George A. Mendonsa, the man confirmed to be the sailor kissing a nurse in an iconic World War II photo, has died.
Mendonsa died in an assisted living facility in Middletown, Rhode Island, two days short of his 96th birthday, Providence Journal reported.
Mendonsa’s daughter, Sharon Molleur, confirmed that her father suffered a fall, and moments later, had a seizure and died.
On Aug. 14, 1945, Mendonsa was photographed kissing Greta Zimmer Friedman, a dental assistant in a white uniform similar to that of a nurse, in Times Square.
The day was known as V-J Day, the day Japan surrendered to the United States, marking the end of World War II.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 18, 2019
As people celebrated the breaking news, famed photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt snapped several quick photos of the moment a sailor kissed a nurse.
The photo was published in Life magazine, and became one of the most iconic photos associated with World War II.
For decades, nobody could confirm with certainty the identities of the man and woman in the photo, though many came forward claiming to be one of the two.
— Only In Boston (@OnlyInBOS) February 18, 2019
With the advancement of facial recognition technology, Mendonsa and Friedman’s identities were confirmed.
When Mendonsa was honored at the Rhode Island State House in 2015, he spoke about the famous kiss, according to WPRI:
“I saw what those nurses did that day when we had the wounded on my ship and we put the wounded on the hospital ship,” Mendonsa said. “And of course, 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.”
The strangers parted ways and never saw each other again until 2012, when they reunited in Times Square.
In a 2005 interview for the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project, Friedman told her side of the story, saying there was nothing romantic about the moment.
“I felt that he was very strong. He was just holding me tight,” Friedman said. “I’m not sure about the kiss — it was just somebody celebrating.”
“It wasn’t a romantic event,” she said. “It was just an event of ‘thank god the war is over.’”
Friedman passed away in 2016.
Mendonsa leaves behind his wife of 70 years, his daughter, and a son, Ron Mendonsa.
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