Dresden Destroyed

Behind the camera: Richard Peter
Where: Dresden, Germany
Photo Summary: A statue on the City Hall Rathausturm or Tower overlooks a destroyed Dresden
Picture Taken: 1945
This image has some limited copyright rights reserved after it was released by the Deutsche Fotothek of the Saxon State Library / State and University Library Dresden (SLUB).

The logic behind the Allied bombing campaigns was that air attacks would force Nazi Germany out of the war. Working to this goal much of occupied Nazi Europe was laid waste by bombers manned by Allied airmen. One of the most controversial bombing raids was the Bombing of Dresden, Germany in World War II. Between February 13 – 15, 1945 over 1200 Allied bombers dropped their deadly payloads on one of Germany’s biggest cities. After the last bomber flew away the city was left in almost total ruins. It took years to rebuild and in 1945 photographer Richard Peter took this famous picture after scaling the city hall.

On the left Dresden in 1945 by Richard Peter and on the right Dresden in 2005 by Matthias Rietschel (AP)

On the left Dresden in 1945 by Richard Peter and on the right Dresden in 2005 by Matthias Rietschel (AP)

The Statue

The statue in the foreground overlooking the ruins of Dresden is often reported to be Peter Poeppelman’s “Allegory of Goodness” or “Allegorie der Güte” but the statue was actually carved by August Streimueller.

The Bombing Raid

The infamous Bombing of Dresden is still one of the most controversial actions of the Allies during WWII. Between February 13 and 15 1945 around 1,250 heavy bombers of the British and American air-forces dropping huge amounts of explosive and incendiary devices on the mostly wooden city. The resulting firestorm killed around 25,000 people and destroyed most of the historic city center. This happened even though Dresden was of questionable military value.

Richard Peter

Dresden 1945 and Now

Dresden 1945 and Now


Richard Peter was born in Silesia in 1895. While working as a smith and miner he was drafted into the army to serve in the trenches during WW1. After the war, he settled in Dresden and became a photojournalist for various left-wing publications. When the Nazis came to power he was blacklisted and used his skills with the camera to work in advertising before he was drafted into the German Army during WWII.

After the war he returned to Dresden to find the city totally destroyed including all his photo equipment. Using borrowed equipment he began to document Dresden’s literal rise from the ashes. Publishing his work in a book Dresden, eine kamera klagt an (Dresden, a photographic accusation).

Even with his pre-Nazi left-wing credentials, his life under the communist regime wasn’t much better. After investigating corrupt communist officials he was banned from government work but continued to make a living as a freelance photographer. He died on October 3, 1977, at the age of 82.

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MacArthur and the Emperor

Behind the camera: MacArthur’s official photographer Gaetano Faillace
Where: MacArthur’s personal residence in the US Embassy in Tokyo
Photo Summary: Emperor Hirohito and General MacArthur meeting for the first time
Picture Taken: September 27, 1945
This image is in the public domain because it was taken by a federal employee, Gaetano Faillace

After the Japanese surrender in 1945, the American’s took on the task of occupying Japan and reforming the militaristic nation into a modern country that would never again threaten its neighbors. To minimize the number of American soldiers needed to keep the country under control the occupation command, known as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP) or GHQ (General Headquarters), maintained the Emperor in his position of head of the state and as a rallying point for the Japanese people. Under pressure from other Allied nations, the American public (Immediately after war 70% of Americans wanted him killed), and elements inside Japan itself for destruction of the Japanese God-Emperor the SCAP had this picture published to show that Emperor Hirohito was supported by MacArthur and the occupation forces.

Taking the picture

In 1945 a meeting was arranged for MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito to meet and to discuss how to save his throne. Arriving at 10:00 on September 27, 1945, in his Rolls Royce the Emperor and his entourage of Imperial guards and advisers, were greeted by American SCAP officials Faubion Bowers and Bonner Fellers. The Americans saluted the Emperor and he first bowed to them and then shook their hands. Bowers then took the Emperor’s top hat which seemed to alarm Hirohito who as the God Emperor of the Japanese people was not used to be people taking things from him. As the American officer was taking the hat MacArthur burst into the room:

in that stentorian voice of burnished gold that thrilled everyone who heard it, ‘You are very, very welcome, sir!'” It was the first time Bowers had ever heard the general say ‘sir’ to anyone. The supreme commander reached out to clasp the Emperor’s hand, and the emperor simultaneously bowed so deeply that the handshake ended up taking place above his head. — Embracing Defeat by John Dower

MacArthur then took Hirohito into a private room with just the Imperial translator, Okumura Katsuzo. The Supreme Commander and the Emperor, through his translator, spent 40min together and swore to keep the contents of their conversation secret. Though over the years some details leaked out. According to the Americans, Emperor Hirohito offered to take responsibility for the war which MacArthur brushed aside. This is contrasted by the Japanese. Thirty years after the meeting the Imperial translator, Okumura Katsuzo, released his memoirs which claimed that MacArthur was “a fawning courtier awed by his proximity to ‘Your Majesty’ and extraordinarily solicitous in his comments.”
In all three photos were taken. In one Supreme commander’s eyes were closed and the Emperor’s mouth gaping open, Hirohito’s gaping open also ruined the second. The third is the one that was published.

The response

When the image was published on September 29, 1945, it caused a sensation in Japan. At a glance those who saw the picture understand who was the real Emperor in post-war Japan. MacArthur in his almost causal dress without medals towering over Hirohito who stood stiffly in a formal suit looking uncomfortable at the whole situation. The Image set-up was, the media adapt, MacArthur’s idea.

When the papers hit the street the Japanese censors at the Home Ministry, which this close to the surrender were still controlling the Japanese presses, became outraged and tried to have the picture censored. SCAP was then able to win two victories first by publishing an image showing who was really in charge and second overruling the Japanese censors there-by introducing Japanese to the concept of freedom of the press.
Many Japanese remember seeing the image and it finally sinking in that they were the conquered and that the Americans and their General MacArthur were in charge.
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General MacArthur

Douglas MacArthur was a career military man who lived from January 26, 1880, to April 5, 1964. Coming from a long line of military men he was valedictorian when he graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He took the rank of First Captain when he graduated top of the class of 1903. Rising through the ranks he was brigadier general during World War I when he led American troops on the Western Front.
After the war, he was involved in many civil disturbances in America and in the Philippines. In 1937 he retired from the military and become Military Advisor to the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines. When war broke out he had already been called back into service and he was General when the Americans lost the Philippines after a series of shocking victories by the Japanese Imperial army. He was forced to abandon his troops and flee to Australia where he would rebuild an American Pacific Army and after years of hard fighting force Japan out of the war. He oversaw the occupation of Japan with the official title of Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP) which was also the name of his department that oversaw the everyday details of the occupation.

When war broke out in Korea he was again leading Allied armies this time against the Communists. During the Korean War, he frequently came into conflict with President Truman and on April 10, 1951, an order was signed relieving him of command. When he returned to America is was his first visit to the continental United States since 1937. His boy Arthur IV, now aged 13, had actually never been to the United States.
He worked in the private sector and his advice was sought after by many a president. On April 5, 1964, he died at Walter Reed Army Medical Center of biliary cirrhosis. He was granted a State Funeral by President Johnson and that he be buried “with all the honor a grateful nation can bestow on a departed hero.”

Emperor Hirohito

Emperor Hirohito lived from April 29, 1901, to January 7, 1989, and was the 124th emperor of Japan. When he took power Japan was an Imperial military superpower with the ninth largest economy, the third-biggest Navy and one of the five permanent members of the council of the League of Nations. During his reign, he oversaw and approved of an aggressive military takeover of most of Asia which eventually lead to Japan attacking America starting its entry into World War II. After the war, the occupying force, including MacArthur did everything in its power to shield the Emperor from prosecution of war crimes often by laying the blame on his advisers a role they were only too happy to take as they had pledged their lives to protect the Japanese throne. After the war and after the American had left Hirohito focused on official duties such as welcoming head of states to Japan and his hobby marine biology. He published many scientific papers and contributed the description of several dozen species of Hydrozoa that were new to science.

Gaetano Faillace

From 1943 to 1945 during some of the toughest fighting in the Pacific Faillace was General MacArthur’s photographer. During the occupation, he followed the General in his official duties. During the War, he took some of the most famous images of the General including his return to the Philippines and at the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri. His photograph of MacArthur looking out at Corregidor Island, of the Philippines, was on the cover of the general’s memoirs, Reminiscences. On December 31, 1991, he died of cancer in Fayetteville, N.C. He was 87.

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VJday Times Square Kiss

Behind the camera: Alfred Eisenstaedt although Lt Victor Jorgensen took a similar image
Where: Times Square, New York City, USA
Photo Summary: Many claims to be the Nurse and Sailor shown in the picture. Former nurses Edith Cullen Shain and Greta Friedman are the most likely Nurses and George Mendonça and Carl Muscarello are the most likely Sailors.
Picture Taken: August 14, 1945. Victory in Japan day is actually Aug 15, 1945 but news broke out at Times Square on August 14 because of the International date-line and time zone changes.

America had been at war for almost 4 years, Germany had finally been knocked out of the conflict three months earlier but Japan still fought on. Finally after nightly bombing raids and two cities wiped out by Atomic explosions, Imperial Japan surrendered. News traveled like wild fire and on August 14, 1945 America celebrated! One of the most famous pictures of World War II, Alfred Eisenstaedt captured this image in the revelry at New York’s Time Square.

Taking the picture

Actual photo taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt

When news broke out of Japan’s surrender Alfred Eisenstaedt ran to Times Square taking pictures as he went. Suddenly he saw a sailor who was “‘running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight. Whether she was a grandmother, stout, thin, old, didn’t make any difference. 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 kissed the nurse … Although I am 92, my brain is 30 years old.’ To prove it he recalled that to shoot that victory kiss he used 1/125 second exposure, aperture between 5.6 and 8 on Kodak Super Double X film.” Eisenstaedt snapped four shots of the kissing couple before moving on to get other pictures. A navy photographer, Lt Victor Jorgensen, was standing very close to Eisenstaedt and took a similar image. As Jorgensen was a federal employee his images are in the public domain while Eisenstaedt’s are copyrighted.

Who is in the Picture?

Original letter to Eisenstaedt

On that crazy August day, Alfred Eisenstaedt got so caught up in the excitement that was going on in Times Square that he didn’t write down who the sailor and nurse were. Since that day many have stepped forward claiming to be the two in the picture.

Edith Cullen Shain

Edith Cullen Shain was a Nurse that was taking part in the celebration when she was kissed by a sailor. She said she wasn’t surprised as “at that time in my life everyone was kissing me.” Even though she knew it was herself in the image she didn’t step forward until the late 70s when she saw an article in the LA Times with Eisenstaedt. He was talking about the photo and after reading it she decided to come forward. In the 40s Edith ” didn’t think it was dignified [to be photographed kissing] but times have changed” so she wrote this letter to Eisenstaedt:

Dear Mr, Eisenstaedt:
Now that I’m 60 – it’s fun to admit that I’m the nurse in your famous shot “of the amorous sailor celebrating V.E. Day by kissing a nurse on New York’s Broadway.”
The article in the Los Angles Times, which described your talents, stimiulated the recall of the scene on Broadway. I had left Doctors’ Hospitial and wanted to be part of the celebration but the amorous sailor and a subsequent soldier motivated [me] into the next opening of the subway.
I wish I could have stored that jubulation and amour for use P.R.N. [“P.R.N.” is a medical term meaning “as needed”]
Mr Eisenstaedt, is it possible for me to obtain a print of that picture? I would be most apprecitive. I regret not having meet you on your last trip to Beverly Hills.
Perhaps next time. If not – will understand because “it’s not only hard to catch him … its hard to keep up with him”
Have fun, Fondly,
Edith Shain

New York City celebrating the surrender of Japan. They threw anything and kissed anybody in Times Square.

Lt. Victor Jorgensen’s version of the photo

Of all the nurses claiming to be “the one” Eisenstaedt has backed Shain describing her as a “vivacious, lovely woman.”. Shain died at her home on June 20, 2010. She was 91 years old.

Greta Friedman

Greta Friedman claims the photo is of her but concedes that Shain was probably there, “There’s no doubt that Mrs. Shain was there and got kissed … because every female was grabbed and kissed by men in uniform.” But, says Greta of Frederick, Md., “it definitely is my shape. I used a comb in my hair. I had a purse like the one in the nurse’s hand. I remember being kissed by a sailor, right on Broadway.” Of the women, only Greta is high enough to be the Nurse to Mendonsa’s sailor. She died in 2016 at the age of 92.

Barbara Sokol

In the kissing frenzy in Times Square, Barbara Sokol recalls, she got “an ucky, sloppy kiss” and was wiping her mouth with a handkerchief when up walked another guy who yelled, “‘Gotcha’ I said, ‘No! No! No!’ and when he bent me back I thought, ‘My God, I’m gonna fall'” Barbara a nurse in Derby, Conn. She has always claimed that the Nurse was her and has kept a cut out of the picture framed, “my one claim to fame.”

George Mendonsa

Rita Mendonsa future wife of George Mendonsa behind the kissing couple

George Mendonsa or George Mendonça, a native of Newport, Rhode Island, was named by the Naval War College in August 2005 as the Sailor in the picture due some compelling evidence including picture analysis by the Mitsubishi Electric Research Lab (MERL) in Cambridge, MA, matching scars and tattoo spotted by photo experts and the testimony of one Richard M Benson a photo analysis expert and professor of photographic studies plus the former Dean of the School of Arts at Yale University. Mr. Benson has stated that “It is therefore my opinion, based upon a reasonable degree of certainty, that George Mendonsa is the sailor in Mr. Eisenstaedt’s famous photograph.” George, on leave from the USS THE SULLIVANS (DD-537), was watching a movie with his date, future wife Rita Mendonsa, at Radio City Music Hall when the doors opened and people started screaming the war was over. George and Rita took part in the partying on the street but when they couldn’t get into the packed bars decided to walk down the street. It then that George saw a nurse walk by and took her into his arms and kissed her, “I had quite a few drinks that day and I considered her one of the troops–she was a nurse.” In one of the four pictures that Eisenstaedt took you can actually see Rita in the background.

Mr. Mendonsa’s daughter, Sharon Molleur, reported that her father suffered a seizure and died on Sunday, February 17, 2019, after a fall at a care home in Middletown, Rhode Island. He was 95 years old.

Alfred Eisenstadt: Sailor Kiss, VJ Day, 1945

With Color

Other Sailors

Bill Swicegood, Clarence “Bud” Harding, Wallace C. Fowler and others have claimed to be the sailor but none have the evidence that supports Mendonsa’s claim. Even with all the evidence supporting Mendonsa as the sailor ex-NYPD officer, Carl Muscarello still insists that he is the kisser, “I am 100 percent sure. There is no doubt in my mind.” While Muscarello doesn’t have scientific proof behind the claim he does have the backing of the Edith Shain who the photographer, Alfred Eisenstaedt, backed before he passed away. Another supporter of Muscarello was his mother, “When the magazine came out, my mother called me and said I was in LIFE magazine. You couldn’t see my face, but she knew the birthmark on the back of my right hand. She said, ‘Don’t you know you shouldn’t be kissing strange women? You’ll get a disease.’ I said, ‘Mom, the lady’s a nurse.’ She said, ‘They’re the worst kind, always around sick people.’ “. Muscarello who lives down in Florida was recently in the news when he and his son tackled a golf club-wielding home invader who surprised the family while eating breakfast.

As of 1995 LIFE magazine has never identified who was in the picture.

Alfred Eisenstaedt

Alfred Eisenstaedt (December 6, 1898, Dirschau, West Prussia (now Tczew, Poland) – August 24, 1995, Jackson Heights, Queens, New York) was a photographer and photojournalist, best remembered for his photograph capturing the celebration of V-J Day. Eisenstaedt immigrated to the United States in 1935, where he lived the rest of his life. Eisenstaedt worked as a photographer for Life magazine from 1936 to 1972. His photos of news events and celebrities, such as Sophia Loren and Ernest Hemingway, were featured on more than 90 Life covers.

#MeToo

The advent of the #MeToo movement caused society to reevaluate this iconic kiss. After the “Kisser” Mendonsa died a statue of the kiss was vandalized, with someone spraying #MeToo on the nurse’s leg. Several of nurses recall being kissed against their will that day but write it off as being caught up in the moment. BBC reported that “After Ms Zimmer’s death in 2016, her son told the New York Times his mother did not view the kiss negatively.”

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