Florida WWII statue to stay at Sarasota Bayfront after GOP congressman intervenes

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A controversial statue of a Navy sailor kissing a dental assistant to celebrate the Allies' World War II victory over Japan can stay in a Florida city where officials considered removing it.

"Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin just told me the 'Unconditional Surrender' statue will remain at the Bayfront," Florida GOP congressman Vern Buchanan said in a statement Tuesday. "That's what the people of our community wanted overwhelmingly."

Buchanan urged local officials to leave the statue last week, as they mulled either moving it or taking it down entirely.

The Kiss Statue at Bayshore Park. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The 25-foot "Unconditional Surrender" sculpture depicts an iconic photograph taken in Times Square in Aug. 14, 1945, showing George Mendonsa kissing Greta Zimmer Friedman, a dental assistant. They had never met, and in an interview decades after the famous encounter, Friedman said it wasn't her choice to be kissed.

FLORIDA GOP REP. BUCHANAN URGES OFFICIALS NOT TO REMOVE STATUE CELEBRATING WWII VICTORY OVER JAPAN

Vandals spray-painted "#MeToo" on the sculpture, shortly after Mendonsa's death in 2019. Friedman died in 2016.

In his letter last week, Buchanan argued that the statue is a popular landmark with widespread support from veterans and other local community members.

"My on-line survey of area residents showed more than 80 percent supported keeping it right where it is – and I agree with them," he wrote at the time.

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According to his statement Tuesday, the statue may temporarily be moved during the construction of a new roundabout in Sarasota's Bayfront, but the city will return it once the work is done.

"Special thanks to all of our veterans and residents who spoke out on the issue and made this possible," Buchanan said. "And special thanks to Tom [Barwin] and city officials for making a great decision."

Regulation, society, adoption

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