Blakely Durham Professor Perkins ENGL 1302 8 May 2013 Sailor Kissing Nurse Marks the End of World War II World War II was a very iconic and memorable time in American history. Because the war lasted for nearly seven years, the ending was an absolute celebration. The United Sates had come out on top and citizens all around the country rejoiced for weeks. Two people in particular, a sailor and a nurse, celebrated with a kiss. The kiss was photographed and is now known as “Sailor Kissing Nurse,” while also becoming one of the most highly influential pictures ever taken in American history.
This photo not only marked the end of World War II (WWII), but it also gave Americans the sense of a new post-war beginning. The “Sailor Kissing Nurse” picture features a young man in a sailor’s uniform holding a young women in a nurse’s uniform and kissing her passionately. The picture is obviously taken in an earlier time period because not only is it black and white but also all the clothing bystanders are wearing look like those wore in the 1940s. The man and woman are surrounded by surprised yet jubilant fellow Americans.
The background insinuates a huge celebration which makes the kiss ever more significant. At the time, the photo was taken during a chaotic and exciting time period in American history. While taking the picture, the photographer was unaware that the “Sailor Kissing Nurse” photograph would become of the most iconic pictures ever taken and become known as the picture that symbolized the end of World War II (WWII). For many Americans, WWII was a very long and difficult time period. The nation struggled as thousands of men were deployed to service and women were left to care for their families.
Rations were given to citizens in order to ensure that there was enough food and supplies to ship overseas to the soldiers. Women were beginning to really become a part of the labor force because they had to take over the men’s jobs because so many of them were away fighting. Thousands of women also went overseas to become was nurses to help the wounded soldiers. This was a very important time period for women because they were finally starting to seem like more than just housewives. Many of them worked full time along with providing for their families.
Despite the struggles, the war became a way to bring the nation together to fight for one common goal. World War II was essentially a nation-wide collaboration. The economy boomed as more jobs were created to make war supplies and weapons for the soldiers and Americans worked together to win the war. Everyone, whether they were fighting, working or helping was focused on the ultimate goal of beating the Nazis along with the rest of the Axis Powers and achieving peace. The United States dealt with the pain and sacrifices of the war for so long that when it was over, Americans were overwhelmed with excitement.
Despite bringing the country together, the war brought more bad than good. Thus, the end of the war became an extremely memorable event in American history which is why the sailor kissing the nurse is recognized nation-wide. As the Japanese announced their surrendering from the war on August 14th, 1945, over 700,000 people rushed to Times Square to celebrate. George Mendonsa, the sailor photographer, was one of many ecstatic about the wars end. Mendonsa was a war sailor who had recently been on leave from the war.
He claims the kiss was due to pure “excitement of the war being over” (Daily Mail Reporter). The Japanese surrendering was so important to Mendonsa because he was a war sailor during the time of Pearl Harbor. His excitement when he discovered Japan was surrendering was even greater due to the horrible attack they performed on America. Mendonsa did not know the nurse at the time and in fact was on a date with his girlfriend, now wife, Rita Mendonsa. The scene of Times Square, however, was so crazy that Mendonsa ended up grabbing the nurse and kissing her.
The nurse, later identified as Greta Zimmer Friedman, was just as excited. Friedman was discovered to be the iconic nurse shortly after the photograph was published. She claimed that Mendonsa was a guy she couldn’t forget “grabbing [her]” (Daily Mail Reporter). She said that Mendonsa was “kissing her, [she] wasn’t kissing him” (Daily Mail Reporter). Friedman had only lived in the United Sates about six years when this photograph was taken. She fled from her home country, Austria, with her sister in 1939, shortly after the war had started.
She worked as a war nurse and came to Times Square also in celebration of the war ending. Friedman’s kiss with Mendonsa became the most memorable celebration of the end of the war. Although she did not know him or what was even going on, the kiss became an iconic symbol and she appreciated that. The kiss shared between Mendonsa and Friedman on that fateful day marked the end of an era and of a long and vicious war. Without knowing the back story of these two, it seems as if they are dating or possibly in love.
After learning that the two didn’t even know each other, it makes the kiss even more iconic. Because the pair had never even seen each other before the kiss, the picture becomes even more of a symbol of the pure joy and happiness that people had when they discovered that the Japanese had surrendered and the was over. The United States had struggled and fought for so long that when the news hit that the war had finally ended, it excited Mendonsa so much that he kissed a stranger. The people in the background of the picture are also obviously excited.
The picture gives a sense of chaos and clarity. Although the scene looks to be very chaotic with all the people and excitement, the couple kissing in the middle show the clarity. The war was finally over and Americans had reached their peace they long awaited. It was clear that the war had come to an end and the country could final breathe again. The kiss shared between the two strangers was even more than just an end, it also symbolized the begging of a new era. Mendonsa and Friedman in a sense gave Americans a new beginning.
Their photographed picture ended the war and stared a new post-was era for America. Americans were now able to reunite with their families as soldiers came home and the nation was essentially back to its normal functioning state. When a country is it war, many sacrifices and tough times are involved. Now that WWII was finally over, the sacrifices and tough times because of the war were over as well. Mendonsa and Friedman look incredibly happy in their picture and symbolized the feelings of millions of Americans on that fateful day.
Across the country people were kissing and hugging their loved ones in celebration, the sailor and the nurse just happened to be photographed. With such an iconic photograph, Mendosa and Friedman were eager to tell the world they were the two pictured. Regardless of who the two people were however, the story behind the kiss is what makes it so significant. The pure excitement and joy that the two had in common over the end of the war was what lead to one of the most iconic kisses ever.
People across the nation recognize the photo as the end of WWII. Despite implied excitement across the country, Mendonsa and Friedman’s kiss proved that the war really was over and America was victorious. The “Sailor Kissing Nurse” photograph is a widely recognized picture due to its significance in American history. The kiss shared between the two symbolized the end of WWII and the defeat of the Japanese and the rest of the Axis Powers. The picture also gave Americans hope for a new beginning full of peace and rid of war. Works Cited