'Kissing sailor' George Mendonsa featured in iconic 1945 photo dies at 95
The kissing sailor featured in the iconic 'V-J Day in Times Square' photo, George Mendonsa, has died at the age of 95, according to his daughter. Mendonsa suffered a seizure at the Rhode Island assisted living facility where he resided and passed away two days before his 96th birthday.
The photo, which was first published by Life Magazine in 1945, was captured by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt at the end of World War II. Mendosa, a sailor in the U.S. Navy, had been on a date with Rita Petrie, his eventual wife of 70 years, when he heard news of Japan's surrender in August 1945. Overcome with excitement, he grabbed a stranger and kissed her.
The identities of the two people featured in the photo remained a mystery for decades, spurring multiple false claims from individuals who alleged they were the pictured subjects. The issue was laid to rest in 2012 when the U.S. Naval Institute Press published a book title 'The Kissing Sailor' by George Galdorisi and Lawrence Verria.
A combination of expert analysis and facial recognition technology confirmed the image features Mendosa and Greta Friedman, the woman in the nurse's uniform. According to Verria, Mendonsa had been struck by the sight of nurses treating injured sailors during the war. When news of the war's end arrived, Mendonsa saw Friedman in her uniform and pulled her into a kiss.
In a 2005 interview, Friedman explained the experience from her side, saying that she had been working that morning in a dental office when rumors of the war's end began circulating. Later that day, Friedman walked to Times Square and saw a billboard confirming the news.
And so suddenly I was grabbed by a sailor, and it wasn't that much of a kiss, it was more of a jubilant act that he didn't have to go back, I found out later, he was so happy that he did not have to go back to the Pacific where they already had been through the war. And the reason he grabbed someone dressed like a nurse was that he just felt very grateful to nurses who took care of the wounded.
Photographer Eisenstaedt detailed the moment he captured the iconic photo in his book 'Eisenstaedt on Eisenstaedt.'
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