It was the photo seen around the world: A solider (sailor) kisses a nurse and is captured by Life magazine during V-J Day. The nurse, Edith Shain, became a pseudo-celebrity years after the war when she came forward and admitted it was her in the photo. She died in 2010, and was profiled sweetly in The New York Times, but how many of us really know much about the famed nurse?
The story goes that on that August day in 1945, strangers were hugging and kissing all over Times Square in celebration of the end of War World II. “The happiness was indescribable,” Shain told the Times of the original V-J Day celebration. “It was a very long kiss.”
Life‘s renowned photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt took the shot that day, but neglected to get the names of the nurse and sailor, whose faces are largely unseen in the photo. A Navy photographer, Lt. Victor Jorgensen, also photographed the pair, but he failed to get their information as well.
Thirty-five years later (!), Shain, who was no longer a nurse but now teaching kindergarten in Los Angeles, wrote to Eisenstaedt to admit that she was the 27-year-old in the now-famous picture. She asked him for a print. He later came to visit her, taking photos of her family and friends. She had always known that it was her in the photo, but never stepped forward. “I didn’t think it was dignified, but times have changed,” she told Life
The sailor in the photo has never been properly identified, though 10 men have stepped forward over the years and laid claim to it. For what it’s worth, two other women have also claimed to have been the nurse in the photo, and even Eisenstaedt himself has said he can’t be sure of any of them.
So while we can’t be 100% totally sure that Shain was indeed the pictured nurse, it seems that’s the way she’ll be remembered. When asked what the photo means to her, she told The Associated Press “It says so many things. Hope, love, peace and tomorrow.”