Glen Edward McDuffie, probably couldn’t have imagined that a single kiss would see him make the pages of history, immortalising the moment the US celebrated Victory over Japan – effectively ending WWII.
But that is exactly what happened when McDuffie embraced a young nurse, named Edith Shain, amongst scenes of jubilation in New York city’s Time Square on August 14 1945.
Sadly, McDuffie, a sailor from Houston, passed away just this week at the age of 86 at a nursing home in Dallas, his daughter has confirmed.
While he has never been ‘officially’ confirmed as the man in the picture, McDuffie worked tirelessly with the Houston Police Department to prove that it was in fact he pictured giving the sultry kiss.
So frustrated was McDuffie at not being acknowledged as ‘that sailor’ that he had his wrists, knuckles, arms, forehead and ear measurements taken by Lois Gibson, a world renowned forensic artist, who enlarged them to scale and compared them against the original photograph to prove it.
“I was able to eliminate all the others based on their foreheads, or the superciliary arch — where the eyebrows are,” Gibson said recently, having championing McDuffie’s claims ever since.
“Glenn told me that there was no tongue in the kiss, but that it was a wet one,” she added.
Gibson also says McDuffie’s left arm was cocked the way it was in the picture was because he was worried he would have to deal with a jealous boyfriend or husband.
So how exactly did he come to be in that famous picture? Was the kiss really of the moment or was it staged?
According to McDuffie, he was changing trains on the subway when he heard the announcement that Japan had surrendered.
“I was so happy. I ran out in the street,” McDuffie, who was then 18 and on his way to visit his girlfriend, had previously told reporters in 2007.
“And then I saw that nurse,” he said, adding that “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,” he added about the kiss that was captured by famous Life magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt.
Edith Shain, who worked in a nearby hospital at the time also supported McDuffie’s claims that they were the pair photographed. She died in 2010.
McDuffie spent his later years traveling to gun and air shows in the US and signing copies of the famous photo for fans. Many women would ask to recreate the kiss with him, but they usually got to kiss his cheek, Gibson told reporters. It was safe to say that he enjoyed the celebrity status that came with him being identified as the sailor in the famous photo.
He spent 50 years in Houston before moving to North Texas to live with his daughter, Glenda Bell in 2009.
“My dad loved it, he ate it up,” Bell said, glad that her father had “finally got the recognition that he deserved after so many men tried to say that it was them in the photo.”
“He would recreate the kiss with women happily, but not with men,” she added, claiming he even re-created it with actress Diane Sawyer once for a TV segment.
“He would wear his WWII veterans cap, and that alone would gain him attention,” she said. “When they found out who he was, they would all get tears in their eyes.”
Bell told reporters that her father will be interred next week at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.