FROM the photograph you’d imagine that George Mendonsa and Greta Zimmer Friedman were deeply in love.
But the pair, whose romantic kiss would become one of the most iconic images of the 20th century, were perfect strangers.
Getty – Contributor The iconic picture was taken in New York’s Times Square on V-J Day
It was the end of the second world war and news of Japan’s surrender was spreading like wildfire in New York.
A young and elated sailor, still in his uniform, couldn’t contain his elation.
A mystery woman in white caught his eye and without thinking he grabbed her, arching her back into his cradling arm – the other hand tightly around her waist – and kissed her.
The iconic image caught the attention of the world and perfectly encapsulated the feeling in Times Square on that momentous day, August 14 1945.
Now nearly 75 years after that photo was taken, both its “stars” have passed away.
George’s daughter, Sharon Molleur, announced that her father died two days before his 96th birthday on Sunday.
He suffered a seizure at the assisted living facility in Middletown, Rhode Island, where he lived with his wife of 70 years.
His wife is also in the photo – though it’s not who it seems. Funnily enough George had been on leave and was on a date when he found out the war was over.
Instead of kissing his date, Rita Petrie – who can be seen in that back of the photo looking somewhat shocked – he grabbed nurse Greta Friedman and kissed her instead.
So when I saw the nurse, I grabbed her and I kissed herGeorge Mendonsa
“It was the moment,” George said in 2012. “You come back from the Pacific and finally, the war ends.
“The excitement of the war being over, plus I had a few drinks.
“So when I saw the nurse, I grabbed her and I kissed her.”
Despite the shocked expression Rita said she didn’t mind her fella snogged another woman in celebration.
In fact she didn’t mind to such an extent that she married him and was with him until the end.
She even tolerated him repeating the performance when the photo’s popularity turned him into ‘The Kissing Sailor’.THE KISSING SAILOR
“Either I was dopey or something, but it didn’t bother me,” said Rita.
“It’ll come up that he’s ‘The Kissing Sailor’. So the kissing sailor has to think he has to kiss everybody. So he does!”
It seems George thoroughly embraced his new title.
His daughter said: “He was very proud of his service and the picture and what it stood for. Always, for many, many years later, it was an important part of his life.”
But it actually took some time for George to persuade people that it was him in the photograph, with many other sailors claiming it was them.
It wasn’t, in fact, until 2012 that his claim became conclusive.
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Co-authors Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi proved once-and-for-all that George was telling the truth in their book ‘The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo That Ended World War II’ by using cutting edge facial recognition technology from the Naval War College.
Both George and Greta went on to live long lives – though not together.
Greta died age 92 in September 2016.
Both George and Greta went on to live long lives – though not together
AP:Associated Press George Mendonsa holding a copy of the famous Alfred Eisenstadt photo
Getty – Contributor It actually took some time for George to persuade people that it was him in the photograph, with many other sailors claiming it was them
George Mendonsa dead – US Navy sailor tells story behind iconic photo kissing nurse on V-J Day in Times Square