VA Reverses Memo Over WWII Image

The Department of Veterans Affairs has jumped into a controversy involving a famous photograph.

It’s all about the iconic image captured on V-J Day in Times Square, marking the end of World War II. The photograph, taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt, shows a U.S. sailor kissing a woman amidst the celebrations of Japan’s surrender. For decades, this image has symbolized the joy and relief at the end of a long and brutal conflict. However, the Biden administration wants to cancel it.

Late last month, an internal memo from the Veterans Health Administration’s top operations official, RimaAnn Nelson, directed VA medical facilities to remove any depictions of this famous photo. The reason? It was argued that the image, portraying a non-consensual act, contradicts the VA’s stringent no-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment and assault.

The decision quickly made headlines after being shared online, drawing criticism from various quarters. Critics labeled the move as an example of political correctness taken too far, igniting a fiery debate on social media platforms.

Just hours after the story broke, Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough stepped in to overrule the planned ban, ensuring that the photograph would remain in VA facilities. This decision was communicated through his official social media accounts, emphasizing that the VA would not ban the photo as previously directed. The initial memo was formally rescinded, though officials did not disclose whether senior leaders had been consulted before the memo was issued.

“This image is not banned from VA facilities — and we will keep it in VA facilities,” said a post from his official X account. Department officials echoed in a separate statement that “VA will NOT be banning this photo from VA facilities.”

In the memo, Nelson said the point of the photo “was initially intended to celebrate and commemorate the end of World War II and the triumphant return of American soldiers. However, perspectives on historical events and their representations evolve.”

Adding that the non-consensual nature of the kiss and “debates on consent and the appropriateness of celebrating such images” led to the decision.”

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