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Man identified as kissing sailors in WWII Times Square photo dies at 95



The veteran died early Sunday in Newport, Rhode Island, just two days before his 96th birthday, daughter Sharon Molleur told CNN. He will be buried at St. Columba Cemetery in his hometown of Middletown, Rhode Island, she said.

"When I look at that photograph, I just think of my dad's service, and how happy he was that it was all over," Molleur said.

Though Mendonsa never persuades Life magazine, which first published Alfred Eisenstaedt's photo, that he was the man in the picture, several sources over the years – including the authors of "The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind The Photo That Ended World War II "- have concluded the smooching seaman is Mendonsa. In a 201
5 interview, Mendons told CNN that he never failed to convince anyone of the fact.
In a 2015 interview, Mendons told CNN that he never failed to convince anyone of the fact.

"And when I get through showing you the photos … if you do not admit that, I would say you are a phony bastard," he told a reporter who visited his Middletown home.

'We're all drinking and raising hell'

The picture, which has sparked numerous homages as well as admonitions from those who say it represents an unwanted sexual advance, was truly a product of its time.

It was taken on August 14, 1945, shortly after the news of Japan's surrender – aka Victory Over Japan Day or V-J Day – spreading through New York's streets, and overturning the World War II's imminent end. Even the caption Life placed under the photo, known alternately as "V-J Day in Times Square," speaks to sexism tolerated in newsrooms during the era.

 Carl Muscarello and Edith Shain, who also claimed to be in the photo, re-created their moment in 2005.
"In the middle of New York's Times Square, a white-clad girl clutches her purse and skirt as an uninhibited sailor plant, his lips squarely on hers," the caption says, describing the 21-year-old woman who, decades later, would be identified as Greta Friedman.

Mendons was on leave after stinting in the Pacific, he told CNN in 2015, and was on a first date with Rita Petry, who was related to his younger sister's new husband.

While taking a matinee, crowd outside Radio City Music Hall began pounding on the theater doors, shouting, "The war is over!" – to cry that resonated through the building.

Mendons and Petry walked outside to find thousands of revelers in the streets. They stopped at a bar.

"The booze was flying, and I popped quite a few," he recalled. "We're all drinking and raising hell."

After leaving the bar, they found themselves in Times Square.

"So we get into Times Square and the war ends and I see the nurse," he remembers. "

 George Mendonsa, then 89, holds the iconic photograph at his Rhode Island home in 2012.

It was actually a dental assistant. As Petry, with whom he would spend more than 70 years in marriage, looked on, Mendonsa planted one on the woman in white.

"I was in the background, grinning like a mutt," Petry told CNN in a 2005 interview.

'It was not that much of a kiss'

Mendonsa, 22 at the time, said he was overwhelmed with emotion upon hearing news of Japan's surrender – – "For Chrissake, the war is over!" he remembered thinking – and he grabbed Friedman, who had mistaken for a nurse because he had seen the nurses in action during the war and was appreciative of their work to save and heal his fellow troops.

It's a sentiment his daughter recalls hearing from her father.

"They ran out of the theater and began celebrating. Everyone was kissing everyone," Molleur said Monday. "

Friedman never saw the photo until the 1960s, and she recognized her hair, clothing and figure, she told the Veterans History Project in 2005. [19659008] "Suddenly, I was grabbed by a sailor," she recalled. "The sailor was" very strong, "she told the Veterans History Project." It's been a very jubilant act that he did not have to go back to. "

The smooch was not romantic, she said. It was more that the war was over, she said, and people were so thankful.

"It was just holding me tight. I'm not sure about the kiss," she said. "It was just someone celebrating."

Friedman passed away in 2016 in Richmond, Virginia. She was 92. Gone, too, is Eisenstaedt, the photographer, who died in 1995 at age 96.

"People tell me that when I'm in heaven," Eisenstaedt once said, "They will remember this picture."

CNN's Ray Sanchez, Aaron Cooper and Amanda Jackson contributed to this report.


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