“What They Did That Day”


During World War II, George Mendonsa served as a quartermaster in the South Pacific aboard the USS The Sullivans, a Navy destroyer named after the five Sullivan brothers who perished together when their ship, the USS Juneau, was hit by a Japanese torpedo in Guadalcanal. Mendonsa, 89, holds one of the most iconic photographs of the 20th century at his Middletown, Rhode Island home. He is widely believed to be the sailor kissing an unsuspecting nurse on V-E Day in Times Square in 1945. The photograph was taken by Life Magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt.

Mendonsa describes sailors breaking showcase windows in Times Square, reaching in and taking fur coats for their dates. He was in New York City on his first date with his future wife and scheduled to fly back to his ship in San Francisco that night. They were watching the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall when it was announced that the Japanese had surrendered. The couple headed to the streets and eventually to Childs Bar.

Stepping back from the celebration, Mendosa describes a Japanese airstrike five months earlier in which hundreds of sailors aboard a ship in his fleet, the USS Bunker Hill, were injured or killed. “They jumped off by the hundreds and we loaded our ship up with men that we pulled out of the water. Later in the day we met with the hospital ship the Solace and we transferred the wounded. I always remember that. I saw (what) those nurses did that day… and I saw that nurse in Times Square so I grabbed her and I kissed her. I honestly believe that if that girl did not have a nurses’ uniform on that day I never would have done that.”

Posted in Features, News & Events, Patrick Raycraft, Uncategorized. RSS 2.0 feed.
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One Response to “What They Did That Day”

  1. my husband was a photographer ND THIS PHOTO EVOKED SUCHA PERSONAL MESSAGE FOR ME THE WAR AND nEW yORK cITY – IT HAS ALWAYS HAD A SPECIAL PLACE IN MY HEART – AS IT ALWAYS HAS HAD FOR MANY AMERICANS. THANK YOU FOR THIS UPDATE AND THANKS FOR TAKING SUCH A MEANINGFUL PHOTO FOR ALL AMERICANS TO HOLD PRECIOUS.