Jewish Woman Who Sealed World War II With a Kiss Dead at 92

September 12, 2016

2 min read

Greta Zimmer Friedman, the woman in a nurse’s uniform whose kiss with sailor George Mendonsa on V-J Day (Victory over Japan Day), shot by LIFE Magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, marked the end of World War II, died on Saturday, September 10, in Richmond, Virginia, at age 92.

Friedman’s account of the most memorable day in her life is part of the collection of The Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress. She recalled: “On August 14th, 1945, I was working as a dental assistant in the office of two brothers: Dr. J. L. and Dr. J. D. Berk on Lexington Ave. about 35th St. in Manhattan. Dental assistants then, as now, dress like nurses. The uniform was a white dress, white stockings and shoes, and a little white nurse’s cap. The cap was usually left off if you left the office for lunch. The job is still the same, to assist the dentist and make the patient comfortable.

The famous photograph, signed by Greta Zimmer Friedman and George Mendonsa. (Library of Congress)
The famous photograph, signed by Greta Zimmer Friedman and George Mendonsa. (Library of Congress)

“On the morning of August 14th, 1945, patients came in and said that the war with Japan may be over soon. At 1 PM it was my turn to go to lunch. I immediately headed for Times Square to check on the electric sign on the Times building, which reports the latest news. As I stood watching the sign with the message ‘V-J,’ ‘V-J’ going around the building, I was grabbed by a tall strong sailor and kissed. As soon as he let go, I went back to work. I told my bosses what I had seen. They instructed me to cancel the rest of the day’s appointments and close the office.

“On the way home, another sailor kissed me, just one on the cheek, and went on his way. The sailors were especially happy. They had seen enough of war in the Pacific. George Mendonsa, the kissing sailor from Times Square, appreciated nurses especially. They had provided comfort and care for the wounded sailors in the Pacific where he had served.

“I was not aware that a photograph had been taken until I saw it in a book called ‘The Eyes of Eisenstaedt.’ I immediately wrote to LIFE and asked for a copy of the photograph since I was the girl in the picture. They did send me the picture and a short letter saying that the woman had been identified. I did not believe that. The girl in the picture looked too much like me, the same hairdo, the same figure, the same uniform and, the same little purse.

“In 1980 LIFE contacted George and me and invited us to come to Times Square for the 35th anniversary of V-J Day. The famous photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt was there and he took more photographs. On the Times building, the electric sign said ‘IT HAD TO BE YOU’. Mr. Eisenstaed also autographed the original picture and apologized.”

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