Gregory Bull / AP
A section of the previous version of the statue "Unconditional Surrender" shown as it was being removed in May 2012.
San Diego held a party for a 25-foot tall couple along the Embarcadero Saturday as the sculpture "Unconditional Surrender" was welcomed with a public dedication.
A large crowd of people celebrated the giant sculpture many call the "Kissing Statue" or "The Kiss" in downtown San Diego Saturday.
“We are in San Diego, we have the greatest number of veterans and active duty of any community in the nation,” San Diego Mayor Bob Filner said. “This belongs here.”
Filner and a number of public officials spoke, a military band played and many couples took their own pictures re-enacting "The Kiss" in front of the statue.
The infamous embrace starring a sailor and a nurse is an iconic image of the end of World War II.
Port Commissioner Lou Smith said he’s always seeing young people whose parents weren’t even born before 1945 taking photos in front of the sculpture.
“This is the most magical place of all,” Smith said. “Whoever sprinkled pixie dust on it did a great job.”
It made its grand return on Wednesday morning – just in time for Valentine’s Day.
For the ceremony, the theme of renewing love continued when nearly a dozen couples renewed their vows at the foot of the statue.
David Moore flew bombing runs over Germany in World War II.
He said he and his wife, Claire, remember seeing the embrace on the news after the end of the war.
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They joined the couples in renewing their vows.
“It’s very sentimental,” Moore said of the public sculpture.
When he sees it, he thinks of how happy he was that they could get back to civilian life.
David and Mary Flohr, engaged in 1947, also renewed their vows Saturday. The couple has three children 8 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren all living in San Diego.
John Sax, who served in the South Pacific in World War II as well as in Korea, was very happy to see the statue return.
He called it, “a perfect example of people showing their love of the serviceman."
"Unconditional Surrender" left San Diego last May. That statue was owned by Santa Monica-based Sculpture Foundation and was on loan to the Port from 2007 to 2012.
Since then, more than $1 million was raised through public donations to bring a permanent replica back to the bayfront.
Bill Craddock is a member of San Diego’s Pearl Harbor Survivors. The chapter, one of the largest in the nation according to Craddock, has 42 members here in San Diego.
As for the controversy over whether the statue is a worthy piece of public art, he has this to say.
“Art lovers don’t love it but the people love it and that’s what counts,” he said.