Woman in iconic Times Square photograph

Born: June 5 1924;

Died: September 8 2016

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GRETA Zimmer Friedman, who has died aged 92, may not have been very famous in her own right but she was in one of the most famous photographs ever taken.

The moment, caught in two pictures, one by the acclaimed photo-journalist Alfred Eisenstaedt, the other by Victor Jorgensen on August 14, 1945, show a sailor kissing a nurse among the crowd celebrating VJ Day in New York. Both pictures were published in Life magazine, and the image of the two went to become celebrated and a much copied moment of spontaneity.

It did take Ms Friedman quite some time to realise it was her in the picture though. In fact, it was not until many years later, in the 1960s, that she came across the picture in a book of Eisenstaedt's images and realised the truth. She wrote to Life magazine and was told that another person had been identified as the woman in the picture - in fact, over the years, 11 men and three women have said it was them in the image.

However, Ms Friedman knew for certain that it was her. "I knew it happened to me," she said. "It's exactly my figure and what I wore, and my hairdo especially."

At the time of the picture, Greta Friedman was a 21-year-old dental assistant, which is why she is wearing a uniform.

On August 14, 1945, V-J Day, the day Japan surrendered to the United States, people had spilled into the New York City streets from restaurants, bars and cinemas, celebrating the news.

That's when the sailor in the picture, George Mendonsa, spotted Friedman, spun her around and planted a kiss. The two had never met. In fact, Mendonsa was on a date with an actual nurse, Rita Petry, who would later become his wife.

The photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt is called V-J Day in Times Square, but is known to most simply as The Kiss. Mendonsa said that in some photos of the scene, Petry could be seen smiling in the background.

Another image from a different angle was taken by U.S. Navy photographer Victor Jorgensen, but it was Eisenstaedt's photo that became seared in people's minds. His photo was first published in Life magazine, buried deep within its pages. Over the years, the photo gained recognition and it was some years before Mendonsa and Friedman were confirmed to be the couple.

Eisenstaedt, who produced more than 2,500 picture stories for Life over his long career, had not recorded the names of the couple when he took the picture. Decades later, he met a teacher called Edith Shain who claimed she was the nurse.

Ms Friedman's son Joshua said his mother recalled the events happening in an instant.

"It wasn't that much of a kiss," Friedman said in an interview with the Veterans History Project in 2005. "It was just somebody celebrating. It wasn't a romantic event." In fact, in recent years, some have suggested that the picture should be reassessed as a record of an act of sexual assault.

Friedman herself did not see it that way and her son Joshua has also refuted the claims. “My mom… understood the premise that you don’t have a right to be intimate with a stranger on the street,” he said. “She didn’t assign any bad motives to George in that circumstance, that situation, that time.”

Mr Mendonsa, who is now 93, has also spoken about the day the picture was taken. “The excitement of the war being over, plus I had a few drinks, so when I saw the nurse I grabbed her, and I kissed her,” he said in 2012, when the pair were reunited in Times Square. Ms Friedman added: “I did not see him approaching, and before I know it I was in this vice grip.”

Greta Friedman was born Greta Zimmer in Wiener Neustadt, a town near Vienna in Austria where her father owned a clothes shop. As conditions worsened for Jews after the Nazis occupied the country, her parents sent her and two of her sisters to the United States - another sister went to Palestine.

Both of Friedman's parents died in the Holocaust, according to Lawrence Verria, co-author of The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo that Ended World War II.

In 1956, Greta married Dr Mischa Friedman, a scientist who worked for the US Army and they had a son and a daughter. Ms Friedman studied for an arts degree in the 1980s and had a studio where she painted and made silk-screen prints.

Ms Friedman died at a hospital in Richmond, Virginia, from complications of old age, and is survived by her children and two grandchildren.