Today is the 75th anniversary of V-J Day, which marked the official end of WWII. While Imperial Japan announced its surrender on August 14, 1945, the official document was not signed until a few weeks later on September 2nd aboard the USS Missouri. One of history’s most iconic photos, “V-J Day in Times Square” is symbolic of the very moment the war ended. But do you know the stories of the people who created it? The man behind the camera was famous photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, a Jewish refugee who fled Germany after the Nazi’s rise to power. On the day he took the photograph, Alfred had no idea that the woman he captured on film was also a Jewish refugee. Greta Friedman (née Zimmer) was born in Wiener-Neustadt, Austria in 1924. Following the Nazi’s annexation of Austria, Greta emigrated to America with her two sisters. Their parents planned to follow closely behind, but never made it out and were killed in the Holocaust. On the morning of August 14, 1945, the streets were buzzing with rumors of the war’s end. Greta, who was working as a dental assistant in midtown, walked to Times Square to see the news in flashing lights. That’s when George Mendonsa, a sailor in a white hat and navy blue uniform, dipped Greta backwards and planted a kiss on her lips. Born in Newport, Rhode Island, George enlisted in the U.S. Navy following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He rose to the rank of Quartermaster 1st Class and was at the helm during the Battle of Okinawa, rescuing sailors from a neighboring ship that was attacked by kamikazes. George was on 30 days leave when he learned the war had ended. Greta and George would not meet again until 1980 when they reunited in Times Square 35 years after the war.
Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt
Source: American Society for Yad Vashem