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The Mystery Behind the Photo that Ended World War II
  • ISBN/SKU: 9781612510781
  • Binding: Hardcover & Ebook
  • Era: 20th Century
  • Number of Pages: 224
  • Subject: World War II
  • Date Available: May 2012
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On August 14, 1945, Alfred Eisenstaedt took a picture of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square, minutes after they heard of Japan’s surrender to the United States. Two weeks later LIFE magazine published that image. It became one of the most famous WWII photographs in history (and the most celebrated photograph ever published in the world’s dominant photo-journal), a cherished reminder of what it felt like for the war to finally be over. Everyone who saw the picture wanted to know more about the nurse and sailor, but Eisenstaedt had no information and a search for the mysterious couple’s identity took on a dimension of its own. In 1979 Eisenstaedt thought he had found the long lost nurse. And as far as almost everyone could determine, he had. For the next thirty years Edith Shain was known as the woman in the photo of V-J Day, 1945, Times Square. In 1980 LIFE attempted to determine the sailor’s identity . Many aging warriors stepped forward with claims, and experts weighed in to support one candidate over another. Chaos ensued.

For almost two decades Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi were intrigued by the controversy surrounding the identity of the two principals in Eisenstaedt’s most famous photograph and collected evidence that began to shed light on this mystery. Unraveling years of misinformation and controversy, their findings propelled one claimant’s case far ahead of the others and, at the same time, dethroned the supposed kissed nurse when another candidate’s claim proved more credible. With this book, the authors solve the 67-year-old mystery by providing irrefutable proof to identify the couple in Eisenstaedt’s photo. It is the first time the whole truth behind the celebrated picture has been revealed.

The authors also bring to light the couple’s and the photographer’s brushes with death that nearly prevented their famous spontaneous Times Square meeting in the first place. The sailor, part of Bull Halsey’s famous task force, survived the deadly typhoon that took the lives of hundreds of other sailors. The nurse, an Austrian Jew who lost her mother and father in the Holocaust, barely managed to escape to the United States. Eisenstaedt, a World War I German soldier, was nearly killed at Flanders.

For more information on the book, go to

Lawrence Verria is the Social Studies Department Chair at North Kingstown High School, and Rhode Island's 2000 Teacher of the Year. During his twenty-nine year career as a history teacher, he served as an educational consultant to Frontline (PBS) and as a spokesperson for The Watson Institute for International Studies' Choices for the 21st Century Education Program at Brown University. He is the recipient of the Susan B. Wilson Civic Education Merit Award and Rhode Island College's Evelyn Walsh Prize for excellence in history studies.

Captain George Galdorisi, USN (Ret.)is a naval aviator who began his writing career in 1978 with an article in Proceedings. His Navy career included four command tours and five years as a carrier strike group chief of staff. He has written several books previously, and co-authored, with Naval Institute Press author Dick Couch, the New York Times best seller, Tom Clancy Presents: Act of Valor, the novelization of the Bandito Brothers/Relativity Media film starring U.S. Navy SEALs, and Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes which will be published in May 2014.  He is currently the director of the Corporate Strategy Group at the Navy’s C4ISR Center of Excellence in San Diego, California. For more information on The Kissing Sailor and other books by Capt. Galdorisi, please visit

David Hartman was the original, and for over 11 years, host of Good Morning America. He writes and produces numerous programs about the history of military aviation and space and has earned two national News and Documentary Emmys for writing and the Aviation/Space Writers Association Journalism Award.

Watch George Galdorisi's interview on the Travel Channel's Monumental Mysteries

The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo that Ended World War II by Naval Institute Press



Praise for The Kissing Sailor

“As far as this reviewer is concerned, this clever new book, filled with forensic evidence and compelling documentation, conclusively settles the issue: the kissing sailor is George Mendonsa, a career fisherman from the historic coastal community of Newport, Rhode Island.”

Naval War College Review, Spring 2013

"The Kissing Sailor is a strong addition to history collections and those interested in the deeper story behind the legendary photo."

The Midwest Book Review, June 2012

“…Fascinating piece of detective work…the book provides an intriguing and unique perspective on one of the twentieth century’s most memorable moments.”

Booklist, June 1, 2012

“...very special attempt to resolve the true romantic odyssey…Reading more like a well-contrived mystery than a romantic tale, the authors threat their way through minefields of inaccurate information and up blind alleys until finally,  miraculously locating the real couple decades later. This is an exciting fun read that finally solves one of WWII’s unsolved mysteries, and yes, you will be as surprised with the ending as was this reviewer, who, as a war-time teenager actually witnessed this frantic celebration in Times Square.”

Sea Classics, August 2012

“The authors not only do a great job in following the clues that led to the undisputable claim that Mendonsa and Zimmer are, in fact, the kissing couple, but they also convey the euphoria that swept the country when the war ended.” — WWII History, July 2012

“In The Kissing Sailor,” Verria and Galdorisi capture that moment almost as perfectly as Eisenstadt’s photo.”Galveston Daily News, June 24, 2012

"The authors have made an engaging and convincing argument, providing a wealth of information without lagging in pace as they unravel this intriguing true-life mystery.  Their book will appeal to armchair historians, armchair detectives, and anyone who would like to know the story behind one of the most beloved photographs in American history."

Library Journal, June 1, 2012

“The authors deliver a convincing conclusion to their romantic detective tale about the last day of WWII and the photo that ‘savored what a long-sought peace feels like.’ ”

Publishers Weekly

“What a wonderful detective story about a kissing sailor and a beautiful nurse—the most famous couple celebrating the end of WWII. Famous but anonymous—until now. I loved it.”

Tom Brokaw, author of The Time of Our Lives: A Conversation About America and The Greatest Generation

“The puzzle about the identities of the famous kissing couple photo that put a visual exclamation mark on the end of World War II should never have been a mystery at all.  If famed LIFE photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt had simply gotten their names, we would have known from day one who the sailor and the nurse were.  But he didn't, and that's good news for, The Kissing Sailor, a whodunit that provides once and for all the identification of the world's best known smoochers.  The evidence is in, decades of mystery and controversy about who they really are over, but to get that information, you have to read the book!”

—David Hume Kennerly, Pulitzer Prize winning photographer

Customer Reviews
3 Reviews
Average Customer Reviews
4.33 Stars
Good detective story!
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
By: thepastinreview
One of the most iconic photographs ever taken is the subject of this book. It celebrates V-J Day (Victory over Japan), August 14, 1945, with a passionate kiss in Times Square. Anonymous at the time, the two people in the picture have been positively identified (and they are still alive). The Kissing Sailor tells the story behind the photo and, like any good detective story, does not stop until all of the usual suspects have been rounded up. The authors begin by filling in the background: the irony that all of these participants – the photographer, kisser and kissee – lived through long odds in each of their lives, to show up in Times Square at the same time; Times Square itself as the place to meet; the events leading up to that day in August; and, finally, the photo itself, which wasn’t even a cover photo then. The authors move to 1980, when Life magazine attempted to identify the sailor and the nurse. Needless to say, there were more than a few volunteers. Then they make the case for George and Greta, successfully, against all claimants and conclude with a section titled "What Happened to the Truth?" It is interesting to note that in the melting pot of America, a German-Jewish photojournalist, a Portuguese-American and an Austrian-Jewish dental assistant unwittingly make up an image of America and her triumph. This book is their story.
I could not put the book down!
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
By: CAPT Jerry O'Donnell, USN (Ret.)
The iconic picture of the sailor and the nurse embraced in a kiss compels viewers to project themselves into the photo and just imagine the taste and feel of that magic moment in time. The authors have done a magnificient job of capturing the romantic detective story of their quest. They poke gentle fun at the "wanna be's" without diminishing the dignity of these WWII veterans. This is better than fiction and was a heck of a lot of fun to read. I could not put the book down.
Fascinating facts about a truly iconic photograph!
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
By: J.E. Smith
The "Kissing" sailor in the title of this intriguing book is the unknown swabbie who grabbed a pretty nurse (actually a dental assistant) and kissed her passionately in Times Square on the day World War II ended. It was V-J Day, Japan had been defeated at last, and overjoyed New Yorkers flooded Times Square to celebrate. Life magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt was prowling around, looking for a good shot. He got it all right - his picture of the sailor and the girl became one of the most famous and beloved images of the war years. The problem was that Eisenstaedt didn't bother to get their names, and the search for their identities extended over decades until a few credible candidates emerged. "The Kissing Sailor" is the story behind the photo, told by the authors with a plentitude of photoanalysis, forensic science and media detective work. There are superfluous chapters on the history of Times Square and Life magazine, but the meat of the book - who were those two? - is what makes it hard to resist reading to the last page. The book is a little disorganized, though. I wasn't quite able to tell which candidates had the inside tracks until I was pretty far along. In places I even began to lose track of the different claimants. Those are just quibbles, however. This book is well worth getting just for the fascinating facts about a truly iconic photograph in American history.


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