The famed photo, snapped by Life photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, shows a young woman in a nurse’s uniform at the mercy of a particularly excited young sailor. The pair’s lips are locked in a vehement kiss — a scene that would become one of the most iconic images of the war.
As Eisenstaedt describes it in his autobiography: “I was walking through the crowds on V-J Day (Victory over Japan) , looking for pictures. I noticed a sailor coming my way. He was grabbing every female he could find and kissing them all — young girls and old ladies alike. Then I noticed the nurse, standing in that enormous crowd. I focused on her, and just as I’d hoped, the sailor came along, grabbed the nurse, and bent down to kiss her.”
For decades the woman’s identity was unknown, until finally in the ’70s Shain contacted Life magazine. She went on to reveal that she had been working at Doctor’s Hospital in New york when on August 14, 1945 she decided to take the subway to join a V-J Day celebration in Times Square.
“This guy grabbed me and we kissed,” Shain said in 2008 of the sheer spontaneity of the kiss. “And then I turned one way and he turned the other. There was no way to know who he was, but I didn’t mind because he was someone who had fought for me.”
“As for the picture,” she said, “it says so many things — hope, love, peace and tomorrow. The end of the war was a wonderful experience, and that photo represents all those feelings.”
Over the years Shain would lead numerous memorial parades honoring World War 2 veterans, and she spent much of her later years educating others about the sacrifices made during the war.
As for the sailor in the photograph, his identity is still unconfirmed.