As one of the most famous American World War II era photographs circulated again in celebration of the anniversary of Victory over Japan Day on Friday, the New York Daily News ran a piece on the “sinister shade” the photo has taken on, as a supposed example of “sexual assault.”
“V-J Day in Times Square,” a photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt, features an American sailor kissing a woman in a white uniform dress on Victory over Japan Day in Times Square, New York on August 14, 1945. The sailor, later identified as George Mendonsa, had just left from the USS The Sullivans (DD-537) and had joined the partying in the streets. In the midst of his gleeful intoxication, Mendonsa planted a kiss on a complete stranger, 21-year-old Greta Zimmer, and continued on his way.
Above: Eisenstadt with his iconic photo.
Unbeknownst to the two of them at the time, they were being photographed by a famous photojournalist. Eisenstaedt’s photo was published a week later in Life magazine in a section titled “Victory Celebrations,” featuring three additional kissing poses to celebrate relief from war in the United States. The image of a spontaneous kiss between the sailor and a young woman shortly before it was announced that the war on Japan was over became a national victory symbol in no time.
“I turned around and clicked the moment the sailor kissed the nurse,” Eisenstaedt wrote in his book, quoted by the NY Daily News. “If she had been dressed in a dark dress I would never have taken the picture. If the sailor had worn a white uniform, the same. I took exactly four pictures. It was done within a few seconds.”
But to some on the left, the image is not a symbol of victory but, rather, an example of the mainstreaming of sexual assault.
“The photo has also remained the subject of intense scrutiny,” writes Andy Martino in his article “How a V-J Day kiss in Times Square has taken on a sinister shade.” Martino continues by describing the origins of the kiss and the comments of the two individuals in the photo years later, presenting a London-based blogger’s “viral” post arguing that the iconic celebratory kiss was “nothing short of sexual assault.”
The accusation is based on modern guidelines “of what we would call consent” and an interview with the later-married Greta Zimmer Friedman. When reporters had asked Friedman about her intentions in kissing a married man in middle of Times Square in front of the man’s wife, she had responded that it was not her “choice to be kissed.”
“That guy just came over and grabbed!” she said, adding, “That man was very strong. I wasn’t kissing him. He was kissing me.”
Martino underscores the argument that the photo is “problematic,” and compares it to the modern-day sexual harassment charges against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes (because other prominent figures like Democrats Anthony Weiner and Bill Clinton are irrelevant to left-wing crybaby rants).
Zimmer was a dental hygienist at the time, but Mendonsa said he “had quite a few drinks,” and when he saw the figure of the woman he thought was a nurse, he had “considered her one of the troops.” Just out of war, Mendonsa had grown accustomed to the sight of nurses, whom he had so regularly watched work tirelessly to help his fellow veterans.
“Those nurses went right to work on these guys, and I mean those guys were hurting,” he said. “And when I saw what those nurses did that day, it stuck with me, I guess, for most of my life.”
Mendonsa told CBS News he does not think his actions at the time would be considered inappropriate today.
Though Friedman and Mendonsa appear to get along, as Martino’s article highlights, some on the Left don’t agree with their nonchalant response to the incident.
“(Mendonsa) is perfectly entitled to celebrate,” Martino quotes the viral blog posts. “However, this entitlement does not extend to his impinging on someone else’s bodily autonomy.”
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