On August 14, 1945, the legendary photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt took a picture of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square, moments after receiving the news of Japan’s surrender to the United States. Now for the first time, the whole truth about the couple in the celebrated picture, V-J Day, 1945, Times Square, will be revealed. As James Bradley’s bestseller Flags of Our Fathers dispelled the many long-held misconceptions about another great photo of the war—the raising of the Marine flag on Iwo Jima—The kissing sailor documents the true story of the photo that captured the spontaneous kiss celebrating the war’s end.
After publication in LIFE magazine, the image became one of the most famous photos of WWII. Eventually the photo was unofficially recognized as one of the greatest in American history. As a cherished reminder of what it felt like for the war to finally be over, all who saw the photo were eager to know the story of the nurse and sailor. Alas, Eisenstaedt had no information and as a result the search for the mysterious couple’s identity took on a dimension of its own. In 1979 Eisenstaedt thought he had found the long-lost nurse and, as far as almost everyone could determine, he had. For the next thirty years Edith Shain was widely identified as the woman in the amorous embrace. In 1980 LIFE attempted to determine the sailor’s identity, prompting many aging warriors to step forward with competing claims. When various experts weighed in to support one candidate over another, chaos ensued.
Intrigued for decades by the controversy surrounding the identity of the sailor and nurse, authors Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi have collected the evidence to unravel years of misinformation and controversy. The kissing sailor, the result of their extensive research, takes a critical, multi-faceted look at all of the evidence to make a convincing case for the true identities of the couple. Given the hundreds of jubilant couples kissing in Times Square on V-J Day, it is not surprising that many have mistakenly claimed to be the sailor and the nurse. The kissing sailor, however, solves the 67-year-old mystery of their identity by providing irrefutable proof that Greta Zimmer Friedman and George Mendonsa are the nurse and the sailor who kissed the war goodbye for a generation of Americans.
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