Friends and family called her Greta, but to the rest of the world, Greta Friedman was the infamous nurse that was kissed by a sailor in the iconic VJ Day Photo in Times Square.
The event took place in 1945 after it appeared on a billboard that Japan announced their surrender in World War II.
No one knew the woman’s name at the time, but the photograph captivated the world for years, says CNN. It appeared in black and white and showed Friedman in her classic white nurse’s uniform being kissed by a sailor as the world celebrated the end of the war.
The Story Behind The World’s Most Infamous Kiss
While most called her a “nurse,” Friedman was a dental assistant. Only 21 years old at the time, she was in Times Square when the news was announced on a billboard.
During Greta’s interview with the representative from the Veterans History Project of 2005, Friedman said the sailor grabbed her but she did not know him. She reiterated that it was not a romantic kiss — more of a joyous celebration.
The photograph was captured by a world-renowned photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt. The picture later appeared in the 1945 issue of Life magazine, says Rolling Stone. It was forever known as “The Kiss.”
The Mystery Of The Kiss
It was decades before the identity of the two kissers was revealed. There were many sailors and nurses, according to Rolling Stone, that came forward and tried to claim the fame.
After scientific analysis, it was revealed that Friedman was the woman in the photograph. According to USA Today, the picture never showed the two kissers faces very clearly. Also, the photographer never included a caption with the picture. Scientists, however, were able to use shadow analysis and 3D facial scanning software to prove the identities of the two photographed.
The sailor, Mendonsa, was later revealed in 2005. He, ironically enough, was actually on a date with his future wife at the time of the celebration but kissed Friedman anyway. He revealed in his 2012 interview with CBS News that it was all about the excitement of the war ending.
Who Is Greta Friedman?
Both of Friedman’s parents died in the Holocaust, according to the author of “The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo that Ended World War II.”
Her son, Joshua Friedman, spoke to reporters after his mother’s death. Her son says that the kiss itself meant nothing to his mother, but the meaning behind that kiss and what it meant to the rest of the world made an impact on her for the rest of her life.
Friedman’s husband passed away in 1998.
She was living in an assisted living facility at the time of her death and over the past two years, she had developed health complications, according to her son’s interview with CBS News. She is survived by her sister, two children, two grandchildren, and multiple nieces and nephews. She will be buried alongside her husband in Arlington National Cemetery, says USA Today.