American Woman in Iconic VJ Day Photo Passes Away at 92

Wikipedia / Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt, taken on V-J Day, 1945
Wikipedia / Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt, taken on V-J Day, 1945

Greta Friedman has passed away at the age of 92. She is best known as the woman in white being kissed by a sailor in the iconic photo taken in Times Square at the end of World War II.

According to her son, she died after a series of illnesses, including pneumonia.

She will be laid to rest next to her husband, Mischa Elliott Friedman, in Arlington National Cemetery.

At the time, Friedman was a dental assistant on a break when she became part of one of the most famous pictures of the 20th century. It was that picture that most people saw when they learned of the Japanese surrender on August 14, 1945.

Alfred Eisenstaedt was the photographer that took the picture.

“I did not see him approaching, and before I know it I was in this vice grip,” said Friedman for the CBS News in 2012. After the embrace, Friedman and the sailor, quartermaster George Mendonsa of Rhode Island, went their separate ways. Eisenstaedt’s photo, “V-J Day in Times Square,” ran the following week in Life magazine.

Eisenstaedt said that he saw a sailor kissing random women in Times Square. When he saw the flash of white, he quickly took four photos in ten seconds.

“If she had been dressed in a dark dress I would never have taken the picture, and it’s the same if the sailor had worn a white uniform,” he said.

It took until 1980 for the two to be identified. Mendonsa said that he and his future wife were celebrating the war’s end when he began kissing women in the street.

Friedman went on to live in Frederick, Maryland, graduating from Hood College in 1981. She designed doll clothes, worked in summer theater and became a book restorer.

“It was a wonderful coincidence, a man in a sailor’s uniform and a woman in a white dress, and at the right time, a great photographer,” commented Friedman in regards to the photo.

This short Video tells us a little more about the life of the Photographer who took this classic shot, Alfred Eisenstaedt. 

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE