History

A World War II Soldier Best Known for a Kiss

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There are certain photos that are iconic images of World War II. For example, everyone remembers the posters promoting support for the war effort at home. Most people will also immediately recognize the photo of the flag raising occurring on Iwo Jima in 1945. There is another picture of a sailor kissing a woman in the street that most people will recognize as well; however, few people know the identity of the individuals in that iconic photo.

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For some time, there was some debate over who the individuals in this photo were. The sailor in the photograph is Carl Muscarello who is now 90 years old. On that August day in 1945, he couldn’t have known his photo would become one of the most recognizable photos of the entire war. He now lives in Florida near Fort Lauderdale and has said ever since that day that he is the sailor in that iconic photo; however, there was a significant amount of debate surrounding the photo because the faces of both individuals are concealed. He has also said that photo was taken in Times Square in New York City. He still reminisces about that day fondly.

He remembers docking in New York and receiving permission to leave the boat. At that time, he was 18 years old and the drinking age was younger than it is today. He remembers drinking ten beers which had him feeling pretty uninhibited. As an impressionable 18-year-old, he remembered looking around and seeing all of the sailors kissing some of the ladies in attendance at the docks. He decided to join in on the party and had his picture taken. Little did he know how iconic that picture would become.

He actually didn’t know he had his picture taken until he arrived back at home. He came from a large family and his mother scolded him and his brothers once she saw the picture. He says her mother recognized him because she noticed the birthmark on his right hand immediately. She then went on to explain to him the terrible diseases that he could catch by kissing women he didn’t know.

Even though his family knew that he had the starring role in that photo, they kept this information to themselves. His family started to encourage him to announce his role in the photo to the general public. He says he met with the nurse in the photo in 1995, fifty years after the photo was taken, to see if she was comfortable going public with the photo. Shain passed away in 2010.

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When Muscarello went public, debate had been swirling around the photo for decades. There were multiple people claiming to be the person in the photo and everyone had to be questioned about the circumstances surrounding the photo in an attempt to verify their identity. Shain said Muscarello was the man in the photo and settled the debate. They toured to promote the photo and sealed their place in World War II history.

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