August 15, 1945, is known as "V-J Day" or "Victory Over Japan Day," the day Japan surrendered to the United States, ending World War ll.

A black-and-white photograph snapped that day captured the emotion of many Americans at learning the long war was over. That photograph is mired in controversy 79 years later.

When word of the Japanese surrender broke, people spilled into the streets of New York City from restaurants, bars and theaters to celebrate the news. Sailor George Mendonsa spotted Greta Friedman in Times Square, a woman he'd never met, and planted a kiss on her lips.

It was a photo for the ages.

Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt was in Times Square, too, and captured the moment on film.

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In the 1969 book The Eye of Eisenstaedt, the photographer recalled, "I was walking through the crowds on V-J Day, looking for pictures. I noticed a sailor coming my way. He was grabbing every female he could find and kissing them all – young girls and old ladies alike."

Eisenstaedt remembered, "Then I noticed the nurse standing in that enormous crowd. I focused on her, and just as I'd hoped, the sailor came along, grabbed the nurse, and bent down to kiss her."

Massachusetts And Rhode Island Ties To Iconic WWll Kiss Photo
Getty Images

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough recently reversed a decision from a VA undersecretary who requested the removal of the photo from all VA health facilities because the photo "depicts a non-consensual act" and is inconsistent with the department's sexual harassment policy.

"Let me be clear: This image is not banned from VA facilities – and we will keep it in VA facilities," McDonough said.

It turns out the photo has southern New England connections. Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, born December 6, 1898, in Tczew, Poland, died August 23, 1995, in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts. He was 96.

According to the 1988 book Eisenstaedt: Martha's Vineyard, the photographer spent many summers photographing the Massachusetts island beginning in the 1930s.

George Mendonsa, the Portuguese-American sailor who kissed nurse Greta Friedman in Times Square, was a Rhode Islander born and raised in Middletown. Mendonsa died in 2019. He was 95. Friedman died at age 92 in 2016.

Before his death, Mendonsa participated in a World War ll Excercise Tiger ceremony in New Bedford.

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