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The Kissing Sailor
Cover of The Kissing Sailor
The Kissing Sailor
The Mystery Behind the Photo That Ended World War II
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On August 14, 1945, Alfred Eisenstaedt took a picture of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square, minutes after they heard of Japan's surrender to the United States. Two weeks later LIFE magazine published that image. It became one of the most famous WWII photographs in history (and the most celebrated photograph ever published in the world's dominant photo-journal), a cherished reminder of what it felt like for the war to finally be over. Everyone who saw the picture wanted to know more about the nurse and sailor, but Eisenstaedt had no information and a search for the mysterious couple's identity took on a dimension of its own. In 1979 Eisenstaedt thought he had found the long lost nurse. And as far as almost everyone could determine, he had. For the next thirty years Edith Shain was known as the woman in the photo of V-J DAY, 1945, TIMES SQUARE. In 1980 LIFE attempted to determine the sailor's identity. Many aging warriors stepped forward with claims, and experts weighed in to support one candidate over another. Chaos ensued.

For almost two decades Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi were intrigued by the controversy surrounding the identity of the two principals in Eisenstaedt's most famous photograph and collected evidence that began to shed light on this mystery. Unraveling years of misinformation and controversy, their findings propelled one claimant s case far ahead of the others and, at the same time, dethroned the supposed kissed nurse when another candidate's claim proved more credible. With this book, the authors solve the 67-year-old mystery by providing irrefutable proof to identify the couple in Eisenstaedt's photo. It is the first time the whole truth behind the celebrated picture has been revealed.

The authors also bring to light the couple's and the photographer's brushes with death that nearly prevented their famous spontaneous Times Square meeting in the first place. The sailor, part of Bull Halsey's famous task force, survived the deadly typhoon that took the lives of hundreds of other sailors. The nurse, an Austrian Jew who lost her mother and father in the Holocaust, barely managed to escape to the United States. Eisenstaedt, a World War I German soldier, was nearly killed at Flanders.
On August 14, 1945, Alfred Eisenstaedt took a picture of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square, minutes after they heard of Japan's surrender to the United States. Two weeks later LIFE magazine published that image. It became one of the most famous WWII photographs in history (and the most celebrated photograph ever published in the world's dominant photo-journal), a cherished reminder of what it felt like for the war to finally be over. Everyone who saw the picture wanted to know more about the nurse and sailor, but Eisenstaedt had no information and a search for the mysterious couple's identity took on a dimension of its own. In 1979 Eisenstaedt thought he had found the long lost nurse. And as far as almost everyone could determine, he had. For the next thirty years Edith Shain was known as the woman in the photo of V-J DAY, 1945, TIMES SQUARE. In 1980 LIFE attempted to determine the sailor's identity. Many aging warriors stepped forward with claims, and experts weighed in to support one candidate over another. Chaos ensued.

For almost two decades Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi were intrigued by the controversy surrounding the identity of the two principals in Eisenstaedt's most famous photograph and collected evidence that began to shed light on this mystery. Unraveling years of misinformation and controversy, their findings propelled one claimant s case far ahead of the others and, at the same time, dethroned the supposed kissed nurse when another candidate's claim proved more credible. With this book, the authors solve the 67-year-old mystery by providing irrefutable proof to identify the couple in Eisenstaedt's photo. It is the first time the whole truth behind the celebrated picture has been revealed.

The authors also bring to light the couple's and the photographer's brushes with death that nearly prevented their famous spontaneous Times Square meeting in the first place. The sailor, part of Bull Halsey's famous task force, survived the deadly typhoon that took the lives of hundreds of other sailors. The nurse, an Austrian Jew who lost her mother and father in the Holocaust, barely managed to escape to the United States. Eisenstaedt, a World War I German soldier, was nearly killed at Flanders.
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  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 16, 2012
    On V-J Day in 1945, famed Life photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt took the Times Square photo of a sailor’s spontaneous kiss that became the single image many associate with the end of WWII. However, the couple’s faces were covered, Eisenstaedt did not ask their names, and Life never pursued the couple’s identity until decades later. When more than a few came forward, the mystery deepened. Even Eisenstaedt misidentified his subjects years later. Retired naval aviator Galdorisi (coauthor, Act of Valor) and Rhode Island history teacher Verria sought a solution by researching records, interviewing claimants, studying photos, and identifying others seen nearby. The book features photos, some of which enabled the authors to recreate plausible scenarios of how Eisenstaedt got the photo. With a team of photo analysis experts, forensic anthropologists, and facial recognition specialists, the final result reads like Rashomon in its comparisons of crucial discrepancies and conflicting memories. The authors deliver a convincing conclusion to their romantic detective tale about the last day of WWII and the photo that “savored what a long-sought peace feels like.” 20 b&w photos. Agent: John Silbersack, Trident Media Group.

  • Library Journal

    June 1, 2012

    Verria (social studies, North Kingston H.S.) and Galdorisi (The Coronado Conspiracy), a retired naval aviator, attempt to uncover the identities of the kissing sailor and the nurse in the famous Alfred Eisenstaedt photograph taken on V-J day in Times Square for LIFE magazine. Eisenstaedt did not ask for their names. Several sailors and nurses have come forward since 1945 claiming they were in the picture, but there has never been a final ruling on how authentic any of these claims were. Verria and Galdorisi enlisted experts in photography, facial recognition, and forensic anthropology to try to determine which of the contenders were captured on film that day. Their analysis leads them to settle on the two they believe were the famous but unknown man and woman. VERDICT The authors have made an engaging and convincing argument, providing a wealth of information without lagging in pace as they unravel this intriguing true-life mystery. Their book will appeal to armchair historians, armchair detectives, and anyone who would like to know the story behind one of the most beloved photographs in American history.--Crystal Goldman, San Jose State Univ. Lib., CA

    Copyright 2012 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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The Mystery Behind the Photo That Ended World War II
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