The ecstatic sailor shown kissing a woman in Times Square celebrating the end of World War II has died, the AP reports. George Mendonsa died two days before his 96th birthday. Mendonsa's daughter, Sharon Molleur, told the Providence Journal Mendonsa fell and had a seizure Sunday at the assisted living facility in Middletown, RI, where he lived with his wife of 70 years. Mendonsa was shown kissing Greta Zimmer Friedman, a dental assistant in a nurse's uniform, on Aug. 14, 1945. Known as V-J Day, it was the day Japan surrendered to the United States.
The photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt became one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century. It was years before Mendonsa and Friedman were confirmed to be the couple. In recent years, Friedman's side of the story made headlines, causing its apparently "romantic" nature to be reassessed, Smithsonian Magazine reports: "It wasn't a romantic event. It was just an event of 'thank god the war is over,'" Friedman once said. "It wasn't my choice to be kissed. The guy just came over and grabbed! ... I felt that he was very strong. He was just holding me tight. I'm not sure about the kiss... it was just somebody celebrating." She told the Library of Congress Mendonsa was actually with the woman who would become his wife at the time. (Friedman died in 2016 at the age of 92.)