Kissing Statue Decapitated, Sent to New Jersey for Restoration

The statue has been an emblem of Navy culture in San Diego

By Lauren Steussy
|  Wednesday, May 30, 2012  |  Updated 1:47 PM PDT
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Visitors to the embarcadero felt bittersweet emotions as the statue of two Navy sweethearts kissing on the San Diego waterfront was disassembled Wednesday and shipped off to New Jersey for restoration.

Visitors to the embarcadero felt bittersweet emotions as the statue of two Navy sweethearts kissing on the San Diego waterfront was disassembled Wednesday and shipped off to New Jersey for restoration.

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The 25-foot famous statue of two Navy sweethearts kissing on the San Diego waterfront was disassembled Wednesday and shipped off to New Jersey for restoration.

Crews started the process Wednesday morning by slicing the heads off the embraced couple. Seeing the statue in such a state stirred mixed emotions for the crowd that gathered to watch the disjointed pieces lowered by crane to the ground.

While some say the statue is tacky, countless couples come to Tuna Harbor to mimic the romantic moment, captured first by a TIME Magazine photographer in 1945 at the end of WWII.

But San Diego won't have to say "goodbye" to the statue -- it can just say, "see you later." The statue will be replaced with a $1-million bronze replica in December, the USS Midway Museum's officials announced Saturday morning.

"Unconditional Surrender," as the statue is called, has been on loan to the Port since 2007. Last month, the museum's president Matt McCloughlin announced that donors had already pledged $600,000 toward the nearly million-dollar bronze replacement.

The bronze replacement will cost upwards of $900,000, perhaps toward one million dollars,  McCloughlin said. Commissioners for the Port's public art committee agreed to keep a version of the statue after the loan expires, as long as they could raise enough money.

The statue's replacement has drawn major criticism from local leaders and members of the public. Two of the port's public art commissioners quit after the board decided to keep the statue. However, support for the statue's message convinced the museum to campaign for a replacement.

The Midway held an aggressive "Save the Kiss" campaign to come up with the money needed to fund the replica. It agreed to match donations up to $100,000 as part of the campaign. It took just two months to raise the money needed -- plus $2,000 -- which includes some new landscaping. The bronze replica will be also be more durable and weather resistant, museum officials said.

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