The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo That Ended World War IIby Lawrence Verria, George Galdorisi
On August 14, 1945, Alfred Eisenstaedt took a picture of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square, minutes after they heard of Japan's surrender to the United States. Two weeks later LIFE magazine published that image. It became one of the most famous WWII photographs in history (and the most celebrated photograph ever published in the world's dominant photo-journal), a cherished reminder of what it felt like for the war to finally be over. Everyone who saw the picture wanted to know more about the nurse and sailor, but Eisenstaedt had no information and a search for the mysterious couple's identity took on a dimension of its own. In 1979 Eisenstaedt thought he had found the long lost nurse. And as far as almost everyone could determine, he had. For the next thirty years Edith Shain was known as the woman in the photo of V-J DAY, 1945, TIMES SQUARE. In 1980 LIFE attempted to determine the sailor's identity. Many aging warriors stepped forward with claims, and experts weighed in to support one candidate over another. Chaos ensued.
For almost two decades Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi were intrigued by the controversy surrounding the identity of the two principals in Eisenstaedt's most famous photograph and collected evidence that began to shed light on this mystery. Unraveling years of misinformation and controversy, their findings propelled one claimant s case far ahead of the others and, at the same time, dethroned the supposed kissed nurse when another candidate's claim proved more credible. With this book, the authors solve the 67-year-old mystery by providing irrefutable proof to identify the couple in Eisenstaedt's photo. It is the first time the whole truth behind the celebrated picture has been revealed.
The authors also bring to light the couple's and the photographer's brushes with death that nearly prevented their famous spontaneous Times Square meeting in the first place. The sailor, part of Bull Halsey's famous task force, survived the deadly typhoon that took the lives of hundreds of other sailors. The nurse, an Austrian Jew who lost her mother and father in the Holocaust, barely managed to escape to the United States. Eisenstaedt, a World War I German soldier, was nearly killed at Flanders.
"The authors have made an engaging and convincing argument, providing a wealth of information without lagging in pace as they unravel this intriguing true-life mystery. Their book will appeal to armchair historians, armchair detectives, and anyone who would like to know the story behind one of the most beloved photographs in American history." Library Journal
“What a wonderful detective story about a kissing sailor and a beautiful nursethe most famous couple celebrating the end of WWII. Famous but anonymousuntil now. I loved it.” Tom Brokaw, author of The Time of Our Lives: A Conversation About America and The Greatest Generation
"...very special attempt to resolve the true romantic odyssey…Reading more like a well-contrived mystery than a romantic tale, the authors threat their way through minefields of inaccurate information and up blind alleys until finally, miraculously locating the real couple decades later. This is an exciting fun read that finally solves one of WWII’s unsolved mysteries, and yes, you will be as surprised with the ending as was this reviewer, who, as a war-time teenager actually witnessed this frantic celebration in Times Square.” Sea Classics
“The authors deliver a convincing conclusion to their romantic detective tale about the last day of WWII and the photo that ‘savored what a long-sought peace feels like.’ ” Publishers Weekly
“The authors not only do a great job in following the clues that led to the undisputable claim that Mendonsa and Zimmer are, in fact, the kissing couple, but they also convey the euphoria that swept the country when the war ended.” WWII History
- Naval Institute Press
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Meet the Author
Lawrence Verria is the Social Studies Department Chair at North Kingstown High School, and Rhode Island's 2000 Teacher of the Year. During his twenty-nine year career as a history teacher, he served as an educational consultant to Frontline (PBS) and as a spokesperson for The Watson Institute for International Studies' Choices for the 21st Century Education Program at Brown University. He is the recipient of the Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Award and Rhode Island College's Evelyn Walsh Prize for excellence in history studies.
Captain George Galdorisi, USN (Ret.) is a naval aviator who began his writing career in 1978 with an article in Proceedings. His Navy career included four command tours and five years as a carrier strike group chief of staff. He has written seven books previously, including the New York Times best-seller, Tom Clancy Presents: Act of Valor, the novelization of the Bandito Brothers/Relativity Media film starring U.S. Navy SEALs. He is currently the director of the Corporate Strategy Group at the Navy’s C4ISR Center of Excellence in San Diego, California. For more information on The Kissing Sailor and other books by Capt. Galdorisi, please visit www.georgegaldorisi.com.
David Hartman was the original, and for over 11 years, host of Good Morning America. He writes and produces numerous programs about the history of military aviation and space and has earned two national News and Documentary Emmys for writing and the Aviation/Space Writers Association Journalism Award.
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In The Kissing Sailor, the authors tell the story of the iconic photo from the World War II era: a sailor kissing a woman in a white uniform on August 14, 1945 – VJ day – in Times Square. Decades later, a woman came forth declaring she was the nurse in the photo and for decades after that, she was thought to be the woman in the photo. When Life magazine asked for the sailor to come forth, many did. At various times, different of the sailor “candidates” was thought to be the man. But the magazine left it to others to figure it out. It was a real circus. All the hoopla surrounding who the two kissers in the photo REALLY were could have been avoided had Alfred Eisenstaedt, the man who took the photo, followed the most basic procedures required of photojournalists. Getting the “who, what, when, where, why and how” (the five Ws and one H) was part of the job that was drilled into my head as a beginning photojournalism student. The authors weigh in on the side of the two people they believe were the man and woman in the photo and the evidence they present makes a compelling case for George Mendonsa and Greta Friedman, who are presented as the true photo subjects from the beginning of the book. Although The Kissing Sailor might have been more tightly edited, it presents an interesting tale and a quick read.