Statue of WWII sailor kissing nurse found vandalized with “#MeToo”

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(CBS News)- A day after the sailor seen kissing a woman in the iconic World War II photo died, a statue commemorating the couple was found vandalized with “#MeToo” early Tuesday,  Florida police said.

According to the Sarasota Police Department, the vandal used red spray paint to emblazon the phrase, which refers to the movement against sexual assault and harassment.  

Authorities were dispatched to the Unconditional Surrender statue in downtown Sarasota after midnight Tuesday and discovered red lettering covering the length of the nurse’s leg. After a canvas of the area, officers did not find other objects that were defaced. 

“The approximate damage is estimated to be more than $1,000 due to the large area that the graffiti covers, and the resources needed to repair it,” police said.  

Sarasota PD said there’s no available surveillance video that captured the incident and no known witnesses. They believe it happened between the mid-afternoon and evening hours, but, it is unknown exactly what time.

George Mendosa, the ecstatic sailor shown kissing a woman in Times Square celebrating the end of WWII, died Monday at the age of 95 –– two days before his 96th birthday. He was shown kissing Greta Zimmer Friedman, a dental assistant in a nurse’s uniform, on Aug. 14, 1945. Known as V-J Day, it was the day Japan surrendered to the United States.

The photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt became one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century. It was years before Mendonsa and Friedman were confirmed to be the couple. Friedman died in 2016 at age 92.

“It was the moment that you come back from the Pacific, and finally the war ends,” Mendonsa told CBS News’ Michelle Miller in 2012.

During the #MeToo era, the timeless kiss has been seen in a less positive light. Critics argue the photograph didn’t depict romance because Mendosa, who said he was drinking, simply grabbed and kissed Friedman without knowing her. 

“I did not see him approaching, and before I know it I was in this vice grip,” Friedman told CBS News.

Others said the image was symbolic of a time when men controlled women and normalized sexual assault.  

“It was just somebody really celebrating,” Friedman said in a 2005 interview. “But it wasn’t a romantic event. It was just an event of ‘thank God, the war is over’ kind of thing because it was right in front of the sign.”

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