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A kiss that ended a war

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A woman whose name would mean nothing to most people but who is nevertheless part of world history died this week.

Greta Zimmer Friedman, 92, left this life in a Richmond, Virginia, hospital from “complications of old age”.

The only time the world had really seen her was on August 14, 1945 when an American sailor George Mendonsa, celebrating victory over Japan, grabbed the vivacious 21-year-old and planted a huge kiss on her lips.

The two were total strangers but a photographer snapping the victory celebrations on the street captured a photograph that went round the world and has forever epitomised the joy of war’s end.

No doubt millions of people have studied that picture over the span of 70 years and have wondered what became of the two who kissed.

The “kiss photo” takes its place alongside a select few really famous published photographs.

It is matched by the likes of little Kim Phuc, aged 9, running naked and crying from the horror of a napalm attack in 1972 during the shameful Vietnam War.

Another that comes easily to mind is the photo on the 69th floor of what is now the GE Building in New York in 1932 when scaffolders took a lunch break atop the skyscraper on a steel beam, unharnessed.

Albert Einstein’s birthday bash in 1951 at which the genius pokes his tongue out at the camera is another, as is the Beatles Abbey Road photo of 1969 and, of course, the timeless picture of beautiful Marilyn Monroe with billowing skirt taken as part of a film photo shoot.

New Zealand, too, has its famous photos.

There is the crippled Rainbow Warrior askew in Auckland harbour, the dangling train carriage in the aftermath of the Tangiwai disaster, the wreckage of the DC10 on Mt Erebus and a beaming Ed Hillary on conquering Mt Everest.

Hard on the heels of those would be the image of Cabinet minister Mabel Howard waving her “bloomers”, a gleeful Mickey Savage mobbed by supporters on winning the 1935 election for Labour, All Blacks captain David Kirk holding aloft the Webb Ellis Trophy won at the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 and the time-honoured image of Dame Whina Cooper leading the 1975 land march to Parliament.

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