A 90-year-old who says she's the woman being kissed by a sailor in Times Square in one of World War II's most famous photographs reunited with the Navy on Sunday – days before she is to serve as grand marshal of New York City's Veterans Day parade.
Edith Shain of Los Angeles, donning a white nurse's uniform like the one she wore back in 1945, went to see the musical revival of “South Pacific” and posed for pictures, being hoisted off her feet on stage by five of the actors in their Navy whites.
On Tuesday, she'll ride in the parade at the head of a contingent of World War II veterans.
On Aug. 15, 1945, Shain recalls, she joined thousands of people whooping it up after Japan surrendered. Right there on Broadway and 45th Street, a sailor suddenly grabbed and kissed her – and the moment was caught by Alfred Eisenstaedt, a Life magazine photographer.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
His picture from V-J Day became one of the 20th century's iconic images. But Eisenstaedt didn't get the names of either party, and efforts years later by Life to identify them produced a number of claimants, says Bobbi Baker Burrows, a Life editor with deep knowledge of the subject.
About 1980, Shain recalls, she wrote a letter to Life, identifying herself as the woman in the nurse's uniform. Eisenstaedt wrote back and later visited her in California and gave her a copy of the photo. But Eisenstaedt, who died in 1995, was never certain that Shain was the woman in the photo, Burrows said.
Shain said she could not identify the boy in blue.
“I went from Doctors Hospital to Times Square that day because the war was over, and where else does a New Yorker go?” she said. “And this guy grabbed me and we kissed, 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.”
At least three veterans still claim to be the sailor; at least one other woman has claimed to be the nurse.