The dramatic twenty-five foot tall sculpture depicting the famous kiss that took place in Times Square on the day WWII ended on August 14, 1945, was unveiled for dedication on Saturday, February 16, at 10 a.m., adjacent to the USS Midway. The public was invited to the free ceremony on the G Street Mole off Harbor Drive in downtown San Diego.
San Diego Mayor Bob Filner was joined by Miranda Hope (Bob’s Grandaughter & San Diego resident) to be on hand to speak and place a wreath on her Bob’s memorial and Kate Linder (30 years and Esther Valentine of day times Y&R), who participated in four USO tours, and Tova Borgnine (Wife of the late Earnest Borgnine) on behalf of her husband – a Spirit of 45 spokesman, who served in WWII.
An earlier casting of Unconditional Surrender by artist Seward Johnson, used for temporary exhibitions, became a landmark in San Diego while on display for several years where it became the symbol of Spirit of ’45 Day, the annual day of remembrance honoring America’s WWII generation that is observed each year during the second weekend in August, aligning with the day the war ended. The sculpture is from Johnson’s series titled Icons Revisited. Mr. Johnson is 82 and served in the US Navy.
In 2012, the USS Midway Museum and a national coalition of WWII interest groups called Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive! led a community fundraising drive that netted just over $1 million in only two months for the purchase of a permanent, bronze version of the sculpture in addition to extensive site development, landscaping, and lighting.
The Midway will present the sculpture and the newly landscaped site to the Port of San Diego during the ceremony. The landscaping features cherry trees donated by the Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego. These enhancements will result in a beautiful new park area for the community called Greatest Generation Walk.
The sculpture, purchased from The Sculpture Foundation, will be a permanent reminder of the joy and relief that erupted across the world on the day WWII ended and how America, having achieved victory in the most destructive war in history, immediately turned to the work of peace and began to lay the foundations for a better future for both allies and former foes alike.
The dedication ceremony will be part of the Spirit of ’45 Day National Leaders Conference which brings organizations from around to country together each year in February to discuss how to preserve the history and heritage of the men and women who were the ordinary heroes who achieved extraordinary deeds during WWII and then on August 14, 1945, turned to the task of rebuilding the postwar world.
Conference attendees included Jerry Coleman of the San Diego Padres, a highly decorated Marine fighter pilot who was the only Major League Baseball player to have served in combat in both WWII and the Korean War, and Jerry Yellin who flew the final combat mission of WWII on August 14, 1945.
Also attending were Nell Calloway, grand daughter of the legendary General Claire Chennault who led the famous Flying Tigers in the skies over China during the war, and Ms. Kelly Estes whose great uncle was a member of the Doolittle Raiders.
Representing the US Navy were Paul Haley of the Navy Memorial and the presidents of the USS New Jersey, the USS Iowa and the USS Missouri, where the final peace treaty officially ending the war was signed on September 22, 1945, in Tokyo Bay.
A highlight of the dedication ceremony were several couples who married during World War II, who renewed their vows in front of the Times Square Kiss, in a brief ceremony conducted by Pastor David Plank, as San Diego Mayor Bob Filner announces the beginning of the official countdown to the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in August 2015. Mayor Filner, a 10-term Congressman introduced Spirit of ’45 Day in Congress when he served as the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
The dedication ceremony was followed by a Salute to Heroes community event next door on Navy Pier where Midway is berthed, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be activities for the kids, radio station entertainment, and donation/adoption displays by the Diego Food Bank and San Diego Humane Society. Anyone who donated food or adopted a pet during the event received two free tickets to the USS Midway Museum.
Heroes come in all shapes, sizes, and ages, said Midway president and CEO Mac McLaughlin. “We’re looking forward to San Diegans stepping forward to honor our Greatest Generation during the dedication ceremony and to help keep their Spirit alive by donating food or adopting a homeless pet, all in the interest of the community.
For more information about Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive! visit www.Spiritof45.org
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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: 1.) Kate Linder standing [wearing Nathanelle Couture] next to Bob Hope Memorial, 2.) Kate Linder (center) and Miranda Hope (center) stand with veterans, representing all of the armed forces, at the Bob Hope memorial, 3.) Miranda Hope and Kate Linder flank Bob Hopes Statue, 4.) View from the USS Midway Setting up for “The Kiss”
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