George Mendonsa was never able to convince Life magazine that he was the man in the iconic 20th-century photograph, known as The Kiss.
Indeed, at least three other men claimed they were the sailor in the V-J Day image taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt that shows a Navy sailor grabbing and kissing a woman in a white dress on Victory over Japan Day on August 14, 1945.
But that did not stop him from maintaining that he was the sailor and it turned out, science would back up that claim.
World War II veteran Mendonsa, originally of Newport, Rhode Island, died at age 95 Sunday. He would have been 96 on Feb. 19.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Mendonsa, Who Died Sunday Two Days Shy of His 96th Birthday, Maintained he Was the Sailor in the Famed Photo
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of George Mendonsa, World War II veteran known as the kissing sailor in the famed photo #VJDayinTimesSquare…”
As reported by The Providence Journal, Mendonsa passed away Sunday at a Middletown, RI assisted living facility with his wife of 70 years when he fell and suffered a seizure afterward and died.
For a quarter century, he claimed he was the sailor in the picture. Author Lawrence Verria who contributed to a book called “The Kissing Sailor” told reporter Donita Naylor that the there’s no doubt Mendonsa was the sailor.
And Greta Zimmer Friedman was the nurse. She died in 2016.
“Results of facial recognition technology and the conclusions of experts in photography and forensic anthropology ruled out all the other sailors. ‘The evidence is so overwhelming,’ Verria said Sunday night. ‘There really is no doubt… This man deserves the credit during his lifetime.’”
2. A Rhode Island Native & Fisherman & Son of a Fisherman, Mendonsa Was a Good Fit for the Navy
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of George Mendonsa, World War II veteran known as the kissing sailor in the famed photo #VJDayinTimesSquare. Many know the photo, but few know the story.”
Verria told the Journal that Mendonsa was a “fisherman and the son of a fisherman” and was someone who “knew how to handle a boat.”
Verria told the paper that while in the “Navy during WWII, he successfully maneuvered his destroyer through Typhoon Cobra, which flipped three other destroyers, Verria said. Mendonsa was at the helm of The Sullivans, named after the five brothers who were all serving on the USS Juneau and all died when it sank …”
And it was reported that Mendonsa explained what happened that day.
“The Sullivans had been sent to rescue the survivors of the USS Bunker Hill after a kamikaze attack, and he was steering when it pulled alongside the Bountiful, a nursing ship, to transfer the wounded. Mendonsa watched from the helm as the nurses worked on the sailors. ‘They were in a bad way,’ he kept saying when he told the story to Verria.”
3. Mendonsa Was Honored at the RI State House in 2015 & Spoke About’The Kiss’
When he was honored at the Rhode Island State House in 2015, Mendonsa spoke about the famous kiss.
“I saw what those nurses did that day when we had the wounded on my ship and we put the wounded on the hospital ship. And of course, 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,” Mendonsa was reported to have said at the time.
Famous Pictures magazine noted that volunteers from the Naval War College identified him as the kisser. He’d maintained that his scars and tattoos proved it and a “photographic analysis by the Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories matched them to the photo based on testimony from a Yale professor who was a photograph analysis expert.
4. Mendonsa’s Story as Shared by the American Veterans Center
“On August 14, 1945, the news was announced to the world that the Japanese had surrendered and the Second World War was finally over. Celebrations erupted across the globe, with one of the biggest in New York City’s Times Square. Among those celebrating was George Mendonsa, a young sailor who had been in the Pacific for two years aboard USS The Sullivans. The spontaneous celebratory kiss he shared with a nurse has become one of the most iconic images of the twentieth century: V-J Day in Times Square…”
5. ‘The Kiss’ is Memorialized in Statuary Found in Cities Around the County, Like Sarasota, Florida & San Diego, Californa