Photo by Mallory

Photo by Mallory

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Monday, August 17, 2015

The World's Most Famous Kiss

"On the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, I bow my head deeply before the souls of all those who
perished both at home and abroad
--Japanese prime Minister Shinzo Abe, August 14, 2015

Last week, August 14 came and went with not much fanfare. On that date in 1945, history was made. Good history.

My weakest subject in all my years of school was history. However, one date in history remains seared into my memory—V-J Day, August 14, 1945, the day U.S. President Truman announced that Japan had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, effectively ending World War II.

Later, the Allied supreme commander,  General Douglas MacArthur signed the official Japanese surrender aboard the U.S. Navy battleship Missouri.

On that Tuesday, I played in our yard when, through the opened windows' screens, I heard the radio’s volume rise. I went inside to find out why the radio was being played so loud. My daddy, who worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, had dragged a chair close to the kitchen counter.

He put a finger to his lips motioning for me to be quiet. He continued to listen to the radio—President Truman’s announcement of August 14, 1945. Over the past three years, Daddy had worked on the Manhattan Project, a secret project in the plants at Oak Ridge. He had unknowingly contributed to the making of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan, bringing them to the surrender table.

One other thing has come to permanently remind me of that V-J Day in 1945—the photograph of a sailor kissing a nurse on the day World War II ended. That day, Greta Zimmer was on her lunch break from the dentist’s office where she worked as a dental assistant, and U.S. Navy Petty Officer First Class George Mendosa was on his last day of leave.
George and Greta
You can barely see George's future wife over his right upper arm.

Greta went to Times Square that day to confirm the news of World War II ending, news that patients had been bringing into the dental office all morning. Greta wanted to see for herself the ticker tape news that scrolled across the buildings at Times Square.

George was on a date with his future wife, and they had come into New York to see a movie. The showing of the movie had been suspended and the management announced that Japan had surrendered. George and his date gravitated to Times Square, in near proximity to Greta. And, as they say, the rest is history.

The two participants in the world’s most famous kiss didn’t even know each other and, it is reported, their photograph was not staged. Their famous kiss was spontaneous. George’s actions fell within the acceptable celebratory norms of August 14, 1945, but not any other day. George and Greta have met on several occasions since then but have never recreated their famous kiss.

Their picture proves the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. And that’s one of a few of my history lessons that I remember.

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