One of the most famous Life Magazine photos from the end of World War II was that of an, until recently, anonymous sailor who was photographed kissing a nurse during a spontaneous victory celebration in Times Square, New York City. This week, the man believed to have been the infamous kisser, Glenn McDuffie, died in Dallas at the age of 86.
Unlike the photo, for over sixty years, the McDuffie’s identity remained a secret. Finally, according to a report by Doug Miller with KHOU TV Friday, McDuffie decided to prove that he was indeed the “kissing sailor.” He contacted police sketch artist Lois Gibson to study the famous photo and his physical features to conduct tests proving he was indeed the sailor who kissed the nurse.
According to a 2007 article in the Houston Chronicle, Gibson, who held the 2005 Guinness Book of World Records title for having helped police identify more criminal suspects than any other person, went to work to forensically prove that McDuffie was the sailor. Through the years, eleven men had claimed to be the kissing sailor. Gibson was able to rule out all of the men by their foreheads. Gibson took precise measurements of McDuffie’s wrists, knuckles, forehead and ears and then compared them to the photograph. She said, after this process, that she was willing to put her reputation on the line that he was indeed the man in the photograph.
McDuffie was also the only one of the eleven men who was able to properly identify two of the other men in the photograph.
McDuffie joined the Navy during WWII at the age of 15 according to the Chronicle article. On August 14, 1945 he was in Times Square and had just come out of a subway tunnel when a lady told him the war was over. “I saw the nurse and she was smiling at me, so I just grabbed her,” McDuffie said. He said they never spoke a word.
After the war, McDuffie eventually moved to Houston where he lived from 1960 to 2009, according to a KTRK-TV news report. He spent his remaining years living near his daughter, Glenda Bell.
In an article by Criah Hlavaty in the Houston Chronicle, Bell said, “My dad loved it, he ate it up. He finally got the recognition that he deserved after so many men tried to say that it was them in the photo.”
“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.”
Following is an interview of McDuffie from 2009 when he traveled to Washington, D.C. as part of the Lone Star Honor Flights where McDuffie and over sixty other WWII vets visited the WWII Memorial. McDuffie appears at the 3:54 mark in the video.
McDuffie served many roles in his life to include being a Navy gunner in WWII–but he will forever be memorialized for kissing the unknown nurse in Times Square.
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Photo used with permission.