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Granddaughter of woman in iconic World War II V-J Day kiss photo speaks out

The entrance to the Edward P. Boland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leeds. (Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican/TNS)
March 08, 2024

Following the Department of Veterans Affairs reversal of the ban on the “V-J Day in Times Square” photograph, the granddaughter of the dental nurse featured in the iconic World War II picture has revealed that her grandmother “never felt violated” by the kiss from a U.S. Navy sailor and was “proud of the image.”

According to The Daily Wire, the dental nurse in the iconic World War II photograph was a Jewish woman named Greta Zimmer. Zimmer had traveled to the United States from Austria in 1939 to escape the Nazi movement. On V-J Day, Zimmer was walking across Times Square in New York City when George Mendonsa, a U.S. Navy sailor, grabbed her and kissed her, despite the two never meeting each other before.

The Daily Wire reported that the photograph was taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt and published in Life magazine. Zimmer went on to marry Mischa Friedman and had two children.

Caroline Branin, Friedman’s granddaughter, told The Daily Mail, “As my grandmother told it to me, she was at work and she went downstairs at lunchtime to see what was happening. George grabbed her and kissed her. It was a split second thing and the photographer just happened to be there. She never felt violated or anything like that … She was always very proud of the image and she thought it was two young people celebrating in the street.”

READ MORE: Pic: Biden VA plans ban of iconic World War II V-J Day kiss photo, reverses decision amid backlash

Branin told The Daily Mail that her grandmother was proud to have become an American citizen after coming to the country as a refugee from Austria. Branin said the end of World War II “marked more to her than for everyday people.” She also explained that Friedman signed copies of the iconic photo for decades.

“She never felt it was something inappropriate,” Branin said. “It’s interesting they tried to reframe historical events in today’s values. I have a picture in my house that my grandma signed and even George Mendonsa signed it. My grandma stayed in contact with George and she did parades on V-J Day with him. She never said it was anything she felt was uncomfortable.”

An internal memo sent February 29 by Assistant Under Secretary for Health for Operations RimaAnn Nelson instructed Veterans Affairs employees to remove the V-J Day photo from all Veterans Affairs facilities since it “depicted a non-consensual act” and did not reflect the department’s “sexual harassment and assault” policies.

The circulation of the memo prompted significant backlash, resulting in Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announcing the reversal of the department’s ban on the V-J Day photo on Tuesday.