The Kissing Statue by the USS Midway in San Diego, California, during an August sunset.

Making News Playing the Fife at San Diego’s Kissing Statue (Video)

KPBS News featured me playing fife music and providing commentary on WWII veteran George Mandonsa, the man photographed kissing the woman in Times Square on V-J Day, resulting in the Kissing Statue. He passed away last Sunday at age 95. The woman in the photograph, Greta Friedman, died in 2016 at age 92. I often play here as part of my California Fife Music campaign. This stint has opened up new adventures, opportunities, and meaningful relationships.

Brief History of the Monument

Officially known as Unconditional Surrender, the San Diego Kissing Statue is a landmark at Downtown’s Harbor where the U.S.S. Midway currently docks. The vibrant statue embodies youthful charm and reminds us of the nation’s historic past. Many visitors come to have photos taken with their significant other as they strike that famous pose.

The kissing statue originates from a snapshot of US Navy Sailor George Mandonsa embracing Greta Zimmer Friedman in Times Square, NYC, photographed by Victor Jorgensen. Upon returning from WWII, Victory over Japan (V-J) rang out nationwide on August 14, 1945. The excitement and glamour over the US’s win caused many to celebrate.

(2005) Statue Created in Sarasota, Florida

In 2005, Seward Johnson designed a bronze precursor to the 25′ (7.8m) using computer technology. It was first put on temporary display in Sarasota, FL, at the Bayfront. He subsequently made aluminum versions of the statue which he marketed through a foundation he created.

(2007) Statue Moved to San Diego on Flatbed Truck

The Unconditional Surrender statue was moved to San Diego, California, on a flatbed truck. It was placed on temporary display at the Port of San Diego at Tuna Harbor, with a loan contract running through August 2010. However, it ended up staying until May of 2012 when it was dismantled and moved to New Jersey for restoration.

While in San Diego, the statue was criticized by many people, including Robert L. Pincus, art critic of The San Diego Union Tribune. He said it was kitsch (cheesy or tacky art that pleases the masses rather than ‘highly astute’ art), remarking that “[t]he figures look like something from a cheap souvenir factory, blown up beyond any reason.” Others commented that it was not artistically or aesthetically appealing.

Regardless of personal likes and dislikes, the monument represents a time in our nation’s past history when veterans returned home from World War II. Furthermore it celebrates love. I can only imagine what some people’s sentiment is in addition to the comments stated. They may even have a problem with the depiction being ‘heterosexual.’ Who knows.

(2009) Copy Re-installed in Sarasota, Florida

An aluminum copy was erected temporarily again at Sarasota’s Bayfront, namely prompted by the director of a biannual Bayfront show. Many locals liked it and many detested it, like in San Diego. An 88-year-old donor, who served in the US Navy during WII, offered to pay half a million dollars to keep it put up against an initial asking price of $680,000. [1]

The Chairwoman of the Public Art Committee said it wasn’t even ‘kitsch,’ but reminded her of a giant cartoon image drafted by a computer emulating a well-known photograph. [1] This led to more locals calling for the statue to be taken down, with claims of copyright infringement because it stemmed from a famous photograph.

Architect Joel May, a member of the city’s public art committee, raised an issue of copyright infringement claiming that it replicated the sculpture to V-J Day in Times Square, published in Life in 1945 and still protected by copyright. However, Seward Johnson responded that he was aware of this similarity, but claimed his creation was derived from another public domain image of the kissing couple in Times Square, taken by photographer Victor Jorgensen. [2]

On April 26, 2012, the Sarasota statue was hit by an automobile, bellowing a 3-foot hole in the sailor’s foot and causing hairline cracks to the frame. This resulted in the City of Sarasota taking the statue down. [3] The statue was laid on its side close to the sight while insurance companies negotiated repair and liability issues. Subsequently, debate over returning the statue to its original place on the Bayside began, with in editorial calling for it to be placed at a safer location.

Thus critics had been trying to get it put elsewhere since before its original placement for its 10-year display. They warned it was unsafe at the Bayside, suggesting other locations such as Payne Park and City Island. [4] The statue was re-erected near the Sarasota shoreline in December 2012. [5]

(2012) Copy Erected in Hamilton, New Jersey

A 25′ styrofoam Unconditional Surrender sculpture was installed at the 42 acre Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey, as part of a commemoration to Johnson’s work. It ran from May 4, 2014 until July 1, 2015.

(2013) Statue Re-installed in San Diego

In March 2012, the San Diego Unified Port District voted to purchase a bronze replacement of the kissing statue, and have it permanently placed where it currently stands today. This decision caused uproar among the local municipal officials, resulting in the resignation of three board members. [6]

Concluding Thoughts

I smirked when researching this fact about the resignation of city officials over the statue’s resurrection. If city board members resign over a statue that signifies a WWII veteran kissing a woman upon his return home in 1945, which actually happened in Times Square, NYC, what type of people do we have in government? Well, they left.

This location at the Port of San Diego is a special place indeed. Playing fife music here has been a rewarding experience since my move to San Diego in 2016, originally to attend law school. Though I will finish my JD, I have been working hard on my creative ventures as an entrepreneur.

Having the ability to play the fife through the winter months, something I was not able to do in Boston, profoundly enhances my music career. I use my time playing at this military-centered location industriously: providing exceptional fife music of American heritage to a vast array of visitors, as well as advertise my business and build network relations.

This event with the news was a good opportunity for me provide military fife music to commemorate this WWII veteran’s life. I said more while being interviewed on camera about my advocacy for individual liberty and personal sovereignty—foundational tenets of constitutional law—but the media only published the short snippet in the video.

Political Whining by Radical Feminists

Unfortunately, the political charge of #MeToo is causing havoc in the blogosphere over news headlines of Mandonsa’s death. The Washington Post just came out with a piece, Don’t blame MeToo for ruining the most iconic kiss in history. The photo was never romantic. Likewise, azcentral published an article entitled, “Was post-war kiss in iconic picture an unwanted sexual advance?”

My response: Absolutely disgusting. They have to ridicule humanity’s longstanding male-female relations to fit their sick and twisted prerogatives. Radical feminism is a biology denying, masculine-hating cult that is void of reason. That said, I am glad the Kissing Statue remains. It represents the beautiful, natural bonding between a man and woman, in which the man takes the role to initiate.


[1] Veteran Puts Up Big Money to Keep Statue Put

[2] Sculptor at center of copyright infringement case

[3] Unconditional Surrender statue comes down after crash

[4] Surrender some ground for statue (Editorial)

[5] PHOTOS: Unconditional Surrender Statue Returns To Sarasota

[6] Two art board members resign over ‘Kiss’

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