Wednesday 15 Jul, 2015

The Mystery and History of a Kiss

No matter what kind of stories you’re into – war, love or mystery – this is one story that is sure to intrigue all. I’m sure you are all familiar with the iconic photograph, “The Kiss” taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt. As legend goes, the American sailor kissed the war nurse in the middle of Times Square just moments after President Truman announced that Japan had surrendered and that World War II had finally come to an end.

This photo has turned into a beautiful piece of history, but inside this American novelty hides several mysteries. Perhaps the most popular question is, “who are they,” a question still unanswered today. As you can imagine, there have been many folks who have come forward and claimed to be the man or woman in the photo. But over the decades historians have struggled to confirm who these two people are and what was taking place in that moment.Compass Mystery Kiss PhotoIn 2012 “The Kissing Sailor” was published, a book written by Lawrence Veirria and George Galdorisi. The two claim that the celebrated sailor is George Mendonsa, who was in fact a Navy Quartermaster, and that the woman was not an army nurse, as we all imagined, but a dental assistant from Queens. But their findings were never proven to be true, and maybe that’s a good thing. Over the years we’ve all come to know and love this photo, and perhaps leaving it to our imaginations to interpret is what makes this photo’s story seem so special.

Although the identities of these individuals may never be solved, another mystery behind the photo was recently uncovered. There have been assumptions that this photo was taken before the end of the war was declared, in fact even Eisenstaedt could not tell you what time the photo was taken. Gloria Bullard who was a nursing student in the Big Apple at this time, claimed to have seen the kiss on her walk home from school before President Truman made his announcement at 7:03 p.m. As it turns out she is right!

Donald Olson who is currently a physics professor at Texas State gathered several of his colleagues and set out to determine whether this photo was taken before or after President Truman declared an end to World War II. Olson, with the help of Steven Kawaler and Russel Doescher, has been solving the exact times and locations of historical photos for quite some time.

The trio was able to determine that the photo was taken around 5:51 p.m., a little over an hour before the President’s announcement. The team was able to conclude this by studying a shadow that was cast on a building within the photo. After carefully examining the placement of the shadow, they were able to determine that the sun’s rotation had to be at a specific point to create that shadow. While excitement in the photo was clearly running high, the kiss actually took place a little more than an hour before the announcement was made.

The end of World War II was a great day in American history and this picture serves as a memory of that. No matter whom the people are or when it was taken, this piece of art serves a bigger purpose – it represents a feeling of relief and happiness felt by people all over the country.

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