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Kiss Statue Taken Down, Replacement Scheduled By End Of Year

Workers today began removing the statue of a sailor kissing a nurse near the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum on San Diego's downtown waterfront.

The heads were the first to come off.

The severed bust of the sailor kissing a nurse weighs 1500 lbs and was removed by a 70-ton crane from the body of "Unconditional Surrender," the popular 25ft statue located next to the USS Midway on San Diego's downtown waterfront.

The lip-locked heads were placed gently in front of a crowd of photographers, tourists and onlookers.

"Unconditional Surrender" has been on loan to the Port of San Diego for six years (the loan was extended numerous times). The statue drew tourists and couples who often mimicked the statue's embrace for photos.

Bernie Oberoski works for artist Seward Johnson's studio in New Jersey, where the statue will go to be refurbished. He is overseeing "Unconditional Surrender's" removal, which he says isn't that hard since the statue is in five large pieces. "Imagine a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. It's almost like a layer cake; it will be stacked. You have your head section, a mid-section, which weighs as much as a car, and then the legs in two parts." A shoulder and arm were also removed separately.

The oversized body parts will will be placed on two flatbed trucks. For the long drive, the legs, arms, and kissing heads will sit exposed on the back of those trucks without a tarp. "The truck drivers love to carry this piece without a tarp because it draws such a crowd," says Oberoski. "It's like on a parade across the country."

"Unconditional Surrender" is part of artist Seward Johnson's "Icon" series, which also includes a statue of Marilyn Monroe currently in Palm Springs.

"Unconditional Surrender" is based on a famous 1945 Life magazine photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt in New York's Times Square when the end of World War II was announced.

The popular statue has not been without its critics. But San Diegans and tourists will barely have time to lament - or rejoice in - the statue's departure.

A new permanent "Unconditional Surrender" will go up before the end of the year.

It will be made out of bronze and painted to look exactly like the departing sculpture. The new version will also be made by Seward Johnson.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, Midway museum officials announced that an eight-week fundraising campaign raised $998,000, enough to pay for the replacement, which was cast in China in September before any money was raised.

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