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George Mendonsa, sailor kissing woman in iconic V-J Day photo, dies

George Mendonsa, sailor kissing
When Japan’s surrender was announced on Aug. 14, 1945, George Mendonsa grabbed his date, ran out of a Rockettes performance at Radio City Music Hall and headed for a nearby bar in Times Square.

He was a Navy quartermaster on leave, dressed in uniform, and after downing a few drinks began walking the streets, where he spotted a young woman in a white nurse’s outfit. Buzzing with joy, now jolted by a memory of the nurses who cared for his wounded comrades at sea, he put his arms around the woman, tipped her back and kissed her.
George Mendonsa, sailor kissing

By most accounts, a photographer took notice. Wielding a Leica camera and looking for pictures, Alfred Eisenstaedt captured what became one of the most memorable images of the 20th century, a work of photojournalism that has since vaulted to the realm of art.

Formally known as “V-J Day in Times Square” and more commonly called “The Kiss,” the image was published two weeks later in Life magazine, and ranks alongside Gustav Klimt’s gold-leaf painting “The Kiss” and Auguste Rodin’s marble sculpture of the same name as one of the most famous depictions of a kiss in history.

Although Eisenstaedt never got the names of the man and woman at the center of his photo, Mr. Mendonsa was widely believed to be the image’s “kissing sailor,” a claim that he buttressed by pointing toward a tattoo on his right arm, a growth on his left, analysis by facial-recognition software and sworn testimony from his wife.

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