Buchanan to Sarasota: Leave Sailor at Current Station

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U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, has weighed in on what should happen to the controversial Unconditional Surrender statue on U.S. 41. The federal official sent a letter to Sarasota City Commissioners urging them to leave the monument on the Bayfront.

“The statue is an iconic landmark enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. It commemorates the celebration of VJ Day and the end of World War II,” Buchanan wrote. “This representation of that moment more than 75 years ago reminds us of an important time in our country’s history and honors the ‘Greatest Generation’ who served and sacrificed.”

The statue, which has stood in its current location for more than a decade, will move at least temporarily while construction of a new Tamiami Trail roundabout begins in 2021, according to spokesperson Jason Bartolone. The city Public Art Committee has recommended moving it permanently from its spot. City Commissioners expect to discuss the statue’s ultimate whereabouts later this month.

Sculpted by the late Seward Johnson, the statue originally arrived in Sarasota as part of the Season of Sculpture. Later, veteran Jack Curran paid for the statue and loaned it to the city on the condition it would stay on the Bayfront at least 10 years. At the time, the statue proved a hotly contentious subject with veterans describing the popular attraction as recognition of soldiers who fought in World War II, but critics panning the statue as derivative and poor art. More recently, the moment represented in the picture, of a soldier in Times Square spontaneously kissing a women after hearing the war had ended, has become a sparkpoint for discussions of the MeToo movement.

Buchanan said the work ultimately means a significant amount to a large portion of Sarasota veterans, and noted 88,000 veterans live in Southwest Florida. He said a poll conducted by his Congressional office on the matter found more than 80% favor keeping the statue in its current location.

“The 'Unconditional Surrender' statue is extremely meaningful to the Sarasota’s veteran community and honors their sacrifices for our country,” he wrote. “This statue commemorates a significant moment in our nation’s history that we shouldn’t erase from the Sarasota Bayfront.”

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