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Unconditional Surrender statue battle heats up Sarasota

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Some call it an iconic homage to the Greatest Generation, others see a kitschy depiction of violating sexism looming on the Sarasota waterfront.

It seems everyone feels strongly about the Unconditional Surrender statue that will soon be placed in storage as the City of Sarasota begins construction with the Florida Department of Transportation on a roundabout at US 41 and Gulfstream Avenue.

Two weeks ago, Friends of Seagate President Kafi Benz that a combination of artistic and social issues should lead to the removal of the statue permanently from the waterfront.

Benz said it is not art, but is manufactured in China by a machine and is not original in any way. Secondly, she said it is copyright infringement and the “antithesis” of fine art.

Primarily, Benz said that romanticizing a forced and dominating kiss is essentially unacceptable at such a landmark location in the community.

The lack of mutual engagement is particularly disturbing for many, including Benz and the Seagate organization.  Benz goes on to call it a fiberglass fabrication that has been replicated in other sites and lacks originality.

Last June, Sarasota City Commissioner Hagen Brody took a different view and said it paid homage to the Greatest Generation and the nation’s victory in World War II.

Others spoke of the popularity with tourists and veterans.

At issue is whether the statue will be erected following the construction of the roundabout.

The City received the statue on loan for 10 years and now the City is the owner of the work.

Because the City now owns Unconditional Surrender, it can choose where it wishes to place it, or if it prefers to keep it in storage, sell it, or donate it a veteran’s organization.

The original mandate made by the previous owner in 2009, was that the statue remain prominently on the waterfront for 10 years.

The original photograph of V-J Day in Times Square from which the statue is made, was created by Alfred Eisenstaedt and published in Life Magazine in 1945.

Greta Zimmer Friedman is the woman depicted in the photo and said the sailor grabbed her and kissed her and she had no choice in the matter. Other photos taken by Eisenstaedt show the same sailor trying to pull her skirt up.

The founder and Director of the Sarasota Public Art Fund, Thomas Savage, helped maintain the statue through the organization over the past 10 years. Savage has maintained that the statue is important to veterans.

Once the statue is placed in storage, the City and residents in the community will have plenty of time for debate. The roundabout is destined to take at least 400 days to complete, affording ample time for many a point and counterpoint.

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32 Responses for “Unconditional Surrender statue battle heats up Sarasota”

  1. Carol Brush says:

    I think Ms Benz and Friends of Seagate should lighten up. This is an iconic statue of celebration of the end of the war. It gives homage to those men and women of the Greatest Generation who gave their all so we could have the freedom to argue about this statue. Shame on you elitists who try to make this about something else,

  2. I think we should vote on this.

  3. June Haley says:

    I love that statue and hope SRQ will continue to have it on display near the spot where it has been. We have taken many photos of us and friends near it. The statue is a meaningful reminder of the history of our country and the sacrifices that were made along with the relief people felt and celebrated at the end of WWII. For goodness sake, I hope it is not removed.

  4. Joey Chicklet says:

    Why not go to the internet and read the wonderful interview with Greta Zimmerman Friedman in the Library of Congress ‘Veterans History Project’. You might see this lady never, ever, said she never felt her role in history was due to a ‘forced and dominating kiss’. Today, people can interpret the lady’s own words anyway they like, but it doesn’t change what she actually said. Greta recalled: “I’m not sure I — about the kiss because, you know, it was just somebody really celebrating. But it wasn’t a romantic event. It was just an event of ‘thank God the war is over’ kind of thing because it was right in front of the sign.”

    Now, there are people who desperately want to join the “cancel culture” and pull down statues and destroy people for the flimsiest of reasons. Hey, we’ve all been stuck at home for months, the anger flows easily into keyboards and blogs, but this doesn’t turn fiction into fact. This statue is kitschy; but it is still symbolic of an incredible moment in our history. For 75 years the entire country appreciated the feeling of the moment when the United States won the war. The lady in the photo had no issues so perhaps the ‘Friends of Seagate’ shouldn’t either.

  5. Sunny Gravy says:

    If it talks like a Communist, misrepresents the truth like a Communist, pretends to be an art critic like a Communist, wants to revision history like a Communist, it must be a COMMUNIST or now called a PROGRESSIVE.

  6. James L. says:

    Gardenia Tree: Assaulted? She never said that. Greta Friedman never said she was assaulted. In fact, both she and George Mendosa (only one of the alleged kissers) were very friendly with each other at the July 4th parade in 2009. From the photographer: There’s no dispute she didn’t consent, she didn’t have time to it happened in a couple of seconds (4 frames from the camera and the kiss was over). But to frame this as a violent assault given the circumstances is beyond common sense or reason.

  7. Gardenia Tree says:

    Everyone who is demanding on keeping the statue where it is must not know that the nurse in the original photo that the statue is modeled after was assaulted. She didn’t know the guy and didn’t want to. Even in 1945, that was a crime. You just chose to look the other way.

    The statue was indeed patterned after the events of a wildly joyous day, and I’m pretty sure there were many other events that took place in 1945 that would show the relief people felt. Don’t destroy the statue, but considering that it’s glorifying an act that was not legal at any time since then, perhaps it should be moved to a location where the complete story can be told. Maybe in a WW2 museum.

    Give the poor (late) nurse the dignity of telling her true story.

  8. bibi giordano says:

    Perspective, please. This statue originated from the famous photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt on V-J day in Times Square, NYC on August 14, 1945. As so many have said, it was a moment in history captured on film of a spontaneous expression of pure and simple joy and relief. Similar images captured on film of people hugging, kissing, dancing and expressing exuberant human emotion can be seen by googling archives of photos from around the world on V-E day, V-J day, and on so many other days of celebration, be it for winning a war or a baseball game.
    The statue is a symbol of something greater than what it is made of or whatever motive is subjectively ascribed to it. We are presently at war with a deadly pandemic that is affecting our emotional and physical well-being. If a statue can elicit joy in the eye’s of the beholder, we should be thankful for its presence.

  9. James L. says:

    The symbology of this statue is a very positive one, of the day the Japanese signed an “Unconditional Surrender” of the War which our Greatest Generation suffered so much loss. To turn this joyous event into a culture war for political correctness or ascribe some sick motive is unacceptable and very disrespectful to our Greatest Generation. As the past several weeks have shown, it is not a stretch that some of the virtue signalers have misconstrued the word “surrender” – that word was what the Japanese did, not the woman. History matters. Framing this issue in terms of “art” is a thin veneer to cover for those waging a culture war against all things American by the grievance class. What a delightful visual in Sarasota. Taking this statue down would be the ultimate surrender of the common sense and decency of the people of Sarasota. Stop the madness and leave it alone.

  10. Suzanne Young says:

    OMG, Yet another demand !! Everyone has a right to there opinion;however, that is what voting is about !!! The loud voices of the few should not dominate the voice of the majority !!! I vote to keep the statue there. To me it represents the end of World War II and saving the lives of tons of people around the world. It was a time to celebrate !! It is “OUR”history which should be never erased and forgotten !!!

  11. Jane Trout says:

    Please leave it alone. I have enjoyed seeing it every time we go to Sarasota. There are many people who love the statue even though it doesn’t meet your standards of fine art. Listen to them.

  12. The statue represents a time in our history of war heroes coming home. Do not keep destroying our statues of our heritage. When people go over seas, do they go to see new buildings and structures? No. They go to iconic structures of the countries past. I know the Colosseum of Rome had blood bath events. But many tourists go to see it. For petes sake people get a backbone.

  13. Sharon Beu says:

    I think you should keep it there after remodel. It is a bright spot in our history that the war was ended. Let us not destroy everything that was before us

  14. Joan Webster says:

    Keep the statue where it is. It is a joyful reminder of the sacrifices made by an earlier generation for the rest of us. It reminds us that war is no fun. I rarely drive past the statue that I don’t see a group photographing themselves in front of it. It is a tourist destination.

  15. Joan Webster says:

    Surrender should remain visible where it is. Human emotion is manifested by its display. The previous generation sacrificed to prove That wartime is no fun. This statue represents THE END of distress. It represents joy, jubilation and relief. It is a peaceful reminder of The sacrifices made for the rest of us.
    I rarely drive past the statue and don’t see a group standing by and photographing someone in front of it.

  16. Mathew P. Gross says:

    I love seeing the statue where it is. I see a celebration of the war ending with so much happiness and pride. Please continue to display the statue where it is.

  17. Marjorie Beg says:

    I walk daily around the Marina and pass the statue. There is always people visiting the statue and taking pictures. I love the Statue – Please do not remove it!

  18. Shirley Beck says:

    I live across from the statue and daily enjoy the taps from Marina Jack, Church bells and many people reflecting as they take pictures. Many veterans I have spoken to by the statue love the memories of our great victory that changed the world. They even ask why another statue of Iwo jima could not be in the near spot. What a great way to respect and celebrate those who lost life during world war 11.

  19. Bob Bennekers says:

    It may not be a ‘work of art’, but it is very interesting and a piece of history. People of Sarasota County should be allowed to vote on it, not one ‘elite’ person make that decision because it does not fit his agenda. This is not a dictatorship yet.

  20. Marjorie Beg says:

    Why we can not enjoy events and history as it evolved. Why is there momentum to burn, tear and create a new country with new national anthem and flag. I hope I am not around to see that sad evolution. We are the greatest country in the world…..appreciate what It offers.

  21. J. Sheehan says:

    It is one of the tackiest things I’ve ever seen

  22. Cheryl Nelson says:

    Please leave it alone! It represents a happy moment of history. We must not let a few negative dark minds try to control how we see everything. Sexism? I would call it romance!

  23. 2. Leon I. Hammer, M.D. says:

    I was there on that day. I knew what it meant, literally millions of American lives, what general Marshall, commander of the US Army told Truman and why he dropped the atomic bombs. I might have been one of those men. I was on leave, back from Europe and on my way to Tacoma Washington to transfer from B-24s to B-29s and thence to Tinian and Japan. I understood what that sailor could have been feeling.

    However, I have no attachment to that statue. This is America [before Trump]. Let us vote!

  24. Are you joking……Please, please, leave it there…..Love that statue❤️

  25. Terence Bingham says:

    What next? The crazies are trying to rule the world.
    The City has a duty to ensure that the statue is prominently displayed in Sarasota.

  26. RF Seabury says:

    Ho Hum, just another self important Sarasota Art Snot who can’t stand to see ordinary people
    admiring something the Sarasota Art Snots haven’t approved. Ha! Ha! Continuing poetic justice for all Sarasota Art Snots. The statue will stay on Gulfstream and you will be forced to look at it and be angry every time you pass.

  27. Frank Del says:

    Wow! Does everything we look at today have to comply with today’s standards of what some perceive to be political correctness? This could mean several things to many different people… That’s what art is about. I shouldn’t have to be subjected to one person’s point of view. I vote for it staying and reminding us of our history and visitors can take away what ever it may mean to them. This statue has become an icon for Sarasota and it should remain as such.

  28. Sheila Monica says:

    Are you kidding me. I know so many out of state people that VISIT AND ASK ME TO TAKE THEM TO SEE THIS BEAUTIFUL UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER.
    SEXIST BECAUSE THEY ARE KISSING. OMG YOU E GOT TO BE KIDDING ME
    WE WERE ALL HEART BROKEN WHEN IT HAD TO BE REAPAIR
    NOW CONSIDERING NOT PUTTING IT BACK UP. SO SAD TEXT BOOKS CHANGING HISTERY FLAGS AND HISTORY
    STATURES BEING TAKEN DOWN. SOON YEXT BOOKS WILL BE BLANK AND OUR GRAND KIDS WILL KNOW NOTHING EXCEPT WHATS HAPPENED IN THE LAST TWENTY YEARS. WORRY ABOUT RIOTS TEACHING KIDS RIGHT FROM WRONG RACISM. AND HOW TO HATE. COME ON WAKE UP

  29. Gabe Rosica says:

    The elitist art snobs of Sarasota never wanted the statue there in the first place. It is a piece of Americana. My mother, who was in NY on the day, couldn’t wait to see it again when she visited Sarasota. She is gone now and we think of her whenever we see the statue. Taking it down would just be another insane act like removing the many statues (other than those of prominent confederate figures) that are being torn down today. History is history and only the zealots think of it as a “me too” symbol. The rest of us think of it as a spontaneous action of joy symbolizing the end of the war.

  30. Jerry kososki says:

    What’s next. Cancel the entire military complex STPO STOP . Gone to far. That statue of that sailer giving that nurse a big smack is part of our history , no way is that sexist . People who are making that statement need medical (mental) help. I’d be glad to supply that for those off the the wall individuals. Ive got just the right medicines for those in need.

  31. Sue hill says:

    It should stand where it is.
    It’s was placed there and draws many visitors.
    #leaveitalone

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