Scan Suggests Ex-Sailor Was WWII Smoocher

ByABC News via logo
August 14, 2005, 10:31 AM

Aug. 14, 2005 — -- When word came of the Japanese surrender exactly 60 years ago today, hundreds of thousands of people rushed into Times Square to celebrate that finally World War II was over, and Life magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstadt documented the euphoria.

But of all the pictures he took on that historic day, only one would become the iconic image of the end of the end of the war -- a photo of a sailor kissing a nurse. Unfortunately, Eisenstadt didn't get their names and the identity of the smoochers remained a mystery.

People have come forward claiming to be the sailor or the nurse.

There has been consensus for some time that Edith Shain, 87, is the nurse. But she says she has no idea who the sailor is because she had never seen him before that moment and never recognized him again.

Shain, alive and well, visited Times Square recently to dedicate a temporary statue portraying the kiss.

The identity of the sailor had not been resolved -- but now there's new evidence.

Many, including Carl Muscardello, claimed to be the sailor. But George Mendonsa, an 82-year-old Navy vet and retired fisherman from Newport, R.I., gladly submitted to high-tech testing to prove he was the one in the famous photo.

"When I hear someone else trying to get credit for it, my blood boils," Mendonsa said. "I want that identification."

He approached the Naval War College Museum in Newport, which contacted the Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories in Cambridge, Mass. The lab has a machine called "the dome" that takes thousands of photos of a person's head from different angles in just seconds. The photos are converted into a 3-D computer image that can be tilted at the exact same angle as the sailor's head in the 1945 photo.

But in Mendonsa's case, the photos has to be de-aged to show how he might have looked 60 years ago.

"After we de-aged him, we had a 3-D model of his head in 1945 which we then superimposed on top of the photograph," said Hanspeter Pfister, associate director of the lab.

Mendonsa is convinced he finally has his proof.

"Even after 60 years, this photo is known around the world as a symbol of the end of World War II," he said. "And I want credit for that symbol."

But Pfister concedes even this is not 100 percent, irrefutable scientific evidence.

"In the end, it is really up to the viewer to decide if they think this is similar or not," he said. "We'll never know for sure. That's for sure."