V-J Day

Sadly, Greta Friedman died last week at the age of 92.  My connection to her was tenuous, at best.  I’ll explain:

Greta was most famous for being the nurse captured in the famous Alfred Eisenstaedt photograph taken in Times Square on V-J Day.  In it, she is being held and kissed by a sailor she didn’t know.  But I knew him. Kind of.

Ankles Aweigh My Boy

Ankles Aweigh My Boy!

The sailor in the photo was a former girlfriend’s uncle–Uncle Carl.  Some years ago, probably marking the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, Uncle Carl was making the rounds on TV as the avatar of the sailor in the photo.  Unfortunately, a number of other men also claimed that they were, in fact, that sailor. Though having met neither them nor Uncle Carl, I have maintained throughout that he was certainly the man in the photo. Further evidence that my claims to fame are very few and sometimes very strained.  I’ve used this connection whenever it seemed appropriate (witness here) and sometimes when the randomness of it can seem quite sad.

One of the things I like most about that photograph is how it harkens to a simpler, more innocent time. In the more cynical and jaded times we live in, moments of such genuine exuberance and joy are in very short supply.  And yet, when I read Greta’s obituary, it seems that even this icon of a charming, ideal portrait of the United States at that moment has come under attack as an example of a sexual assault by modern standards.  Jeez!  Based on that calculation, I’d be doing hard time by now.

But more to the point . . . where does that leave Uncle Carl?  And even more to the point–where does that leave me?  An admirer and relation (of sorts) to a molester?  No, thank you!

Fortunately, Ms. Friedman is on record as saying that., “it was just someone celebrating.  It wasn’t a romantic event.”  She didn’t view it as an assault in any way.

From what I read in her obituary, it seems that she lived a good life. I also read that there are a number of other women who claim to be the nurse in the photo.  Which means that there may be more obituary notices covering that photo in the future.  Which means that I’ll . . . well, I guess you can figure the rest out.


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