You must remember this
A kiss is still a kiss,
A sigh is just a sigh;
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by.
-Louis Armstrong's "As Time Goes By"
What is it about a kiss that makes it magical? In the case of one sailor and a nurse, it is the essence of romance itself: two strangers literally passing on the street, caught up in the celebration of V-J Day, which marked the end of World War II, briefly embraced and kissed. Who knows how many people were kissing all over America at that moment, in sort of a midnight on New Year's Eve kind of rapture.
I have always been enamored with the nurse in the photograph. Though her face is not visible, we see her shapely legs, one bent in the crush of the kiss, her left arm slightly bent as she is no doubt surprised but not shaken or upset. The sailor's hair is dark under his white cap; he cuts a dashing figure that could obviously sweep a girl off her feet. We can't see his face either, but it is obvious that both must have been glowing when they saw each other, inspiring the man to take a chance, and for the woman to acquiesce so willingly.
The sailor didn't just kiss the nurse either: he took her in his arms, leaned her back, and smooched her like it was the first and last kiss they would ever share, and sadly, it was. This encounter would be long forgotten now, but it was captured for eternity by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine. In literally a shot heard - and seen - around the world, the nurse and sailor became a symbol not just of the end of war but of the greatness that was the New York City of that time.