New ‘Kiss’ statue arrives at waterfront

SAN DIEGO — The replacement “kiss” statue depicting a sailor stealing a kiss from a nurse at the end of World War II arrived at the San Diego waterfront Monday morning.

The statue replaces “Unconditional Surrender,” the 6,000-pound sculpture by J. Seward Johnson that was loaned to San Diego from 2007 to early last year. Both the original and the replacement evoke the famed 1945 Life magazine photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt in Times Square in New York when the end of World War II was announced.

However, Johnson said the work was actually based on a similar but less well known V-J Day in Times Square photograph taken by Victor Jorgensen, showing the same drunken sailor and unsuspecting nurse.

The original statue is owned by the Santa Monica-based nonprofit Sculpture Foundation and was taken from San Diego to New Jersey for restoration. The original is made of a foam core with a urethane outer layer and is susceptible to weather damage, while the replacement that arrived around 7 a.m. is made of more durable bronze.

Now that the permanent version is in San Diego, work crews will set in place at some point during the morning to mark locations for anchor bolts, according to Scott McGaugh of the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum.

The statue will then be removed so the site can be prepared. Beginning Tuesday, work will continue on putting in a pedestal, he said.

McGaugh said the 25-foot-tall sculpture, paid for with about $1 million in donations, should be completely installed by Valentine’s Day. The museum led the fundraising effort, quickly collecting the $1 million through its “Save the Kiss” campaign.

Edith Shain, a former Los Angeles schoolteacher, claimed to be the woman in the photograph. She attended the unveiling of the original statue in San Diego and appeared at other local events before she died in 2010 at the age of 91.

A dedication ceremony is scheduled for Saturday at 10 a.m., featuring entertainment by the Navy band and Swingin’ Blue Stars. Several couples married during World War II are scheduled to renew their vows at the event.

Along with the dedication, an event called “Salute to Heroes” is scheduled at nearby Navy Pier, with entertainment, kids activities and displays by the San Diego Food Bank and San Diego Humane Society.