WW2 sailor in iconic Times Square kiss photo dies aged 95

19 February 2019, 01:28 | Updated: 19 February 2019, 19:49

The US sailor who was photographed kissing a woman in Times Square while celebrating the end of World War Two has died.

The black and white image of George Mendonsa and Greta Friedman, best known as "The Kiss", is one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century.

Mr Mendonsa has died aged 95 after having a seizure on Sunday, his daughter Sharon Molleur told The Providence Journal daily newspaper.

He had been staying at an assisted living facility in Middletown, Rhode Island, with his wife of 70 years Rita Petry.

The photograph of him kissing Ms Friedman, a dental assistant who was dressed in a nurse's uniform, was captured on VJ Day on 14 August 1945.

It was captured by Alfred Eisenstaedt and was first published in Life magazine.

People had spilled onto the streets of New York City to celebrate after Japan surrendered to the United States.

Mr Mendonsa gripped and kissed Ms Friedman despite having never met her before.

Although revered as a representation of joy at the end of the war, in 2014 Time Magazine said many view it as "little more than the documentation of a very public sexual assault".

Ms Friedman herself said she did not view it that way, but in a 2005 interview with the Veteran History Project confirmed that it wasn't her choice to be kissed.

She told the Library of Congress: "The guy just came over and kissed or grabbed.

"I felt that he was very strong. He was just holding me tight."

Ms Friedman added: "It was just somebody really celebrating.

"But it wasn't a romantic event."

The photo of the kiss is often seen on posters and is popularly recreated by tourists in New York.

Several people claimed to be the pair in the decades that followed World War Two, before it was finally confirmed that Mr Mendonsa and Ms Friedman were the kissing couple.

The former sailor served on a destroyer during the war and was on leave when the end of the conflict was announced.

He spoke about the kiss when he was honoured at the Rhode Island State House in 2015.

Mr Mendonsa said Ms Friedman reminded him of nurses on a hospital ship that he saw care for wounded sailors.

He told WPRI-TV in Rhode Island: "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."

According to CNN, Mr Mendonsa was on a date with his future wife at the moment of the kiss. He had met Ms Petry through his sister's new in-laws and took her out to Radio City Music Hall on the day that became VJ Day.

Despite many people suggesting to Ms Petry she should have thrown him out when he kissed the nurse during their date, she said it "didn't matter" to her, pointing out her own place in the background of the photograph.

Victor Jorgensen, who was in the navy, also captured the moment of the kiss from a different angle, a few feet away from Mr Eisenstaedt.

Although many others claimed to be the subjects of the photograph over the years, Mr Mendonsa said he could prove it was him by a scar over his right eye and a bump on his left arm.

He once told CNN: "If I can't prove it to you, I'll buy you a cigar."

Mr Mendonsa died two days before his 96th birthday.

The family has not yet made funeral arrangements.

Ms 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, from complications of old age.