JASPER, Ala. (WIAT) — Central Alabama has a local tie to a national treasure: an Alabama veteran is in the background of the iconic photograph of a sailor and nurse kissing in Times Square while celebrating victory over Japan in the second World War.
The historic kiss took place on August 15, 1945, just days after Kenneth Hicks, a fireman Merchant Marine, and his comrades were unloaded in Virginia before heading to New York City’s Time Square for the celebration of the end of World War II.
Before the celebration, however, times were difficult due to rations and shortages. Hicks, a Jasper native, spent 11 months serving around the world on the U.S.S. Paulus and recalled the lack of necessary supplies.
“We ran out of food, coffee and all the basic things that you need. And boy I’ll tell you – it was rough, rough, rough,” the 94-year-old Hicks recalled.
Hicks distinctly remembers the events leading up to the photo, which was shot by Alfred Eisenstaedt and now known as “V-J Day in Times Square,” and said he even tried to imitate the sailor.
“When I walked up, this sailor was kissing this nurse,” Hicks explained. “I was standing next to a nice looking young lady. I looked over and I was going to copy him and right about that time, I felt something right behind my head there. It was a policeman on a horse saying, ‘Hey, sailor! Leave that lady alone!’ I said, ‘Yes, sir! Yes, sir, no problem!'” Hicks said.
Hicks and the rest of New York City were ecstatic, and the photograph only features a snapshot of the festivities. The veteran said he was just lucky enough to be part of the captured moment.
“It’s been all over the whole world,” Hicks said. “Am I famous? No. But I’m glad it happened.”
Learn more about the history of “V-J Day in Times Square” here.