The statue "Unconditional Surrender," more popularly known as the "Kiss," when first seen in San Diego in 2010. Courtesy Port of San Diego
The statue “Unconditional Surrender,” more popularly known as the “The Kiss,” when first seen in San Diego in 2007. Courtesy Port of San Diego

Greta Friedman, the woman depicted kissing a sailor in a 25-foot sculpture on the San Diego waterfront, has died at age 92, media reports said on Saturday.

Her son, Joshua Friedman, said she died on Thursday in Virginia after suffering a series of ailments, including pneumonia, NBC News reported.

CBS News said she would be laid to rest with her late husband, Mischa Elliot Friedman, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Friedman, then a dental assistant on a break, was the woman in one of the most famous pictures of the 20th century, the moment Americans learned of the Japanese surrender in World War II on Aug. 14, 1945.

Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt snapped a sailor in a dark uniform kissing Friedman with his arms around her and her white-clad body bent backwards as revelers in celebrated the victory over Japan. Eisenstaedt’s photo, “V-J Day in Times Square,” ran the following week in Life magazine.

The giant statue “Unconditional Surrender” by sculptor J. Seward Johnson was first seen on loan in San Diego in 2007. A permanent copy of the statue, which is more popularly known as “The Kiss,” was installed on the embarcadero downtown in 2013. Johnson said his statue was based on a similar photo of the same event by another photographer.

Friedman and the sailor, quartermaster George Mendonsa of Rhode Island, were not identified until 1980, when Life magazine asked the unknown pair to come forward.

“I did not see him approaching, and before I know it I was in this vice grip,” Friedman told CBS News in 2012. After the embrace, the two went their separate ways.

“It was a wonderful coincidence, a man in a sailor’s uniform and a woman in a white dress … and a great photographer at the right time,” she recalled.

In a 2005 interview with the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project, the Austrian-born Friedman said she later designed dolls’ clothes, worked in summer theater and became a book restorer.

Reuters contributed to this article.

Show comments

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.