Woman kissed by sailor in famed photo at World War Two's end dies

September 10, 2016 6:42 PM EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Greta Friedman, the woman in white kissed by a sailor in New York's Times Square in a photograph symbolizing the end of World War Two, has died at age 92, media reports said on Saturday.

Her son, Joshua Friedman, said she died on Thursday in Virginia after suffering a series of ailments, including pneumonia, NBC News reported.

CBS News said she would be laid to rest with her late husband, Mischa Elliot Friedman, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Friedman, then a dental assistant on a break, was the woman in one of the most famous pictures of the 20th century, the moment Americans learned of the Japanese surrender on Aug. 14, 1945.

Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt snapped a sailor in a dark uniform kissing Friedman with his arms around her and her white-clad body bent backwards as revelers in New York's Times Square celebrated the victory over Japan, or V-J Day.

"I did not see him approaching, and before I know it I was in this vice grip," Friedman told CBS News in 2012. After the embrace, Friedman and the sailor, quartermaster George Mendonsa of Rhode Island, went their separate ways.

Eisenstaedt's photo, "V-J Day in Times Square," ran the following week in Life magazine.

The photographer recalled in his 1985 book "Eisenstaedt on Eisenstaedt" that a sailor in Times Square was kissing women randomly. When he saw a flash of white, he took four shots in 10 seconds.

"If she (Friedman) had been dressed in a dark dress I would never have taken the picture. If the sailor had worn a white uniform, the same," he said.

Mendonsa and Friedman were not identified until 1980 when Life asked the unknown pair to come forward. Mendonsa told CBS he and his future wife had been celebrating the end of the war when he began kissing women in the street.

In a 2005 interview with the Library of Congress' Veterans History Project, the Austrian-born Friedman said she later designed dolls' clothes, worked in summer theater and became a book restorer.

She moved to Frederick, Maryland, and graduated from Hood College in 1981, the same year her son and daughter graduated from university.

Friedman said of the photo, "It was a wonderful coincidence, a man in a sailor's uniform and a woman in a white dress ... and a great photographer at the right time."

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Richard Chang)

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