Popular statue could lead to national celebration of V-J Day next year

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- 69 years ago Thursday, Japan surrendered and World War II ended for the U.S. Here on the Suncoast, there's a sculpture based on an iconic photograph taken on that day in 1945, and that might get Sarasota national attention for next year's 70th anniversary.

At 7:00pm on August 14, 1945, a major announcement from President Harry Truman at the White House declared that the 2nd World War has come to an end.

A nation celebrated in small towns and big cities. In Times Square, a sailor grabbed a nurse and kissed her as a photographer snapped a photo of the display on his camera.

69 years later, dozens gather in Sarasota around the sculpture depicting that famous image, and celebrate a monumental day in history.

“I was happy that it was over. I said praise the lord,” says veteran Clarence Addy.

“When we heard the news, we were outside banging pots and pans,” says veteran Greg Putnam.

Retired Navy Captain Robert O'Neill was in the middle of Tokyo Bay in a submarine when he learned it was over. “We just sunk a tanker earlier that day. All of the sudden, we got word to seize all operations...peace has been declared. We started throwing stuff around.”

For Sarasota's celebration this year, an RV called the Spirit of ’45 Express visited the statue. Its owners, a husband and wife from Virginia traveling around the country, are promoting next year's big 70th anniversary of V-J Day. “We've been to 43 states, 25,000 miles since February 7th, honoring veterans.”

Spirit of 45 at Unconditional Surrender

Sarasota may get the honor next year of hosting a national event, and it's due in large part to the sculpture.

“This statue is a symbol of happiness, what happened that day, the end of World War II. I think the city will be happy to honor this day.”

Unconditional Surrender statue on Sarasota bayfront

And at the same time, remembering this nation's greatest generation.

San Diego, where there is another Unconditional Surrender statue, and New York are two other cities being considered to host a national event for the 70th anniversary.