World

Sailor who kissed woman in one of the most famous photos of the 20th century is dead

The ecstatic sailor shown kissing a woman in Times Square celebrating the end of the Second World War died Sunday. George Mendonsa was 95.

George Mendonsa died Sunday at 95 in Rhode Island after a fall and seizure

The ecstatic sailor shown kissing a woman in Times Square celebrating the end of the Second World War has died. George Mendonsa was 95. (Victor Jorgensen, United States Navy/Associated Press )

The ecstatic sailor shown kissing a woman in New York's Times Square celebrating the end of the Second World War died Sunday. George Mendonsa was 95.

Mendonsa fell and had a seizure at the assisted living facility in Middletown, R.I., where he lived with his wife of 70 years, his daughter, Sharon Molleur, told The Providence Journal.

Mendonsa was shown kissing Greta Zimmer Friedman, a dental assistant in a nurse's uniform, on Aug. 14, 1945, known as VJ-Day, the day Japan surrendered to the Allies. People spilled into the New York City streets to celebrate the news.

Mendonsa planted a kiss on Friedman, whom he had never met.

An iconic photo of the kiss by Alfred Eisenstaedt was first published in Life magazine and is called "VJ-Day in Times Square," but is known to most as "The Kiss."

Several claimed to be the kissing couple

It became one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century.

Another photographer, Victor Jorgensen, who was in the Navy, also captured the moment in a similar photo. The moment has been shared widely and is often seen on posters.

Several people later claimed to be the kissing couple, and it was years before Mendonsa and Friedman were confirmed to be the couple.

Mendonsa served on a destroyer during the war and was on leave when the end of the war was announced.

When he was honoured at the Rhode Island State House in 2015, Mendonsa spoke about the kiss. He said Friedman reminded him of nurses on a hospital ship, who he saw care for wounded sailors.  

'It wasn't a romantic event'

"I saw what those nurses did that day and now back in Times Square the war ends, a few drinks, so I grabbed the nurse," Mendonsa said, WPRI-TV reported.

Friedman said in a 2005 interview with the Veterans History Project that it wasn't her choice to be kissed.

"The guy just came over and kissed or grabbed," she told the Library of Congress.

She added, "It was just somebody really celebrating. But it wasn't a romantic event."

Mendonsa died two days before his 96th birthday. The family has not yet made funeral arrangements.

Friedman fled Austria during the war as a 15-year-old girl. She died in 2016 at 92 at a hospital in Richmond, Va., from complications of old age.

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