George Mendonsa, the man who made the most credible claim to being the sailor photographed kissing a nurse in the ebullient V-J Day march through Times Square, has died at 95.
Mendonsa was born on February 19th, 1923, in Newport, Rhode Island. His father Arsenio Mendonsa, a fisherman, and his mother Maria Mendonsa, were immigrants from Portugal. George Mendonsa dropped out of high school to join his father as a fisherman before enlisting in the Navy in 1942.
The famed photograph was taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt
on August 14, 1945, amidst the celebrations taking place just moments after the public gained knowledge of Japan’s surrender from World War II. Eisenstaedt snapped four photographs depicting an anonymous sailor grabbing a nurse, bending her back, and kissing her. One of the photos appeared on a full page in Life
Since Eisenstaedt did not record the names of the photograph’s subjects, their identities had been a point of contentious debate for decades. While three women have claimed to be the nurse in the photo, she is most widely believed to be a woman named Greta Friedman. In 1980, Life asked the sailor to identify himself, and while dozens of men made claims, Mendonsa insisted it was him. When the magazine would not assuredly state that Mendonsa was the pictured sailor, he went so far as to sue the publication, though nothing came of the lawsuit.
As technology advanced, Mendonsa underwent extensive testing, which seemed to corroborate his claim. Included in this testing was a rigorous 3D mapping of his face, followed by a digital reverse-aging process, the result of which was said to not bear a single inconsistency between this rendered face and the face of the man in the photograph.
Lawrence Verria, co-author of The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo That Ended World War II (2012), told the New York Times,