The World War II kissing nurse has died at the age of 92, says her son. Greta Friedman was the nurse seen being kissed by a sailor in a photograph taken at the end of World War II. The photo of the kiss went viral before the internet was even invented and has become an iconic image of wartime life.
The photo, according to NBC News, was taken on V-J Day in New York’s Times Square.
It captures a moment on Aug. 14, 1945, in which the United States was celebrating the surrender of the Japanese during World War II, which marked the end of the war. Originally published in Life, it shows the World War II nurse bent back while a sailor plants a passionate kiss on her. One of the sailor’s arms is holding her at the waist and the other is bent to cradle her head.
Despite Friedman earning a place in history as the World War II nurse seen in the iconic kissing photograph, she was not a nurse. Her uniform, which looked to be that of a nurse, was her dental assistant uniform.
According to her account, as told in 2005 to the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress, Friedman had been at work when rumors that the war had ended began to reach her. In an attempt to find out if what she was hearing was true, she left her office and went to Times Square.
“Suddenly, I was grabbed by a sailor. It wasn’t that much of a kiss. It was more of a jubilant act that he didn’t have to go back. I found out later he was so happy that he didn’t have to go back to the Pacific where they had already been through the war.”
The sailor never introduced himself to her, and she went back to work. All appointments previously scheduled for the rest of the day were canceled by her bosses in celebration.
Neither the sailor, nor the World War II “nurse” were aware the spontaneous kiss had been captured by Alfred Eisenstaedt, a photographer working for Life. His image was published just a few weeks after V-J Day with the caption “V-J Day.” Because the couple in the photo was not identified, it became known simply as the photo where the World War II nurse and sailor kiss.
According to NBC, a number of people over the years identified themselves as the nurse and the sailor in the image. In fact, in order to quell the false claims, Life began telling people the World War II nurse and sailor had been identified. This is what they told Friedman when she stumbled upon the picture in the ’60s and sent a letter to the magazine.
Life published the iconic photograph again in 1980, causing more people to come forward to claim themselves as the subjects.
NBC spoke to Friedman’s son, Joshua Friedman, who said his mother never felt as though she deserved the place in American history she received because of the photograph taken at the end of World War II.
“The photo means a lot to so many people. My mother always felt like it wasn’t anything she did, it was something that happened to her.”
A 2012 book published on the iconic photograph, The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo that Ended World War II, contains evidence it claims proves that the World War II nurse being kissed by a sailor are Greta Friedman and sailor George Mendonsa.
According to the book, Mendonsa sued Life after a friend alerted him in 1987 to the fact that the magazine was selling copies of the photo signed by Eisenstaedt. When he called Life to express his outrage over their making a profit on his image, they told him the soldier was unidentified and brushed off his claims that he, in fact, was the World War II soldier kissing the nurse in the photo. Only after a 3D scan of the face in the photo was done by the Navy was Mendonsa acknowledged to be the sailor.
In 2012, Mendonsa spoke to CBS News about the iconic kiss.
“The excitement of the war bein’ over, plus I had a few drinks. So when I saw the nurse I grabbed her, and I kissed her.”
Joshua Friedman said his mother died in Virginia on Thursday. CBS News reports that for the past two years, Greta Friedman resided in an assisted living facility. She had suffered from osteoporosis and broke her hip. She then contracted the pneumonia that took her life. She will be laid to rest beside her late veteran husband in Arlington National Cemetery, where U.S. military are buried to commemorate their service and sacrifice, which was detailed previously in the Inquisitr.
RIP, Greta Zimmer Friedman, Eisenstaedt’s photo of you in times square will forever symbolize end of a horrible war https://t.co/2Llxs8sIfE
— John M Artim (@ReefManJohn) September 10, 2016
Her burial in Arlington “seems fitting,” said Joshua Friedman to NBC News. Although his mother, known forever as the World War II nurse, did not serve in the military, she earned a place in wartime history by virtue of being in the right place at the right time.
[Photo by Victor Jorgensen/U.S. Navy/AP Images]