A statue depicting the iconic photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square at the end of World War II has been vandalized.
The “Unconditional Surrender” statue in Sarasota, Fla., was found by police early Tuesday spray-painted with the words “#MeToo” along the nurse’s left leg, Fox News reports. While the incident remains under investigation, the graffiti has since been removed.
The vandalism comes a day after the sailor in the famous photo, George Mendosa, passed away at age 95.
Mendosa described the kiss on Aug. 14, V-J Day, as one of pure jubilation after Japan surrendered to the U.S., ending World War II. Mendosa said he admired the nurses on his ship who cared for wounded sailors so after hearing the news and "a few drinks," he “grabbed” a nurse to kiss.
The woman he kissed, Greta Zimmer Friedman, was actually a dental assistant at the time but was dressed very similarly to a nurse as they wore similar white uniforms. She described the kiss in an interview in 2005 as not “a romantic event” but “more of a jubilant act” by a sailor “really celebrating.”
“And so suddenly I was grabbed by a sailor, and it wasn't that much of a kiss, it was more of a jubilant act that he didn't have to go back, I found out later, he was so happy that he did not have to go back to the Pacific where they already had been through the war. And the reason he grabbed someone dressed like a nurse was that he just felt very grateful to nurses who took care of the wounded,” she said.
The photo has been criticized by feminists and the #MeToo movement as a romanticized act of sexual assault, though Friedman disagreed and remembered it as a "a happy event."
She passed away in 2016 at the age of 92.
Though they didn't know each other at the time of the kiss, Mendosa and Friedman became good friends who exchanged Christmas cards every year and appeared together at several reunion events, The Military Times reports.