"Suddenly I was grabbed by a sailor": Woman in iconic photo says kiss was forced

In this Aug. 14, 1945 file photo provided by the U.S. Navy, a sailor and a woman kiss in New York's Times Square, as people celebrate the end of World War II. (Victor Jorgensen/U.S. Navy, File)

Most have seen the iconic photo of a sailor jubilantly kissing a woman in Times Square on August 14, 1945.

The kiss came after news of Japan's surrender, effectively ending World War II. It's a celebrated photo, but the woman who was kissed says she didn't have much say in the matter.

(MORE | Sailor in iconic V-J Day Times Square photo dies at 95)

"Suddenly I was grabbed by a sailor, and it wasn't that much of a kiss," Greta Zimmer Friedman told the the Library of Congress as part of a history project on veterans.

Zimmerman said it wasn't her choice, "the guy just came over and kissed."

However, Zimmerman said she later realized it was an act of joy.

"It was more of a jubilant act that he didn't have to go back, I found out later, he was so happy that he did not have to go back to the Pacific where they already had been through the war."

She also realized he picked her because of her dentist assistant uniform, which was similar to a nurses outfit. "The reason he grabbed someone dressed like a nurse was that he just felt very grateful to nurses who took care of the wounded."

"I felt he was very strong, he was just holding me tight, and I'm not sure I -- about the kiss because, you know, it was just somebody really celebrating. But it wasn't a romantic event. It was just an event of thank God the war is over kind of thing because it was right in front of the sign."

She also said no words were exchanged with the sailor, later identified as George Mendonsa. "It was just an act of silence."

"We both left, went on our own way. And I found out later that he and his fiancee I think at the time, they probably were engaged already, they had come from Radio City Music Hall. They also heard that the war was over. So they just left the show.""

Zimmerman said she wasn't the only woman kissed by a sailor in Time Square that day. "No, but other sailors did. They -- they were happy they didn't have to go back to war. They had had enough. So, you know, they were not the only sailor that kissed women."

The two participants didn't learn each other's identities until LIFE Magazine and the original photographer, Alfred Eisenstaedt, contacted them in 1980 to celebrate and recreate the moment.

Zimmerman went and met Mendonsa for the first time, but said she did not want to recreate the kiss.

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