Greta Friedman, the “nurse” immortalized in the iconic photo “V-J Day in Times Square,” died Thursday at a Richmond, Virginia hospital. She was 92. Her son Joshua Friedman confirmed the death to the New York Times, adding that his mother died from pneumonia.
Friedman was a 21-year-old dental student – she’s actually wearing a dental hygienist’s uniform in the photo – as she walked through Times Square on August 14th, 1945, the day Japan surrendered to the United States to put an end to the Second World War. As New Yorkers began congregating in Times Square in the late afternoon to celebrate, sailor George Mendonsa saw Friedman in the crowd, spun her around and kissed her, even though the two had never met.
That moment was captured in Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photograph “V-J Day in Times Square,” or also known simply as “The Kiss,” one of the most famous images of the 20th century. The photograph first appeared in a 1945 issue of Life with the caption “In New York’s Times Square a white-clad girl clutches her purse and skirt as an uninhibited sailor plants his lips squarely on hers.”
For decades, the true identity of the two kissers remained a mystery as many sailors and nurses stepped forward claiming they were the photo’s subjects. However, scientific analysis ultimately determined that Friedman was the nurse involved in the famous photograph. Mendonsa’s identity was similarly recognized in 2005. On August 14th, 1945, the sailor was actually on a date with his future wife Rita at the time of the celebration, but still kissed Friedman during the revelry.
“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,” Mendonsa told CBS News in 2012 when the network reunited Mendonsa and Friedman at the scene of “the Kiss” in Times Square. Friedman added, “I did not see him approaching, and before I know it I was in this tight grip.”
Friedman will be laid to rest alongside her husband in Virginia’s Arlington National Cemetery.