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Sailor In Iconic V-J Day Times Square Photo Dies At 86

Times Square Kiss

The man who apparently was the male half of one of the most iconic photos of the World War II era died earlier this week at the age of 86:

A Texas man thought to be the US Navy sailor kissing a nurse in an iconic end of World War Two photo has died.

Glenn McDuffie died aged 86 at a nursing home in Dallas on Sunday, his daughter said.

McDuffie’s claim to be the man in the famed VJ day photo was supported by a police forensic artist’s analysis.

Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt took the image as the news of Japan’s surrender filtered through New York’s Times Square on 14 August 1945.

McDuffie had told US media that he was changing subway trains when he heard that Japan had surrendered.

“I was so happy. I ran out in the street,” said McDuffie, who was then 18 and on his way to visit his girlfriend.

“And then I saw that nurse,” he said.

“She saw me hollering and with a big smile on my face… I just went right to her and kissed her.”

The nurse in the photograph was believed to be a woman named Edith Shain, who died in June of 2010 at the age of 91

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Jim Henley says:

    It’s worth keeping in mind that the iconic picture captures sexual assault. McDuffie didn’t know the nurse; she didn’t consent to the kiss; and according to a later interview, she was freaked out by it.

    McDuffie was obviously in the grip of strong emotion, but that’s the point. We men are dangerous in the grip of strong emotion. McDuffie’s imposition on Shain falls short of, say, torturing her to death and wearing her skin, so I’m not saying he’s History’s Greatest Monster; everybody please spare me your strawman rejoinders. But it was still way more invasive than a quick peck on the cheek or an exchange of satisfied smiles. Imagine yourself as Edith Shain for a moment: you are in what is on the precipice of a mob scene and suddenly a strange man is bending you in half with his tongue down your throat. You can’t be sure, at that moment, that you’ll be spared anything in particular.

    Even in McDuffie’s recollection he can tell us everything about his own perception of the situation – “with a big smile on my face” – but nothing about hers. Her perspective wasn’t on his radar, at the time or, apparently, afterward. If you say, “Well, they regarded these things differently back then,” you are simply restating the essential problem. We, as men, have to do better.

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  2. The man who apparently was the male half of ponce

    No, that was Erik Estrada, who’s still very much alive.

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  3. Perhaps we should take into account the comments of the woman in question:

    “Someone grabbed me and kissed me, and I let him because he fought for his country,” Ms. Shain said. “I closed my eyes when I kissed him. I never saw him.”

    The moment was captured on film by famed photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt and appeared in Life magazine that month. A symbol of the relief, euphoria and optimism that Americans felt at the end of a horrible conflict, the kiss became one of Life’s best-known and most-reproduced images, appearing on numerous greeting cards and dorm-room walls.

    The picture, Ms. Shain said in 2008, “says so many things: hope, love, peace and tomorrow. The end of the war was a wonderful experience, and that photo represents all those feelings.”

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  4. Jim Henley says:

    Doug, Ms. Shain did have more to say on the matter, in that article and, I believe, elsewhere:

    “I was embarrassed,” she told her alumni magazine. “I didn’t want people to know that a stranger had kissed me.”

    Her embarrassment shrank as the years wore on, and she eventually wrote to Life magazine to identify herself.

    That she eventually achieved a positive perspective on the incident is good. She deserved every happiness in life, as do we all. But at the very least, she cops to embarrassment at that moment and for years.

    And again, McDuffie did not know he was kissing Edith Shain. (Assuming, for the moment, McDuffie and Shain were in fact the people in the photo.) He could have been kissing, for all he knew, a former rape victim, a woman deeply averse to sexual contact for religious reasons, or just someone with a constitution that wouldn’t easily absorb that particular shock. McDuffie did not care who he was kissing or what she would feel. This. Remains. The. Problem.

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  5. michael reynolds says:

    @Jim Henley:

    McDuffie’s imposition on Shain falls short of, say, torturing her to death and wearing her skin, so I’m not saying he’s History’s Greatest Monster;

    That was very funny and made my day.

    Interesting thought. In reality it was assault. In legend it was a celebration. And I’m sure you know the line from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance:

    Ransom Stoddard: You’re not going to use the story, Mr. Scott?
    Maxwell Scott: No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

    A bit of a non-sequitur as well as not being quite what we hope for from the press. But that’s how it went.

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  6. Jim Henley says:

    @michael reynolds: I totally get you, yeah.

    In David Brinkley’s Washington Goes to War, he describes observing quite a lot of apparently consensual, outright intercourse in downtown DC doorways on V-J Day. Alas or maybe for the best, nobody ever printed those pictures. Decades later I do wonder if all the coupling going on was as consensual as Brinkley assumed. But hopefully.

    When I look at the knuckles on Shain’s left hand, which have been in front of us for almost 70 years now, I infer considerable tension. My wife just looked at it and said, “She’s just waiting for it to be over.”

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  7. ernieyeball says:

    @Jim Henley: We, as men, have to do better.

    There are Men:

    A Promise Keeper is committed to practicing spiritual, moral, ethical and sexual purity.
    http://www.promisekeepers.org

    And there are Men:

    So throw your rubbers overboard, 
There’s no one here but men!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-m-xZ4gz4MM

    Please don’t put us all in the same bag…

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  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    My old man was on Saipan at that moment happy only to know that he wouldn’t have to fly any more missions. I suspect he would have traded places with that sailor in a NY minute. I know I would have.

    ps: different time different circumstances, but after the Cards won the World Series in ’84 (’82?? I forget) I was downtown with a bottle of Jack and I can’t remember how many girls I kissed. I do remember that none of them punched me or kneed me in the groin so either I was a really good kisser or they were as drunk as I.

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  9. Jim Henley says:

    @ernieyeball: If you want to exalt yourself for your membership in an organization rather than simply remind yourself that we have to meet standards anew each day and we haven’t done that yet, I suppose that says something about your organization.

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  10. Jim Henley says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Would you have traded places with Edith Shain? To make it interesting, let’s say McDuffie was gay and you were yourself. Still trade places with Edith Shain?

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  11. ernieyeball says:

    @Jim Henley: If you want to exalt yourself for your membership in an organization…

    I fly solo…

    …we have to meet standards anew each day and we haven’t done that yet,..

    Who’s we? And how do you know what I’ve done? You must have a mouse in your pocket.

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  12. ernieyeball says:

    To make it interesting, let’s say McDuffie was gay…Still trade places..?

    Take a Walk on the Wild Side
    Thank You Lou Reed RIP
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wNknGIKkoA&feature=kp

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  13. John Burgess says:

    They live on — 25′ tall — in Sarasota, FL

    http://shawnphillipsblog.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/saturday-013.jpg

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  14. Jim Henley says:

    @ernieyeball: So you are not a member of Promise Keepers? Because you joined this thread pointing to a fraternal organization for some reason. Members of fraternal organizations by definition don’t “fly solo.”

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  15. ernieyeball says:

    @Jim Henley: You are correct. I am not a member of Penis Keepers…er Promise Keepers. Nor am I crew on a Pirate Ship which is what the Martin Mull ditty “Men” is about, since I have to draw pictures for you.
    I referenced both as two extremes on a continuum that might illustrate disparate behaviors in male humans.
    I am about 46 years removed from my Sophmore Logic class but isn’t

    We, as men, have to do better.

    a sweeping generalization?
    So tell me what I, as a man have to do better at that you have first hand evidence of?

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  16. Jim Henley says:

    @ernieyeball: I would say things 1 and 2 are recognize your own fallibility and the fact that you are embedded in a larger culture. The third thing would be to monitor the unearned archness of your prose, but that’s way down the list.

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  17. ernieyeball says:

    Fallibility?

    Owa Taboo Byam

    has been my Mantra for years.
    Culture? I get that with my chicken wings and coffee watching sports on the 55 big screen TVs at the local Buffalo Wild Wings. Since my home is in a college town I have met and mingled with citizens from around the globe at that place. One of the gals that works there now is from Germany. Another gal who just quit is from England.

    The third thing would be to monitor the unearned archness of your prose, but that’s way down the list.

    OUCH! U sure know how to hurt a guy!
    As Lenny Bruce once said: “If you can take the hot lead enema, then you can cast the first stone.”

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  18. ernieyeball says:

    So someone down votes Professor Henley cracking on me.
    Thanks!
    I’ll try to not let it go to my head…

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