Obituary: George Mendonsa, American sailor immortalised in iconic photograph

George Mendonsa in 2009 with a copy of the iconic photograph. (Picture: Connie Grosch/Providence Journal via AP)
George Mendonsa in 2009 with a copy of the iconic photograph. (Picture: Connie Grosch/Providence Journal via AP)
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George Mendonsa, sailor. Born: 19 February 1923, Newport in Rhode Island, United States. Died: 17 February 2019 in Middletown, Rhode Island, aged 95.

The ecstatic sailor shown kissing a woman in Times Square during celebrations as the Second World War ended has died.

George Mendonsa fell and had a seizure at the assisted living facility in Middletown, Rhode Island, where he lived with his wife of 70 years, his daughter, Sharon Molleur, said.

Mendonsa was snapped ­kissing Greta Zimmer Friedman, a dental assistant in a nurse’s uniform, on 14 August, 1945 – V-J Day, when Japan ­surrendered to the United States.

People spilled into the New York City streets to ­celebrate the news and ­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 V-J Day in Times Square, but is known to most as The Kiss.

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 as the people in the photograph.

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 that he saw care for wounded ­sailors.

“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.

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. “It was just ­somebody really ­celebrating. But it wasn’t a romantic event.”

Friedman fled Austria ­during the war as a 15-year-old girl.

She died in 2016 at the age of 92 at a hospital in Richmond, Virginia.