This Kiss: ‘Kissing Sailor,’ ‘Lone Sailor’ Meet In Waterloo


CEDAR FALLS — On Aug. 14, 1945, millions of Americans rejoiced at the end of World War II, but perhaps none more than U.S. Navy Sailor George Mendonsa.

Better known as “the Kissing Sailor,” Mendonsa’s moment of joy was captured by Life magazine and became a treasured piece of Americana.

On Tuesday, part of that history arrived in Waterloo.

As a part of the 2012 National Spirit of ’45 Day public awareness campaign, Robert Corpus and Chris “Woody” Woodall have been traveling across the U.S., making stops at museums and memorials to recognize those who sacrificed during World War II.

And they do not travel alone.

With them is a scaled-down replica of artist Seward Johnson’s famed “Kissing Sailor” statue. On its way to an event in Milwaukee, it paid a short visit to the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in Waterloo on Tuesday.

Corpus, who is the national youth director for Spirit of ’45, said Waterloo was not on the original list of stops, but another statue drew them into town.

“We wanted to pay tribute to the hometown of the Sullivans,” Corpus said, referring to the five brothers from Waterloo who lost their lives in World War II. “And we understood one of the few ‘Lone Sailor’ statues resided here, so when we were making planned detours during our trip, Waterloo was a must.”

The “Lone Sailor” is one of a dozen bronze replicas of the statue created by Stanley Bleifeld for the United States Navy Memorial in Washington D.C.

The half-ton statue was brought to the museum site in 2003, mostly thanks to a $200,000 bequest from Waterloo native and 22-year Navy Chief Petty Officer Melvin J. Juel.

Playfully nicknamed “the vagabond statue,” the traveling “Kissing Sailor” was parked outside the plaza at the Sullivan Brothers Museum for about an hour Tuesday morning. It drew a crowd as spectators snapped photographs of the two statues together.

Billie Bailey, director of the Grout Museum, was honored to play a part in the Spirit of ’45 campaign.

“(The campaign) reinforces the interest and the honor that is given to World War II veterans,” Bailey said. “It really underscores the support for veterans and the troops returning home now, and it is good to be a part of that.”

Inspired by Mendonsa’s iconic kiss, the six-foot sculpture is just one of two smaller replicas designed by Johnson. Two more 25-foot statues reside in San Diego, Calif., and Sarasota, Fla.

Mendonsa served as a Sailor on the original USS The Sullivans, the World War II destroyer named after the Sullivan brothers, and participated in the April 1997 Staten Island, N.Y., commisioning of the current USS The Sullivans, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer.

The “Kissing Sailor,” a 500-pound bronze statue will make its final stop in Washington, D.C., on Monday, where it will be part of the National Memorial Day Parade.

“It has been a campaign of a lifetime,” Woodall said. “To honor and represent the men and women who worked so hard to keep our country safe has been a great gift.”

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