The vandal that spray painted “#MeToo” on the statue of a World War II sailor kissing a nurse may have been breaking a law, but the message implied goes much deeper than civil disobedience.
It was the end of World War II. Victory had just been declared over the Japanese.
When George Mendonsa kissed dental assistant Greta Zimmer Friedman in the middle of Times Square, the world celebrated with them. Friedman wasn’t expecting the kiss, but she went along with it, considering the weight of the moment in history.
Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt didn’t get Mendonsa and Friedman’s names when she captured them in one of the most iconic photos of American history. They were identified much later in life through reconstruction and anthropologic evidence.
That’s when their stories were revealed.
“He was just holding me tight. I’m not sure about the kiss,” Friedman told the Veterans History Project years later. “It was just somebody celebrating. It wasn’t a romantic event. It was just … ‘Thank God, the war is over.'”
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According to CNN, Mendonsa couldn’t recall ever asking the nurse for consent.
“So we get into Times Square and the war ends and I see the nurse,” he told CNN in 2015. “I had a few drinks, and it was just plain instinct, I guess. I just grabbed her.”
Police believe the vandalism took place Monday between the afternoon and evening
Mendonsa died on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, just two days before his 96th birthday. The following day, someone noticed “#MeToo” spray painted on the “Unconditional Surrender” statue that stands in Sarasota Florida.
The message was left on the nurse’s left leg.
Friedman died in 2016 at 92 years old. In her interview with the Veterans History Project, she said, ” it wasn’t my choice to be kissed. The guy just came over and kissed or grabbed.”
The phrase #MeToo refers to victims of sexual assault who often face great pressure in coming forward with their stories.
Police believe the vandalism took place late Monday night, though there is no video surveillance footage to identify any suspects.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.