Ex-sailor sues Time over famous picture

NEWPORT, R.I. -- A Rhode Island man has sued Time Inc. for trying to sell copies of a famous Life magazine photo which he says depicts him in a sailor's uniform kissing a nurse at the end of World War II.

But the publishing firm, which has never identified the man in the photo, says George Mendonsa's suit is groundless.


'We believe Mr. Mendonsa does not have a cause of action, and we will vigorously defend the case,' Time Inc. said in a brief statement Thursday.

Mendonsa, a Middletown resident, has filed suit for $150,000 in Superior Court, objecting to Time Inc.'s recent offer to sell signed copies of the famous photo to the public at $1,600 apiece.

Mendonsa said the offer denies him 'the right to be secure from appropriation of his likeness.' He also wants the court to stop Time Inc. from using the photo for commercial purposes.

The famous picture snapped by Alfred Eisenstaedt Aug. 14, 1945, shows a sailor kissing a nurse in a passionate embrace as New Yorkers celebrate the end of World War II.

'They've made a fortune on that picture, and I've been kind of fed up and annoyed with their attitude,' Mendonsa, 64, told the Newport Daily News. 'They won't admit that it's me.'


Mendonsa said he went to the magazine's editors in 1980 with 'positive proof' that he was the sailor photographed. He pointed out the initials tattooed on the sailor's right arm, his 'very large hand,' and the Quartermaster 1.C. chevron hanging from the right hip pocket.

Marilyn Sahner, director of radio and television publicity for Life, said the magazine has never settled on the sailor's identification, although Eisenstaedt has said he believes a California woman, Edith Shain, was the nurse.

Mendonsa said he was in New York City on leave and was enjoying a Radio City Music Hall show when it was announced World War II ended.

Mendonsa and his girlfriend -- who became his wife -- joined a crowd celebrating in Times Square. He claims he was photographed when he embraced and kissed a uniformed nurse in the crowd and says his wife's face is visible over his right shoulder.

'This thing has upset me,' he said. 'It's bugged me, I haven't slept some nights because of this.'

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