The famous sailor captured planting a kiss on an unsuspecting nurse at the end of World War II in Times Square has died.
George A. Mendonsa passed away on Sunday just two days before his 96th birthday after suffering a fall and a seizure, Providence Journal reports. His daughter, Sharon Mouller, told the publication her father was at his home at an assisted living facility in Middletown, Rhode Island, where he lived with his wife of 70 years when the incident occurred.
Mendonsa will always be remembered as the man in the iconic photograph ‘The Kiss’ which was snapped on the momentous day World War II came to an end. It was August 14, 1945, also known as V-J Day, when Japan surrendered to the United States and celebration broke out across the world.
Mendonsa, who was on leave in New York when the announcement was made, was caught up in the moment and without a second thought grabbed Greta Zimmer Friedman, a dental assistant, pulling her into an embrace just as a photographer pulled out his camera.
Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photograph of a sailor kissing a woman in Times Square, after news broke of the Japanese surrender in World War II, has lived a storied life since it was taken over 70 years ago. Often called “The Kiss,” it remains the iconic image of celebration at war’s end, a black-and-white bookend separating an era of darkness from the beginning of a time of peace. It is also an unsolved mystery of identity and more recently, a source of controversy for those who see in it not mutual revelry but evidence of sexual assault. The debate continues. On this day in 1945, President Truman announced that the Japanese had surrendered ending World War II. (Alfred Eisenstaedt—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images) #thisdayinLIFE #TheKiss #WWII
The gorgeous shot has remained one of the most iconic photographs of the 20th century, marking a moment of celebration and happiness following years of battle and heartache.
While many others claimed to be the man in the photograph, Mendonsa was eventually proved to be the one who featured in the much-loved image.
Speaking to the Providence Journal following Mendonsa’s death, author Lawrence Verria, who published the book The Kissing Sailor alongside George Galdorisi in 2012, detailed his chat with the famous man.
According to Verria, Mendonsa just “happened to be” in Times Square when the announcement was made and when he saw Friedman in her nurse uniform it made him think of all of the brave nurses who had assisted him and his fellow sailors while at war.
“He sees the nurse, he can’t help himself,” Verria told the Providence Journal. “The woman in white symbolised the nurses he saw helping those sailors that he had helped rescue, and he grabbed her and kissed her.
“Everybody was kissing and hugging. As soon as the kiss was over, they went their separate ways.”
Verria said that neither Mendonsa nor Friedman knew of the photo for many years and only discovered its fame later. Friedman died in September, 2016 at the age of 92.
Mendonsa leaves behind his wife, daughter and son, Ron.