It was the photograph that symbolized America's jubilation when Japan surrendered to the U.S. during World War II: A soldier clutching a nurse in Times Square in a passionate kiss on August 14, 1945. Now, Glenn McDuffie, the man many believe to be the solider in the photograph, has passed away.
McDuffie was 86 when he died at a nursing home in Dallas last week. While many people claimed to be the participants in the iconic photograph, McDuffie's assertion was backed up by Lois Gibson, a forensic artist with the Houston Police Department. From the AP:
By taking about 100 pictures of McDuffie using a pillow to pose as he did in the picture taken Aug. 14, 1945, by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, Gibson said she was able to match the muscles, ears and other features of the then-80-year-old McDuffie to the young sailor in the original image.
“I was absolutely positive,” Gibson said of the match. “It was perfect.”
McDuffie had told the AP that he was on his way to Brooklyn, to see his girlfriend, when victory over Japan was reported, "I was so happy. I ran out in the street... And then I saw that nurse. She saw me hollering and with a big smile on my face. … I just went right to her and kissed her." He added, "We never spoke a word. Afterward, I just went on the subway across the street and went to Brooklyn."
And he told the Houston Chronicle in 2007, "I heard someone running and stopping right in front of us. I raised my head up, and it was a photographer. I tried to get my hand out of the way so I wouldn’t block her face, and I kissed her just long enough for him to take the picture."
Gibson said yesterday, "Glenn told me that there was no tongue in the kiss, but that it was a wet one."
— LIFE (@LIFE) March 14, 2014
That simple, straightforward description of the scene, however, hardly begins to capture not only the spontaneity, energy and sheer exuberance shining from Alfred Eisentaedt’s photograph, but the significance of the picture as a kind of cultural — indeed a totemic — artifact. “V-J Day in Times Square” is not merely the one image that captures what it felt like in America when it was finally announced, after a half-decade of global conflict, that Japan had surrendered and that the War in the Pacific — and thus the Second World War itself — was effectively ended. Instead, for countless people, Eisentaedt’s photograph captures at least part of what the people of a nation at war experience when war, any war, is over.
It’s worth noting that many people view the photo as little more than the documentation of a very public sexual assault, and not something to be celebrated.)
LIFE adds that contrary to pubic perception, the Eisentaedt photograph was never on the cover of the magazine when it was published a week later. The cover had a photo of an underwater ballet dancer.