Tags: vern buchanan | wwii | statue | sarasota | metoo | florida | unconditional surrender

Florida Congressman Urges Sarasota to Keep WWII Statue

a statues of a sailor kissing a nurse is near a parking lot and a palm tree
A Sarasota, Florida, statue of an iconic photo taken of a sailor and nurse kissing in Times Square at the end of World War II. (Martha Barreno/AP)

By    |   Wednesday, 09 September 2020 08:52 PM

A Florida congressman is urging the city of Sarasota to commit to returning a 25-foot tall statue based on an iconic photo of the ending of World War II to its prominent place along the bayfront after highway construction will require officials to relocate the artwork.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., 69, whose 16th Congressional District is anchored in Sarasota and Bradenton, wrote to Sarasota Mayor Liz Alpert, a Democrat, and the city commission urging them to keep the "Unconditional Surrender" sculpture near Bayfront Park.

"It commemorates the celebration of VJ Day and the end of World War II," Buchanan wrote. "This representation of that moment more than 75 years ago reminds us of an important time in our country's history and honors the 'Greatest Generation' who served and sacrificed."

"Unconditional Surrender" is an aluminum, computer-generated statue, the first of several, created by Seward Johnson based on two photographs – one of which appeared in Life magazine – of a Navy sailor and dental assistant engaged in a spontaneous kiss in New York City's Times Square on Aug. 14, 1945, after it was announced Japan had unconditionally surrendered.

The woman, then 21-year-old Greta Friedman, said before she died, the event was between two complete strangers.

"It wasn't that much of a kiss," she said. "It was just somebody celebrating. It wasn't a romantic event."

Her comments have been interpreted by some as case of sexual assault. The statue was spray painted with the words "Me Too" shortly after the man in the photo and statue, George Mendonsa, died in 2019.

A Styrofoam version "Unconditional Surrender" first appeared in Sarasota in 2005 as part of a temporary exhibition, and the aluminum version was accepted in 2010.

With the relocation of the statue necessary to allow construction of a traffic circle, in July, the Sarasota Public Arts Committee voted to place the statue in permanent storage until another location could be found.

A month later it rescinded that decision in favor of moving it about 4 miles away to outside the hall of the Sarasota Sahib Shriners, comprised mainly of veterans who have agreed to maintain and keep the statue on a temporary basis. The organization provides transportation and health care to children at hospitals and clinics.

"The end of World War II is a great story," Sarasota Sahib Shriners CEO Gary Fields said. "But the sexual harassment is also part of that story. We take that seriously and we're willing to help tell that story."

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A Florida congressman is urging the city of Sarasota to commit to returning a 25-foot tall statue based on an iconic photo of the ending of World War II to its prominent place along the bayfront after highway construction will require officials to relocate the artwork.
vern buchanan, wwii, statue, sarasota, metoo, florida, unconditional surrender
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2020-52-09
Wednesday, 09 September 2020 08:52 PM
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