Sailor in iconic photo of Times Square kiss at end of World War II passes away aged 95

George Mendonsa passed away at his assisted living facility in Middletown, Rhode Island, where he had lived with his wife of 71 years.


                            Sailor in iconic photo of Times Square kiss at end of World War II passes away aged 95

The sailor in the iconic photograph kissing a woman in Times Square celebrating the end of World War II, George Mendonsa, has died just two days before his 96th birthday.

The photograph, taken by the German-born American photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt, was titled 'V-J Day in Times Square' and portrays Mendonsa grabbing and kissing a stranger, a woman in a nurse's uniform, after the conclusion of World War II following the surrender of Japan on August 14, 1945.

It was published a week later in Life magazine amongst many photographs of celebrations across the United States and went on to become one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century.

This photo featuring George Mendonsa and his soon-to-be-wife would become one of the most iconic photographs of the 20th century (Source: Wikipedia)
This photo featuring George Mendonsa and his soon-to-be-wife would become one of the most iconic photographs of the 20th century (Source: Wikipedia)

 

The woman, a dental assistant by the name of Greta Zimmer Friedman, would part ways with the sailor after the kiss, and they would only meet again years later. Friedman passed away in 2016 at the age of 92. 

Mendonsa's daughter, Sharon Molleur of Portsmouth, told The Providence Journal that she got a call from the assisted living facility in Middletown, Rhode Island, where her father had lived with his wife at 1:30 am on Sunday saying her father had fallen and, moments later, had a seizure and died.

The son of a fisherman and a fisherman himself, he is said to have successfully maneuvered his destroyer, 'The Sullivans,' through Typhoon Cobra, which flipped three other destroyers during World War II.

Mendonsa's identity as the sailor in Eisenstaedt's photograph was only confirmed in 2005 following advancements in facial recognition technology that allowed experts in photography and forensic anthropology to rule out all other candidates.

Mendonsa passed away at the assisted-living facility where lived he with his wife, Rita (Source: The Navy Times)
Mendonsa passed away at the assisted-living facility where lived he with his wife, Rita (Source: The Navy Times)

 

Lawrence Verria, coauthor with George Galdorisi of 'The Kissing Sailor,' published in 2012 by the Naval Institute Press and head of the social studies department at North Kingstown High School, said Mendonsa had told him why he kissed Friedman all those years ago.

The sailor reportedly revealed he had seen nurses work on the survivors of the USS Bunker Hill after a kamikaze attack and that he couldn't "help himself" when he saw Friedman at Times Square dressed all in white because she symbolized all the nurses he saw that day.

Mendonsa was married to his wife of 71 years, Rita, at the time of his death.

Verria paid tribute to Mendonsa and called him a "national treasure." The sailor leaves behind his wife, his daughter, and a son, Ron Mendonsa.

This report has been contributed to by The Associated Press.