The woman in this iconic Times Square kiss photo has died at 92

Greta Zimmer Friedman, then a dental assistant on a break, was the woman in one of the most famous pictures of the 20th century, the moment Americans learned of the Japanese surrender on August 14, 1945

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 September, 2016, 11:55am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 September, 2016, 10:12pm

The woman dramatically kissed by a sailor celebrating the end of the second world war in an iconic photograph seen around the world has died. She was 92.

Greta Zimmer Friedman passed away from pneumonia, her son Joshua Friedman said.

Then a 21-year-old dental assistant, Friedman was grabbed and kissed by an elated sailor in New York’s Times Square on August 14, 1945 as news spread that Japan had surrendered and the war would end.

Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt shot the iconic image, which would endure as a defining 20th century American photograph after it ran as a full page in Life magazine.

The 2012 book The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo That Ended World War II published by the Naval Institute Press identified the pair as Friedman and George Mendonsa.

Though their passionate embrace might indicate otherwise, Friedman and Mendonsa did not know each other and never had a romantic relationship. In fact, the sailor’s future wife, Rita Mendonsa, can be seen grinning above his shoulder in the photograph.

“I did not see him approaching, and before I know it I was in this vice grip,” Friedman told CBS News in 2012. After the embrace, Friedman and the sailor went their separate ways.

In a 2005 interview archived by the Veterans History Project, Friedman said she had never seen the image until the 1960s when she looked at a book of Eisenstaedt photography.

“I’m not sure about the kiss... it was just somebody celebrating,” Friedman recalled in that interview. “It wasn’t a romantic event. It was just an event of ‘thank God the war is over.’”

Additional reporting by Reuters