This large statue is amazingly popular with tourists visiting San Diego’s Embarcadero. Tour buses park in the nearby parking lot and throngs of people stand beneath the kissing sailor and nurse, snapping photos. Many couples joyfully imitate the dramatic pose. Critics say the statue is too kitsch, but I disagree! It perfectly represents a moment in time: the end of the Second World War.
Referred to by many as The Kiss, this huge sculpture was created by the artist Seward Johnson. Its proper name is Unconditional Surrender. It’s based on a photograph taken during V-J day in New York’s Times Square. An American sailor, overjoyed at the news of the war’s end, grabbed a random nurse nearby and gave her a spontaneous kiss. The photograph became world famous.
A temporary Unconditional Surrender statue was originally placed at this site, but it was replaced with a permanent bronze version in 2012. Unlike most other monuments and memorials located on the Greatest Generation Walk, just south of the USS Midway, this statue is so enormous it can be glimpsed from several points on San Diego Bay.
I love this statue. It’s located on the Embarcadero a little south of the USS Midway, just off a bike and pedestrian path, in an area called the Greatest Generation Walk. Other statues, plaques and memorials can be found in the vicinity, but this bronze sculpture expresses such genuine feeling and humanity, it’s hard to take one’s eyes from it.
It’s called Homecoming. It depicts a sailor newly returned from deployment, reunited with his wife and small child. It’s a scene often televised by local news stations. San Diego is home to several large Navy bases, and is the homeport of many naval ships.
The artist who created this is named Stanley Bleifeld. According to the Port of San Diego website, this sculpture is identical to the artist’s original work, which is featured at the entrance to the Naval Heritage Center next to the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Another very well-liked person in San Diego is Padres radio announcer Jerry Coleman. His accomplishments have been so impressive, he’s got a statue and memorial at Petco Park, just inside the east entrance to the Park at the Park.
I remembering listening to Jerry when I was a kid. At the time he did the Padres radio play-by-play, and was teamed with Dave Campbell who provided color commentary. Today, at the lively age of 89, he takes part in the broadcast during day games.
Jerry, also known as “The Colonel”, was named major league baseball Rookie of the Year in 1949 as Yankees second baseman. In 1950 his defensive plays made him most valuable player in the World Series.
As a Marine aviator, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Coleman interrupted his baseball career to serve in the Korean War. He flew 120 combat missions and received two Distinguished Flying Crosses. He also flew during World War II, making him the only major league baseball player to serve in two wars.
Jerry, famous for his enthusiastic phrases “Oh, Doctor!” and “You can hang a star on that baby!” was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2007.
A good argument can be made that the most-liked person in San Diego is Tony Gwynn. He’s one of the friendliest, most good-natured guys you’ll ever find, not to mention one of the best hitters ever in the history of baseball. He was voted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame the first year he was eligible. He’s also got a great statue in East Village at the center of Petco’s Park at the Park. You’re looking at it!
Tony Gwynn, affectionately called Mr. Padre, played 20 years for the San Diego Padres, winning eight batting titles and five Gold Glove awards. He appeared in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game 15 times! Today he’s the head baseball coach for San Diego State University.
A quote from Tony’s father Charles appears on the statue’s base: “If you work hard good things will happen.” These words inspired one of the greatest hitters in the history of professional baseball.
Here are a few closer photos that I took years later, after the tragic passing of Tony.
The lady in this ticket booth in front of Horton Plaza seems unconcerned that a dark silent person looms ominously beside her! That person, in the form of a statue, is Ernest Hahn. He’s a famous San Diego developer and the driving force behind the popular Horton Plaza shopping mall.
What you see in the first pic is a colorful scene near the entrance of Horton Plaza. An obelisk with a tile mosaic juts out of the underground entrance to the Lyceum Theater, which is home of the San Diego Repertory Theatre. The domed building in the upper left corner of the photograph belongs to the Balboa Theatre.
Across from the statue of Ernest Hahn is a bronze representation of Alonzo Erastus Horton, a gold miner, shop owner, and finally an influential real estate developer in the second half of the 19th century. He purchased cheap land for development adjacent to San Diego Bay where ships docked, well south of the established settlement below the old Spanish presidio. Alonzo Horton’s New Town had supplanted Old Town in importance by the beginning of the 20th century.
The third statue stands a bit to the west, on the other side of Horton Square. You can find it in the shade of a tree. The figure is Pete Wilson, who served as San Diego mayor from 1971 to 1983. He went on to serve as United States Senator and governor of California.