I don't think anyone under a certain age can imagine what the world was feeling the day they announced that World War II was over. Those too young to have lived through it will never understand it I imagine, and hopefully it stays that way. By some estimates, over 50 million people had been killed in the conflict and western civilization as it was known had been in very real danger of being lost. So is it any wonder George Mendonsa was allowed to kiss that nurse? If this happened today I imagine there would be law suits and virul outrage, but please put this incident in perspective and think of the situation of the world at the time.
So, our sad news today is that the man in one of the most iconic pictures of all time passed away on Sunday. The photo in question is that of a young sailor grabbing and kissing a woman in Time's Square to celebrate the end of World War II in 1945.
His name was George Mendonsa and he had served a stint in the Pacific during the war. George was on leave and in Times Square when the news broke out that the war was over. He was also on a first date with his future wife Rita Petry at the time of the announcement. That didn't stop George from grabbing Greta Friedman for a smooch though. Mendonsa thought Rita was a nurse. He said, quote, "we were all drinking and raising hell...it was just plain instinct I guess. I just grabbed here."
Did his date care? Not at all. Petry said "I was in the background grinning like a mutt. It didn't matter to me." George and Rita married in 1946 and stayed together until his death.
So what about the nurse? Did it bother her? Nope. Greta didn't mind either. She said, " Suddenly, I was grabbed by a sailor. It wasn't much of a kiss. It was more of a jubilant act that he didn't have to go back." Greta passed away in 2016. She was 92. George was 95, passing way one day before his 96th birthday.