officers.

The President counseled that "VJ Day" would have to wait until the surrender ceremony was held.

Nevertheless, VJ Day has been applied to three dates, August 14, when the news of the surrender came to the United States, August 15, when the announcement was made by the Emperor in Japan, and September 2, when the formal signing of surrender documents took place in Tokyo Bay aboard the USS Missouri.

But as soon as the news came through, on August 14 or 15, 1945, there were celebrations all over the world.   One of them was near our home in East Tennessee at a place called Oak Ridge.

                 "VJ Day in Oak Ridge"
                  Oak Ridge, Tennessee
                      August 14, 1945
                 Photo by Ed Westcott
                 American Museum of
            Science and Energy Image


"Edith Shain Who Said Famous Kiss Came Her Way Dies at 91," by Richard Goldstein, New York Times, June 24, 2010,

The American Presidency Project,