Woman in iconic V-J Day kiss photo dies at 92

Updated: 2016-09-12 06:41

(China Daily/Agencies)

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Woman in iconic V-J Day kiss photo dies at 92

Sailor George Mendonsa kisses Greta Zimmer Friedman to celebrate victory over Japan. ALFRED EISENSTAEDT

The woman in an iconic photograph that shows her kissing an ecstatic sailor in New York's Times Square to celebrate the end of World War II has died.

Greta Zimmer Friedman, who was 92, fled Austria during the war as a 15-year-old. She died on Thursday at a hospital in Richmond, Virginia, from complications from old age, her son, Joshua, said.

Friedman was a 21-year-old dental assistant in a nurse's uniform when she became part of one of the most famous photos of the 20th century.

On Aug 14, 1945, the day Japan surrendered to the United States, people spilled into the New York City streets from restaurants, bars and movie theaters to celebrate the news.

That's when George Mendonsa spotted Friedman, spun her around and planted a kiss. The two had never met. In fact, Mendonsa was on a date with a nurse, Rita Petry, who would later become his wife.

The photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt is called V-J Day in Times Square, but is more commonly known as The Kiss. Mendonsa said that in some photos of the scene, Petry can be seen smiling in the background.

The photo was first published in Life magazine, buried deep within its pages. Over the years, it gained recognition, and several people claimed to be the kissing couple. In an August 1980 issue of Life, 11 men and three women said they were the subjects. It was years before Mendonsa and Friedman were confirmed to be the couple.

Joshua Friedman said his mother recalled the events happening in an instant.

"It wasn't that much of a kiss," Greta Friedman said in an interview with the Veterans History Project in 2005. "It was just somebody celebrating. It wasn't a romantic event."

Both of her parents died in the Holocaust, according to Lawrence Verria, who co-authored a book about the picture called The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo that Ended World War II.

Friedman will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, next to her husband.