WWII couples welcome ‘Kiss’ statue’s return

SAN DIEGO – Several couples married during World War II renewed their vow Saturday during the dedication ceremony of the replacement “Kiss” statue on the downtown San Diego waterfront.

USS Midway Museum member David Flohr and his wife expressed their excitement for the return of the iconic statue.

“It’s a great statue and is reminiscent of a period in our lives,” said Flohr. “It came at a time of terrible turmoil in the world, but the day pulled together that day.”

The 25-foot-tall bronze sculpture arrived from New Jersey on Monday and was permanently installed Wednesday.

The dedication ceremony across from the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum included unveiling the statue and a presentation of new cherry trees donated by the Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego.

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. That 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 is made of more durable bronze.

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, although Johnson said the work was actually based on a similar but less well known depiction of V-J Day in Times Square taken by Victor Jorgensen.

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 age 91.