Listen to Rhode Island Public Radio’s Interview with Author Larry Verria

Sailor in iconic photo identified as Middletown man

By FLO JONIC (2012-06-11)

PROVIDENCE, RI (RIPR) – It’s been a mystery for decades. But now two Rhode Island authors say they have unlocked the identity of the sailor who kissed a woman dressed in white in Times Square on August 14, 1945 – the day the surrender of Japan was announced. They’ve identified the sailor in the iconic photo as a Middletown man.

When LIFE magazine launched a search for the kissing sailor back in 1980, dozens of men stepped forward, including George Mendonsa of Middletown. He was in Times Square the day World War II ended. He remembers grabbing a nurse for a kiss because he was so grateful for what they had done for his wounded buddies.

“The nurses on the hospital ship went right to work on these guys,” Mendosa says. “I believe that I have a soft spot for nurses.

Now a book affirms what Mendonsa has always claimed. “The Kissing Sailor,” by North Kingstown high school teacher Lawrence Verria and retired Navy captain George Galdorisi, says Mendonsa was the man caught in a moment of passion by LIFE photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt. Verria says experts examined faces, hairlines, knuckles, noses, arm hair and a tattoo before coming to this conclusion.

“There are markings all over the body which can be determined in the photo that also can be determined on George Mendonsa,” Verria says. “There’s also the skull structure of the face, the hairline, the size of the hands: numerous things that come together that keep piling on that leaves you with no alternative but it has to be George Mendonsa.”

The experts consulted for the book also say the woman in the picture has long been misidentified as Edith Shain but was, in fact, Greta Zimmer who was not a nurse but a dental assistant.


Listen to the interview here.

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