Feb. 18 (UPI) -- George Mendonsa, best known as the "kissing sailor" in the iconic V-J Day World War II photo from New York City's Times Square, has died. He was 95.
Mendonsa died Sunday, his daughter Sharon Molleur said.
Mendonsa was on leave in Manhattan when the end of World War II was announced on Aug. 14, 1945. He told the authors of a book based on the photo he was so caught up in the moment that he kissed a total stranger, NBC News reported.
The kiss, taken by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt and published in Life magazine in crowded Times Square, became one of the enduring images of the end of the war. It also started a long-running mystery to identify Mendonsa and the nurse, who was later found to be Greta Zimmer Friedman. She died in 2016 at age 92.
Friedman said years later she was a dental assistant working in the area and was on break when the war's end was announced.
Lawrence Verria, the author of The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo That Ended World War II with George Galdorisi, said after researching the photo and others who laid claim to be in the picture, he found Mendonsa's and Friedman's stories most credible.
"He was very proud of his service and the picture and what it stood for," Molleur said. "Always, for many, many years later, it was an important part of his life."
Mendonsa, who was positively identified with facial recognition technology for the 2012 book, was living in an assisted living facility in Middletown, R.I., and had congestive heart failure. The son of a fisherman, Mendonsa grew up around the water and served in the U.S. Navy during the war, the Providence Journal reported.
Mendonsa said once that he kissed Friedman because she symbolized the nurses that helped fellow sailors after a kamikaze attack on the USS Bunker Hill.
"It's what everybody was doing on August 14, 1945," Verria said. "Everybody was kissing and hugging. As soon as the kiss was over, they went their separate ways."
The author said years went by before either of them knew they were photographed during the kiss.