I picked up a copy of Newport This Week at the commissary yesterday and the lead story made me smile.
Remember this famous Life magazine photo of the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square in 1945? That picture so perfectly captures the joy at the end of WWII.
Neither Life magazine nor the photographer (Alfred Eisenstadt) recorded the names of the two people, but an 85 year old man in Rhode Island named George Mendonsa is convinced he’s the sailor. Three investigations support his claim. One was a forensic analysis by a professor at Yale. The second was a 3D facial analysis by the Mitsubishi Electrical Research Laboratory at Cambridge, Mass., and the third study was completed by a renowned forensic anthropologist at the University of Michigan. All concluded that “Mendonsa’s physical traits are consistent with that of the kissing sailor and that other contenders can be eliminated,” according to the article.
Quartermaster 1st Class George Mendonsa
In the interview, Mendonsa says he was a quartermaster on the bridge of the destroyer The Sullivans when it was sent to San Francisco to refit for the invasion of Japan. While on leave in Rhode Island, he and his girlfriend, Rita, went to see The Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. Halfway through the show, the lights came on and it was announced that Japan had surrendered. Mendonsa and his date went outside and joined the celebration in Times Square.
Now here’s the funny part: the nurse isn’t a nurse (she was a dental hygienist) and the nurse wasn’t Mendonsa’s girlfriend–she was just someone passing by. Still, in the photograph you can see the smiling face of Mendonsa’s girlfriend just beyond his right shoulder, so I guess she was okay with it under the circumstances.
Instead of invading Japan, The Sullivans got decommissioned and Mendonsa returned to Rhode Island where he continued his work as a commercial fisherman and married Rita in 1946.
The nurse/dental hygienist has been identified as Greta Friedman. She will join George Mendonsa on the Raytheon Corporation float in the Bristol, RI Fourth of July Parade, along with a life-sized sculpture of the famous kiss.
Thanks to Newport This Week for a fascinating article, and thanks to George Mendonsa and Greta Friedman for their wartime service and their iconic kiss.
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