Woman in Iconic World War II Victory Kiss Photo Dies at 92

The world-famous photo was shot on August 14, 1945.

An autographed copy Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photo of Greta Zimmer Friendman being kissed by a sailor in Times Square. Courtesy of Joshua Friedman.
An autographed copy Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photo of Greta Zimmer Friendman being kissed by a sailor in Times Square. Courtesy of Joshua Friedman.

Greta Zimmer Friedman, who achieved unlikely fame as half of a couple caught dramatically kissing in Times Square at the end of World War II by Alfred Eisenstaedt, died on September 8 at 92 years old, reports the New York Times.

The iconic photo, shot on August 14, 1945, on what became known as Victory over Japan Day, shows a sailor grabbing and kissing a woman in a white dress in celebration of the global conflict’s end. Published as a full page in Life magazine a week later, the photo, featuring 21-year-old Friedman wearing her dental hygienist’s uniform, was seen around the world, and even inspired a larger-than-life statue by Seward Johnson.

“It wasn’t a romantic event. It was just an event of ‘thank god the war is over,'” Friedman told the Library of Congress in a 2005 interview for the Veterans History Project.

Hundreds gather in Times Square to view the 26-foot-tall Seward Johnson sculpture installed at the site of the historic LIFE Magazine photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt. Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images.

Hundreds gather in Times Square to view the 26-foot-tall Seward Johnson sculpture installed at the site of the historic LIFE Magazine photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt. Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images.

In recent years, the photo has been reevaluated, with the blog Crates and Ribbons and other publications arguing that the kiss wasn’t consensual, based on Friedman’s own account of their encounter: “It wasn’t my choice to be kissed… The guy just came over and grabbed!”

Friedman isn’t the only one who has identified herself as being in the image, with the Times also publishing a 2010 obituary for Edith Shain, who claimed to have been photographed locked in the seemingly-passionate embrace when she was 27. “The happiness was indescribable,” Shain told Life in 1980, when she finally spoke up about her supposed involvement. “It was a very long kiss.”

Greta Zimmer Friedman and George Mendonsa in photo taken by a Life Magazine photographer, at Times Square, New York. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, American Folklife Center.

Greta Zimmer Friedman and George Mendonsa in photo taken by a Life Magazine photographer, at Times Square, New York. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, American Folklife Center.

Friedman’s claim is perhaps the most convincing, however, since it is backed up by the Naval Institute Press’s 2012 book The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo That Ended World War II. The authors claim to have used forensic analysis to identify Friedman and George Mendonsa, one of numerous men who have come forward to say they are the pictured sailor, as the famous couple. Mendosa, age 93, currently lives in Rhode Island.

Friedman was born to Jewish parents in Austria in 1924, and fled to the United States with her sisters in 1938. Her parents, who stayed behind, died in the Holocaust.

A poster commemorating Alfred Eisenstaedt's photograph hangs in Times Square on August 14, 2015, taken 70 years ago to the date, on Victory in Japan Day. Courtesy of Bryan Thomas/Getty Images.

A poster commemorating Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photograph hangs in Times Square on August 14, 2015, taken 70 years ago to the date, on Victory in Japan Day. Courtesy of Bryan Thomas/Getty Images.

Mischa Friedman, who Friedman married in 1956, died in 1998. She is survived by their two children, Joshua and Mara, two grandchildren, and numerous nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.


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