A statue replicating the iconic photograph of an impromptu kiss between an American sailor and a nurse following the conclusion of World War Two has been targeted by vandals.
Just hours after the news broke that the sailor from the photograph, George A. Mendonsa, had passed away on Sunday at the age of 95, vandals daubed the words ‘#MeToo’ up the woman’s left leg, in reference to the high-profile movement against sexual harassment and assault.
Police confirmed the damage to the ‘Unconditional Surrender’ statue in Sarasota, Florida, and shared several photographs on social media, claiming that the red paint would cost around US$1,000 (AU$1,4000) to remove.
“Officers with the Sarasota Police Department were dispatched to the intersection of North Gulfstream Avenue and Bayfront Drive reference to an unknown individual spray painting ‘#MeToo’ on the Unconditional Surrender statue,” the post read.
“When Officers arrived, they found the words ‘#MeToo’ spray painted in red along the left leg of the nurse. The red lettering covered the length of the nurse’s leg. There was no available surveillance video in the area that captured the incident. There are no known witnesses.
“It’s believed the incident occurred on Monday, February 18, 2019, between the mid-afternoon and evening hours, however, it is unknown exactly what time.”
According to the Providence Journal, Mendonsa passed away on Sunday, just two days before his 96th birthday, after suffering a fall and a seizure. His daughter, Sharon Mouller, told the publication her father was at his home at an assisted living facility in Middletown, Rhode Island, where he lived with his wife of 70 years when the incident occurred.
Mendonsa will always be remembered as the man in the iconic photograph ‘The Kiss’ which was snapped on the momentous day World War II came to an end. It was August 14, 1945, also known as V-J Day, when Japan surrendered to the United States and celebration broke out across the world.
Mendonsa, who was on leave in New York when the announcement was made, was caught up in the moment and without a second thought grabbed Greta Zimmer Friedman, a dental assistant, pulling her into an embrace just as a photographer pulled out his camera.
The gorgeous shot is still one of the most iconic photographs of the 20th century, marking a moment of celebration and happiness following years of battle and heartache.
Tributes are pouring in for #georgemendonsa who shot to fame as the sailor in the iconic #ww2kissingphoto in #timessquare. He was 95. #regram: Posted @withrepost • @life Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photograph of a sailor kissing a woman in Times Square, after news broke of the Japanese surrender in World War II, has lived a storied life since it was taken over 70 years ago. Often called “The Kiss,” it remains the iconic image of celebration at war’s end, a black-and-white bookend separating an era of darkness from the beginning of a time of peace. It is also an unsolved mystery of identity and more recently, a source of controversy for those who see in it not mutual revelry but evidence of sexual assault. The debate continues. On this day in 1945, President Truman announced that the Japanese had surrendered ending World War II. (Alfred Eisenstaedt—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images) #thisdayinLIFE #TheKiss #WWII
However many of the locals in Sarasota actually sided with the vandals who defaced the state, commenting on Facebook that the kiss would be deemed as sexual assualt nowadays because the sailor did not ask permission to kiss the woman, who was also not his wife.
One person wrote: “That’s unfortunate. It’s ugly and represents sexual assault. The thing should be dismantled and thrown in the trash. I grew up there and don’t know a single person who likes it.” Another commented: “He literally grabbed a stranger and kissed her.”
While others slammed those responsible, with one person saying: “Glad it got fixed. Thats one of my favourite statue that my kids grew up seeing, have pictures of them there with the statue. People nowadays have no respect for anything or anyone hope you find who done it.”
Another wrote: “You youngsters just don’t understand the exuberance of the end of WWII. That may be the most celebrated kiss in history. Sorry that your lens is so distorted on this moment.The graffiti has since been removed by city officials.”