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Vandals paint #metoo message on Sarasota's kissing statue, police say

The iconic "Unconditional Surrender" statue of a sailor kissing a nurse was vandalized with red paint, the nurse's leg spray painted with a "#metoo" message.
Published Feb. 19, 2019

The "Unconditional Surrender" statue in Sarasota was vandalized on Tuesday morning, according to the Sarasota Police Department.

The statue depicting a World War II sailor embracing and kissing a nurse was tagged with a "#metoo" message in red spray paint down the nurse's left leg, police said.

Gorilla Kleen, the company contracted to regularly clean the statue along Sarasota's waterfront, showed up on Tuesday to remove the graffiti, using a special chemicals to scrub the red paint off completely.

"It's just sad to see anyone in this day and age to choose to purposely do damage to something that brings great pride to the community. It's one of our most iconic pieces here," said John Cloud, owner of Gorilla Kleen, to WECT 6 News.

Police searched the area but found no spray paint bottles nor any other items vandalized. There is no surveillance available to review, but police say the vandalism may have occurred on Monday between the mid-afternoon and evening.

Monday, the sailor the statue depicts had died.

RELATED: Sailor in iconic World War II kiss photo in Times Square dies at 95

"Unconditional Surrender" was created by Seward Johnson, inspired by a lesser-known photograph by Navy photojournalist Victor Jorgensen, of the same scene captured by Alfred Eisenstaedt, whose famous photo of the kissing couple became one of the most iconic images of the 20th century.

Recent reactions to the photo differ since it was revealed Navy sailor George Mendonsa did not know Greta Zimmer Friedman when he grabbed her and kissed her in New York City's Times Square on Aug. 14, 1945, during V-J Day celebrations, when Japan surrendered to the United States, ending the war.

Friedman died in 2016 at 94 years-old. She was unfamiliar with the famous image until she saw it in the 1960's in a book about Eisenstaedt's work, according to the New York Times.

"Suddenly I was grabbed by a sailor, and it wasn't that much of a kiss, it was more of a jubilant act," Friedman explained in an interview for the Veteran's History Project. "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."

The City of Sarasota Public Works was notified about the damage and it was estimated the costs of repairing it would be $1,000 due to the large area tagged with spray paint. WECT 6 News reports Gorilla Kleen restored the statue today without pay.

Sarasota Police are asking the public to notify them if they have any information that will lead to finding those responsible.


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