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San Diego Visitors Reflect On Kissing Statue After Sailor’s Death

Visitors to the San Diego Embarcadero snap photos next to the 'Embracing Peac...

Photo by Bennett Lacy

Above: Visitors to the San Diego Embarcadero snap photos next to the 'Embracing Peace' statue near the U.S.S. Midway Museum. The artwork depicts a scene from a famous photo taken in 1945, as an American sailor embraced a woman in New York City's Times Square to celebrate the end of World War 2.

Days after the death of George Mendonsa, visitors to the U.S.S. Midway Museum are reflecting on the sailor whose moment of exuberance for the end of World War II was captured by photographers in New York's Times Square. The photograph was one of the most famous of the 20th century and is depicted in the 'Embracing Peace' sculpture that stands next to the decommissioned aircraft carrier in San Diego.

"16 million Americans served in World War II. Tens of thousands embarked on troop ships right here at Navy Pier next to the kiss," said Scott McGaugh, marketing director for the U.S.S. Midway Museum. "So in many ways, San Diego has deep roots in World War II, and I think the kiss represents that service and sacrifice during those four years.”

Joseph Lo, a Taiwan native who now lives in North Carolina, was among the crowds of tourists visiting the attraction on Tuesday.

“It’s a great juxtaposition, right? Because you have the ultimate war machine here designed to destroy and do amazing acts of damage," said Lo. "And then you have this image symbolizing the end of the war, the joy, the peace of people coming together in this spontaneous moment.”

RELATED: San Diego Part Of Effort To Honor Chinese American WWII Veterans

Another visitor to the statue was Phil Williams, who lives in Kansas City. He says his grandfather served in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II, and that Mendonsa's story hits close to home.

"This is the iconic statue here for the iconic photograph that was taken," said Williams. "It’s fantastic, so hopefully it lives on forever. Just the happiness that the war was over and all the things that came along with the jubilation. Not only of victory, but just kind of what’s ahead of us. You know, the good unknown that’s going to be ahead of us because of the victory.”

The statue was originally called 'Unconditional Surrender' when it was installed in 2007. The piece was re-installed in 2013 and its name was later changed to 'Embracing Peace.' The U.S.S. Midway Museum says it works with about two dozen World War II veterans to help tell their stories to museum visitors.

"Less than 500,000 remain and we’re losing nearly 400 every day. So it really is critical that we preserve their legacy,” said McGaugh.

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