The dramatic, 25-foot tall sculpture depicting the famous kiss that took place in Times Square on Aug. 14, 1945 – the day World War II ended – is on its way from from New Jersey to the the USS Midway Museum in San Diego.
“Unconditional Surrender,” by artist Seward Johnson – the man who created the famous “Forever Marilyn” statue that now sits in downtown Palm Springs – will be permanently installed at the Midway. A dedication is scheduled at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16.
The public is invited to attend the free ceremony on G Street Mole off Harbor Drive in downtown San Diego (next to the Fish Market Restaurant).
An earlier casting of “Unconditional Surrender” by Johnson, used for temporary
exhibitions, became a landmark in San Diego while on display for several years, where it became the symbol of Spirit of ’45 Day, the annual day of remembrance honoring America’s WWII generation.
Spirit of ’45 Day is observed each year during the second weekend in August.
The sculpture is from Johnson’s series, titled “Icons Revisited.”
Johnson, 82, served in the US Navy.
The “Times Square Kiss” started its journey on Saturday, Feb. 9 from its place of “birth.” The statue was produced at Johnson Atelier – a division of the Sculpture Foundation Studio – in Mercerville, N.J.
It traveled on a long, flatbed truck to Camden, N.J., where it was displayed in front of the USS New Jersey until Monday, morning, Feb. 4, before embarking on its cross country journey.
In 2007, the Sculpture Foundation loaned a the USS Midway Museum a version of “Unconditional Surrender,” which sat in front of the World War II-era battleship until May of 2012.
In 2012, the USS Midway Museum and a national coalition of WWII interest groups called
“Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive!” led a community fundraising drive that netted just over $1
million in two months for the purchase of a permanent, bronze version of the sculpture in
addition to extensive site development, landscaping, and lighting.
According to the museum, the eight-week campaign raised $998,000; the bulk of the money that “Saved the Kiss” came from seven San Diegans who donated $100,000 a piece. Other donations ranged from $10 to $10,000.
The Midway will present the sculpture and the newly landscaped site to the Port of San Diego during the ceremony. The landscaping features cherry trees donated by the Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego.
The new park area created for the community will be called the “Greatest Generation Walk.”
The sculpture, purchased from The Sculpture Foundation, “Will be a permanent reminder of the joy and relief that erupted across the world on the day WWII ended, and how America, having achieved victory in the most destructive war in history, immediately turned to the work of peace and began to lay the foundations for a better future for both allies and former foes alike,” said Warren Hegg, National Supervisor, Spirit of ’45 Project.
The dedication ceremony will be part of the Spirit of ’45 Day National Leaders Conference
which brings organizations from around to country together each year in February to discuss how to preserve the history and heritage of the men and women who were the “ordinary heroes who achieved extraordinary deeds” during WWII and then on August 14, 1945, turned to the task of rebuilding the postwar world.
Conference attendees include Jerry Coleman of the San Diego Padres, a highly decorated Marine fighter pilot who was the only Major League Baseball player to have served in combat in both WWII and the Korean War, and Jerry Yellin who flew the final combat mission of WWII on August 14, 1945.
Also attending will be Nell Calloway, grand daughter of the legendary General Claire Chennault who led the famous “Flying Tigers” in the skies over China during the war, and Kelly Estes whose great uncle was a member of the Doolittle Raiders.
Representing the US Navy will be Paul Haley of the Navy Memorial and the presidents of the USS New Jersey, the USS Iowa and the USS Missouri, where the final peace treaty officially ending the war was signed on September 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay.
Representatives of the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress, the National Parks Service, WWII museums and historical societies, and several of the Honor Flight groups provide free trips for WWII veterans to visit the National WWII Memorial in Washington, DC, will also be attending the dedication ceremony.
During the ceremony, several couples who married during World War II will renew their vows in front of the “Times Square Kiss,” in a brief ceremony conducted by Pastor David Plank. San Diego Mayor Bob Filner will announce the beginning of the official countdown to the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in August 2015.
Mayor Filner, a 10-term Congressman introduced Spirit of ’45 Day in Congress
when he served as the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
The dedication ceremony will be followed by a “Salute to Heroes” community event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., next door on Navy Pier where the Midway is berthed.
There will be activities for the kids, donation/adoption displays by the Diego Food Bank and San Diego Humane Society. Anyone who donates food or adopts a pet during the event will receive two free tickets to the USS Midway Museum.
“Heroes come in all shapes, sizes, and ages,” said Midway president and CEO Mac McLaughlin. “We’re looking forward to San Diegans stepping forward to honor our Greatest Generation during the dedication ceremony and to help keep their Spirit alive by donating food or adopting a homeless pet, all in the interest of the community.”
For more information about “Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive!” visit Spiritof45.org
For more information about the artist, visit sewardjohnson.com