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Uniform of 'The Kissing Sailor' in V-J Day Photo headed to auction June 5

Glenn McDuffie The kissing sailor uniform worn on V-J Day, Times Square
McDuffie signed the back flap of his sailor uniform with a silver paint pen.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – It represents joy and is a powerful symbol of its time – Alfred Eisenstaedt’s black-and-white photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J (Victory Over Japan) Day. On June 5, one day before the 77th anniversary of D-Day, Todd Mueller Autographs, Inc. will offer a choice relic connected with the iconic image: the US Navy uniform worn by the man believed to be the sailor captured in the Eisenstaedt photo. Broadly estimated at $2,500-$25,000, the sailor uniform headlines Todd Mueller’s 236-lot spring auction. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

On August 14, 1945, Alfred Eisenstaedt was in Times Square, doing what photographers do. Then he happened upon an American sailor doing what some young men did on that day when they learned that Emperor Hirohito of Japan had surrendered, ending World War II – they grabbed the nearest young woman and kissed her, without bothering to ask first. Eisenstaedt recalled the scene he saw at 5:51 pm, as the news spread in one of New York’s busiest public spaces:

“I saw a sailor running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight… I was running ahead of him with my Leica looking back over my shoulder, but none of the pictures that were possible pleased me. Then suddenly in a flash, I saw something white being grabbed. I turned around and clicked the moment the sailor kiss the nurse. If she had been dressed in a dark dress, I would never have taken the picture. If the sailor had worn a white uniform, the same. I took exactly four pictures. It was done within a few seconds.”

Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt of the Kissing Sailor, taken on V-J Day, 1945
Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt, taken on V-J Day, 1945

His image landed on the cover of LIFE magazine, and became the most famous photograph he ever shot.

The angle Eisenstaedt captured made it hard to conclusively identify the sailor and the nurse. A second photo of the scene, taken by photographer Victor Jorgensen from a different angle, strengthened its credibility, but it did not help would-be sleuths pinpoint exactly who the two principals in the photo were.

McDuffie poses with a period image of himself and the famous Eisenstaedt photo.
McDuffie poses with a period image of himself and the famous Eisenstaedt photo.

In the decades since, several individuals have stepped forward claiming to be the sailor or the nurse. Glenn McDuffie did more than most to support his claim. In 2007, he recruited Houston Police Department forensic artist Lois Gibson, whom the Guinness Book of World Records states has helped police identify more suspects than any other forensic artist, to help him prove that he was the sailor in the photo.

She had him don the uniform of his youth and assume the same pose, but holding a pillow instead of a passing nurse. She measured several parts of his body-ears, facial bones, hairline, wrist, knuckles, and hands, and compared them to enlargements of Eisenstaedt’s picture. Her investigation convinced her that McDuffie was the real deal. “All other people who have come forward, I have eliminated based on their facial bones,” she said. “To me that’s definitive. Everything is consistent. I’m as positive as you can be.”

McDuffie also signed the waistband of the pants of his sailor uniform.
McDuffie also signed the waistband of the pants of his sailor uniform.

The lot on offer consists of the vintage woolen dress blue service uniform, consisting of pants and a shirt. Before he died in 2014, McDuffie lettered the following on the shirt’s back flap in silver metallic paint pen: “Glenn McDuffie GM 3/C / Aug 14, 1945 / Time Square / NY Y. N.Y. / V.-J. Day.” He also wrote “McDuffie 1945” on the inside front band and “Glenn McDuffie GM 3/C” inside the waistband of the pants. In addition, McDuffie composed a Letter of Authentication (LOA), on October 5, 2009, in which he claims he is the sailor in the 1945 photograph, and he was wearing this uniform on V-J Day. - reprinted from Liveauctioneers post in Upcoming Auctions


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