AUSTIN, Texas – In the black-and-white photo, the sailor would always be a young man, locked in a kiss with a nurse in New York’s Times Square to mark the end of World War II.
Glenn Edward McDuffie, who said he was the kissing sailor in the iconic Life magazine photograph, died this month at the age of 86, the Houston Chronicle newspaper reported on Friday.
McDuffie told the Chronicle in 2007 that he never spoke to the nurse before he kissed her during celebrations to mark the end of fighting with Japan in August 1945. He was 18 at the time.
“When I got off from the subway, a lady told me the war was over, and I went into the street yelling. I saw the nurse and she was smiling at me, so I just grabbed her,” he said.
Life magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt snapped the photo which became one of the most famous pictures of the WWII era. Eisenstaedt, however, never got the names of the people in the photo.
The nurse who claimed to be at the center of the iconic photo, Edith Shain, died in June 2010 at age 91. Her identity in the photo was a mystery until the 1970’s when Shain wrote the photographer and said she was the nurse in the photo taken on August 14, 1945, while she was working at the Doctor’s Hospital in New York City.
“I went from Doctors Hospital to Times Square that day because the war was over, and where else does a New Yorker go?” she said in 2008, when she donned a white nurse’s uniform again and was grand marshal of New York’s Veterans Day parade. “And this guy grabbed me and we kissed, and then I turned one way and he turned the other. There was no way to know who he was, but I didn’t mind because he was someone who had fought for me.”
“As for the picture,” she said, “it says so many things – hope, love, peace and tomorrow. The end of the war was a wonderful experience, and that photo represents all those feelings.”
McDuffie said he kept quiet about the picture for years and only came forward in 1980, when the editors of Life were seeking the two people in the photograph.
For years, many men had claimed to be the sailor in the photograph. In 2007, Life magazine’s parent, Time, reported that McDuffie likely was the man, based on an analysis by a police forensic artist.
“I never thought I needed publicity, just to be somebody,” McDuffie told the Chronicle. “But it made me mad they wouldn’t recognize it was me.”
He spent the last years of his life in poor health. His daughter, Glenda Bell, told the Chronicle that when women asked to recreate the photograph with him, he gave them a peck on the cheek.