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Thread: Just a kiss - or was it?
06-30-08, 06:42 AM #1
Just a kiss - or was it?
Some memories from that day are so clear, 63 years later, that Ernie Dubay can still hear them.
The buzz in his barracks as sailors switched into their dress blues. The shuffle of feet as he clamored out of the Seventh Avenue subway and headed for the party of his life.
All day, reports of Japan's capitulation had circulated at the gate of the St. Albans Naval Hospital in Queens, where Dubay stood guard. He was 20, a 6-foot-tall pharmacist's mate with long features and a slick black pompadour held down by a white sailor's hat.
It was about 5 p.m. on Aug. 14, 1945, when he arrived. In two hours the news zipper wrapping the New York Times building would flash the five words he'd waited to hear:
"OFFICIAL - TRUMAN ANNOUNCES JAPANESE SURRENDER."
Dubay doesn't remember that part. But he remembers another moment as sharply as if it was captured on camera - because, he says, it was.
"I started walking toward the building with the news going around. I saw this girl in a white uniform and I grabbed her and I kissed her."
He saw a flash. A photographer, perched a few feet from them, was snapping away. Then Dubay and the nurse went their separate ways.
"The odd part of it," he says in his Columbus, Burlington County, living room, opening a thick folder of correspondence stemming from that brief embrace, "is that we never said a word to each other."
Ever since he saw Alfred Eisenstaedt's photograph V-J Day in Times Square, Ernie Dubay - a retired elementary school principal, Little League founder, and square-dance caller - has been convinced that he is the sailor shown planting the world's most famous kiss.
But it's a secret he kept for years - in fact, he never told his wife.
Because that day in 1945, he and Dorothy Sacket were practically engaged, high school sweethearts who would get hitched the next year.
"I should have been kissing her."
Now that his wife is dead, Ernie Dubay is waging an intense campaign to prove he's the one in the photo.
Despite the fact that at least 13 other men have made the same assertion.
And it's my unwelcome job to tell him he's wrong.
We met a couple of weeks ago in his house, which is decorated with all manner of versions of the famous scene - printed on handbags, calendars and stamps, in yellowing newspapers and a plastic-wrapped copy of Life magazine, where it was first published in 1945.
Eisenstaedt said he didn't have time to take down the names of the couple, which is why the kissers' identity has never been officially acknowledged, though many have staked their claims.
In Dubay's living room hangs a slightly different angle of the kiss - that day, a Navy photographer named Victor Jorgensen was shooting alongside Eisenstaedt. And ever since this winter, when Dubay learned that this second shot revealed more of the sailor's face, he's sensed that the end of his quest was within grasp.
A few months ago he hired a photographer to take dozens of photographs of him, including one of his kissing a pillow, to approximate the famed pose. This was done at the request of Lois Gibson, a Houston police sketch artist who is so successful, she's listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.
But Gibson hadn't been returning his calls.
So I called her.
"I have the tenderest feelings of respect for him," she said. She called Dubay a hero for his service.
"It is absolutely not him."
His hands and ears are much too long, Gibson said. The shapes of the muscles on his forehead were nothing like the soldier's.
I called Dubay back. He said he was not surprised, since in 2007 Gibson had identified an 80-year-old Houston man named Glenn McDuffie as the sailor. She wouldn't want to admit she was wrong, Dubay said.
"I don't give up," he said.
This would take a little more research. I talked to Dubay some more about that day, then hunted down what Eisenstaedt had said.
He'd spotted a sailor "running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight. Whether she was a grandmother, stout, thin, old, didn't make any difference."
How many girls did you kiss that day? I asked Dubay.
"Just that one," he replied. And then I told him of Eisenstaedt's recollection.
Dubay was not fazed. He said he would always be that sailor to his family, especially his half-sister Mary, who remembers how he looked when he was in the Navy.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I know it was me. I wouldn't have done all this research the last eight years if I didn't think so."
The last word in this goes to Gibson, the forensic expert, who describes the photo as her father's favorite.
"There are a lot of other guys left hanging, and they're all wonderful," she said wistfully. "They fought for their country and they kissed a girl, and they're still all swept up in it. It's beautiful."
06-30-08, 06:57 AM #2
An absolute timeless photograph, embracing the feel of that particular moment...probably a feeling that the entire nation experienced. I can't decide if it is too bad we'll probably never have proof of who the sailor was, or if it is a good thing.
Its funny though...out of thousands of WWII photos taken, maybe 10 stand out, and maybe 2 are well known to even the newer generations...the one above, and the one of the second flag raising on Iwo Jima...--
"And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes, I'll see you on the dark side of the moon..."
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