Man Claims He's the Mystery Sailor in 'The Kiss'

Experts Say Glenn McDuffie Is Probably the Unidentified Sailor in Famous Photo


Aug. 7, 2007 —

V-J Day, Aug. 14, 1945 -- World War II is finally over and New York's Times Square has erupted in spontaneous celebration.

Suddenly a handsome sailor pulls a young nurse into an embrace. The iconic image of that kiss, immortalized by the photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt in Life magazine, became the symbol of a joyful nation's victory.

Glenn McDuffie, now 80 years old, joined the ranks of more than 10 other men who over the years have claimed to be that swashbuckling sailor.

As the 62nd anniversary of the famous photo approaches, McDuffie said he wants the truth to come out once and for all -- it was he who made the world swoon with his triumphant kiss.

McDuffie even took a lie detector test to prove he is the smooching sailor and now, thanks to a forensic photo analysis, a Houston scientist agrees.

"Glenn McDuffie is the swabbie that kissed the nurse that celebrated that the war was over," said forensic artist and facial expert Lois Gibson.

Life magazine has never taken a position in any of the identity disputes regarding the identities of the sailor or the nurse, a Life spokesperson told ABC News in an e-mail, and said Eisenstaedt took no notes or names the day he snapped the photo.

McDuffie's Version of 'The Kiss'

The mystery kiss occurred amid the impromptu celebration in New York's Times Square following the news that World War II had finally ended. The image has since been referred to by many as a "manifestation" of the nationwide celebration.

McDuffie, who was 18 years old when the photo was taken, said he was traveling to visit a girl in Brooklyn from his naval base in Kannapolis, N.C., when he heard the news.

"When I got off the subway I got to the top of the stairs and the lady up there said, 'Sailor, I'm so happy for you,'" said McDuffie. "I asked her why and she told me the war was over and I could go home. I ran into the street jumping and hollering."

It was then, McDuffie said, that he kissed the nurse.

"That nurse was out there and she turned around and put her arms out and that's when I kissed her," said McDuffie. "Then I heard someone running and I lifted my head and it was that photographer."

Describing that kiss today on "Good Morning America," McDuffie said, "It was a good kiss. It was a wet kiss... Someone asked me if it was a tongue kiss. I said, 'No tongue, but it was a nice kiss.'"

Is It All in His Head?

A polygraph test administered by polygraph examiner David Rainey and obtained by ABC News said that "no deception was indicated" in McDuffie's test.

Even so, that doesn't necessarily mean he's the sailor.

Criminal defense attorney F. Lee Bailey, who was also the host of the show "Lie Detector" on which McDuffie appeared and took yet another polygraph test, said that he could have passed based on the fact that he genuinely believes himself to be the sailor, rather than because he actually is.

"If you honestly believe something you won't flunk a polygraph," said Bailey.

Numbers Don't Lie

But McDuffie didn't stop at polygraph tests. In his quest to prove to the world that he really was the famous sailor, he recruited the help of Gibson, the Guinness Book of World Record's "Most Successful Forensic Artist" and facial expert.

Gibson photographed McDuffie in the same pose depicted in the photograph -- the nurse was replaced by a large pillow -- and then recorded all of McDuffie's measurements.

Using the sailor's U.S. Navy hat to establish a scale, Gibson compared the measurements of McDuffie's wrist, hand, ear and hairline in the new photograph with those from the original.

A self-proclaimed skeptic, Gibson said she's certain McDuffie is the right guy.

"I have looked at all the claimants that have pictures and the ears are way off or the skull shape is way off or the bridge of the nose is way off," said Gibson. "It's the right shape on [McDuffie.]"

McDuffie is also the only claimant that has a good explanation for the sailor's awkwardly twisted wrist.

"I was keeping my hand from blocking the view," said McDuffie. "I wanted to let him take the picture of her face."

Where's the Nurse?

While the identity of the nurse has also never been confirmed, a woman claiming to be her has came forward more than 20 years ago.

Life told ABC News that in 1980, a Californian woman named Edith Shain came forward claiming to be the nurse in the photograph. Photographer Eisenstaedt met with Shain and even did a piece on her for the magazine.

McDuffie said he's 99 percent sure Edith Shain is the nurse in the photograph.

"She's the one I kissed," said McDuffie of Shain. "I'm the only one who really knows who the nurse is."

Despite his intuition, McDuffie said he refuses to meet with Shain until she too takes a lie detector test.

McDuffie, who is battling lung cancer, said that he tried to meet the photographer at one point -- Eisenstaedt was giving a talk at a local university -- but was unsuccessful.

"I went down [near the stage] to talk to him and all [Eisenstaedt] said was 'Not my sailor," said McDuffie.

McDuffie's evidence seems convincing, but without Eisenstaedt's side of the story it's likely the sailor's identity will always be shrouded in mystery.