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Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs recently banned the iconic photo of a World War II Times Square kiss from agency buildings, claiming it no longer fit the “values” of the VA. However, the move apparently blindsided their boss, VA Secretary Denis McDonough, who very publicly reversed the edict on X after seemingly learning of it through a tweet.

Sources familiar with the matter added to The Associated Press that the VA chief hadn’t been made aware of the memo before it was issued and never approved it. The photo, which captures an ecstatic US sailor kissing a nurse passing by to celebrate the end of the war with Japan in 1945, was deemed “inappropriate behavior” by VA higher-ups because it “depicts a non-consensual act.”

Displaying the snapshot in VA hospitals “could be construed as a tacit endorsement of the inappropriate behavior it depicts,” wrote RimaAnn Nelson, the agency’s assistant undersecretary for Health for Operations, in a memo to staffers around the country. “Employees have expressed discomfort with the display of this photograph” — and “to foster a more trauma-informed environment,” it should be removed, the missive said.

Doing so “reflects our dedication to creating a respectful and safe workplace and is in keeping with our broader efforts to promote a culture of inclusivity and awareness,” Nelson wrote. The administration leader suggested that staffers find “alternative photographs that capture the spirit of victory and peace without compromising the VA’s commitment to a safe and respectful environment. The memo added, “Your cooperation in this matter is vital. Please ensure that these photographs are promptly removed.”

However, the ban is believed to have infuriated Nelson’s boss when he learned of it — apparently five days later through social media. “Let me be clear: This image is not banned from VA facilities — and we will keep it in VA facilities,” McDonough wrote on X an hour and a half after a copy of Nelson’s memo surfaced on an account titled End Wokeness.

The celebrated snap was taken by famed “Life’’ magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt on Aug. 14, 1945, the day the Japanese announced they were surrendering. It garnered controversy in recent years, particularly with the #MeToo movement, because the woman in the photograph, a dental assistant named Greta Zimmer Friedman, had never met the sailor, George Mendonsa before she suddenly found herself lip-locked with him at the Crossroads of the World. Still, critics of the VA photo ban included Mendonsa’s daughter, who denied to The NY Post that her father was guilty of anything other than unbridled enthusiasm that day.

“They were just coming off those trains, and everybody was partying,” said Sharon Molleur, 67, whose dad died in 2019, three years after Friedman and nearly 25 years after Eisenstaedt. “All the sailors were kissing [women]; everybody was loaded, jumping up in the air. They were having a wonderful time.” She argued about the kiss between her father and Friedman, who she said “became very good friends” after, “It was totally consensual.”

In 2005, Friedman said, “The guy just came over and kissed or grabbed. It was just somebody really celebrating. But it wasn’t a romantic event.”

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