(NEW YORK) — Two authors claim they have figured out the identities of the sailor and nurse seen kissing in the iconic 1945 LIFE magazine photograph from the end of World War II.
In The Kissing Sailor, co-authors George Galdorisi of Coronada, Calif., and Lawrence Verria of Bristol, R.I., tell what they call the story of the real man and woman in the picture.
On Aug. 14, 1945, LIFE photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt took the photo in New York City’s Times Square. He took four dozen photographs, including four of the unknown couple kissing. He had lost track of his reporter in the crowd, and the two who kissed moved on without telling each other — or Eisenstaedt — their names.
LIFE did a retrospective in 1980 about the picture, asking the real sailor and nurse to come forward. The problem was, more than two people did.
“Those people who looked at the picture and after the fact said, ‘I was kissing someone that day; it was probably me,’” co-author Galdorisi told ABC News.
Galdorisi met Verria through a mutual friend and said they agreed to track down the story of the photograph together.
Galdorisi said Verria first heard of the identity of the sailor, George Mendonsa, from a student in one of his classes. Soon after, he saw the famous picture in a Rhode Island restaurant next to a photo of a sailor in his navy blues. He was told the sailor was a local celebrity, claiming he was the one in the picture. Verria interviewed Mendonsa and was taken by his story, feeling he had proved his identity as the sailor.
The co-authors identify the nurse in the picture as Greta Zimmer Friedman, who lives in Maryland. Both involved in the kiss are now 89 years old.
The book revolves around the picture itself, Times Square, where the photo was taken, the publication of LIFE magazine and the people involved in the story.
“People who have absolutely fascinating lives,” said Galdorisi. “The three of them shouldn’t have been there, they should’ve been dead.”
Galdorisi said he and Verria prove the identities of the kissing couple by forensic analysis, photographic interpretation and other technical means.
There have been multiple people identified in the past as the sailor and nurse. One of the best known of the women was Edith Shane. She came forward in 1979, saying she had not told her story before because she was a proper woman, and proper women don’t kiss in Times Square.
In 2007, a man named Glen McDuffie claimed he was the sailor in the photo, even taking lie detector tests to prove his story.
The famous photograph has made headlines recently for other reasons. Singer Katy Perry reenacted the photo with a sailor she pulled onto the stage at a recent concert.
And last week, a car on Florida’s Gulf Coast hit a 26-foot tall sculpture recreating the photograph, according to ABC affiliate WWSB. There is a similar statue in San Diego.
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