George Mendonsa, the World War II veteran identified as the sailor who was photographed kissing a woman in Times Square in celebration of the end of the war, has died.
At the time of his death, Mendonsa was residing in an assisted living facility in Middletown, Rhode Island with his wife of 70 years.
On Sunday, Mendonsa’s daughter Sharon Molleur received a call from the facility, saying her father had fallen and had a seizure, Molleur told the Providence Journal.
His death came just two days before his 96th birthday.
In the iconic photograph taken on Aug. 14, 1945, also known as V-J Day — the day Japan surrendered — Mendonsa was captured kissing Greta Zimmer Friedman.
Mendonsa had never met Friedman, a dental assistant wearing a nurse uniform, before that moment, the Associated Press reported.
The photo was taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt and published in Life magazine.
The popularity behind the photo prompted a number of men and women to come forward claiming to be “the couple,” but it was later confirmed as Mendonsa and Friedman, the Associated Press reported.
Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi, authors of The Kissing Sailor, which was published in 2012, said facial recognition technology confirmed Mendonsa and Friedman’s identity.
“The evidence is so overwhelming,” Verria told Providence Journal. “There really is no doubt… This man deserves the credit during his lifetime.”
In 2015, Mendonsa spoke about the kiss as he was honored at the Rhode Island State House.
During the war, Mendonsa served on a destroyer, the AP reported, which is a long-endurance warship used to escort larger vessels in the fleet and defend them against attackers.
When the victory over Japan was announced, Mendonsa was on leave and happened to be in Times Square, Providence Journal reported.
Mendonsa revealed the reason behind the kiss was that Friedman reminded him of the nurses that would care for wounded sailors on the ship — and he had drunk a few alcoholic beverages.
“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 explained WPRI-TV reported.
Neither Mendonsa or Friedman knew of the photo until years later as they went their separate ways after the kiss, Verria explained, Providence Journal reported.
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Friedman also spoke about the incident, telling the Library of Congress it “wasn’t romantic.”
“It was just somebody really celebrating,” Friedman said.
Friedman died in 2016 in a hospital in Richmond, Virginia, the Associated Press reported. She was 92.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mendonsa is also survived by a son named Ron Mendonsa, Providence Journal reported.
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