Monday, August 6, 2007

WWII Kissing Sailor Identified

This famous photo was taken on August 14, 1945 by Alfred Eisenstadt for LIFE Magazine. Like the photo of the flag raising on Iwo Jima, this photo is an iconic representation of American victory in Word War II.

The photographer never named the people in this photo, so for years the identity of the sailor and the nurse remained a mystery. When I first saw the photo as a kid back in the 60s, I thought it was my Dad, because the sailor looked like him to me.

But when I asked my father if it was him, he said, no, that he'd been at sea that day and not in New York City.

This past Friday, however, the sailor was positively identified by Houston Police Department forensic artist Lois Gibson, as being 80 year old Glenn McDuffie. Gibson took precise measurements of McDuffie's wrists, knuckles, arms, forehead and ears, then compared them to enlargements of the famous photo.

"I don't say this lightly. What I do is usually a matter of life or death, so I don't mess around when I identify someone," said Gibson, whom the 2005 book of Guinness World Records said has helped police identify more criminal suspects than any other person.

Eleven other men have also claimed to be the sailor in question. Gibson carefully studied the bone structure of all these men.

"I was able to eliminate all the others based on their foreheads, or the superciliary arch — where the eyebrows are," she said.

On Aug. 14, 1945, McDuffie was in Times Square when the word came.

"When I got off from the subway, a lady told me the war was over, and I went into the street yelling. I saw the nurse and she was smiling at me, so I just grabbed her," McDuffie said. "But we never spoke."

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