George Mendonsa, the sailor pictured in the famous photograph kissing a woman in Times Square amid celebrations of the end of the second world war, has died just two days before his 96th birthday.
His daughter, Sharon Molleur, told the Providence Journal he fell and had a seizure in an assisted living facility in Middletown, Rhode Island, where he lived with his wife of 70 years, Rita.
The photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt was published in Life magazine and became one of the most famous images of the 20th century, representing the overwhelming joy everyone across the world felt at the end of the war.
Mendonsa was a uniformed sailor in the US navy when he was photographed kissing a Dental Assistant who he had mistaken for a Nurse in Times Square on 14 August 1945, the day Japan surrendered (also known as V-J Day).
“It was the moment,” Mendonsa told CBS News 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.”
The kissing couple were perfect strangers. The woman was Greta Friedman, a dental assistant wearing a nurse’s uniform. “It wasn’t my choice to be kissed. The guy just came over and kissed or grabbed [me],” she mentioned during an interview with the Veterans History Project in 2005.
In fact, standing in the background was actually Mendonsa’s future wife, Rita Petry. The two were on a first date that day. When asked about the kiss by CNN in 2012 she said “I was in the background, grinning like a mutt, It didn’t matter to me.” You can see Petry peering over Mendonsa’s right shoulder in the photo.