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Story Behind Nurse-Sailor Kissing Picture and Edith Shain

The Story Behind the Iconic World War II Victory Kiss

Edith Shain, the nurse who was famously kissed by a sailor in this iconic World War II victory photo, has died at age 91. Photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt snapped it in seconds, but the chaos in Times Square on Aug. 14, 1945 made it impossible for him to get his subjects' names.

Lots of women claimed to be her, but Eisenstaedt believed Edith Shain. She immediately knew it was her when the photo printed the following week in Life magazine; however, she didn't come forward for over 30 years, fearing it would be inappropriate. "Now that I'm 60," she wrote in a letter to Eisenstaedt in the late '70s, "it's fun to admit that I'm the nurse in your famous shot."

She came to enjoy her place in history, and visited Times Square several times to commemorate the day. She told Eisenstaedt she had just left the Doctors' Hospital that day to be a part of the celebration when the sailor, a stranger, grabbed her by the waist and kissed her. She wasn't surprised — "at that time in my life everyone was kissing me."

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The actual scene wasn't a surprise either, as men were kissing women everywhere. But this soldier, whose tattoo, scars, and girlfriend (in the background) confirm he's George Mendonsa, was particularly eager. Eisenstaedt recalled him running through the street kissing any woman in his path.

"Whether she was a grandmother, stout, thin, old, didn't make a difference," he wrote in Eisenstaedt on Eisenstaedt, "Suddenly, in a flash, I saw something white being grabbed. I turned around and clicked the moment the sailor kissed the nurse."

Image Source: Getty
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