WWII sailor in famous kissing photo dies at 86

Glenn McDuffie holds a portrait in July 2007 of himself as a young man, left, and a copy of Alfred Eisenstaedt's iconic Life magazine shot of a sailor, who McDuffie claims is him, embracing a nurse in a white uniform in New York's Times Square, at his Houston home.


By CRAIG HLAVATY | Houston Chronicle | Published: March 14, 2014

HOUSTON — Glenn Edward McDuffie, the young sailor who can be seen in one of the most iconic photos from the end of World War II, has died in Dallas, according to family members.

The WWII vet was 86.

McDuffie was 18 when he was captured in the famous kiss photo with nurse Edith Shain. She died in 2010 at the age of 91.

McDuffie spent 50 years in Houston before moving in 2009 to North Texas to live with his daughter, Glenda Bell, his only living offspring.

McDuffie collaborated with Houston Police Department forensic artist Lois Gibson in 2007 to prove that he was the sailor sharing that lusty kiss with Shain in Times Square on Aug. 14, 1945. The kiss was captured by the famous Life magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt on V-J Day.

Gibson spent much of the last decade championing McDuffie's claim. She said when they met, McDuffie was frustrated for not being acknowledged as the sailor in the photo. That honor instead went to George Mendonsa.

"Glenn told me that there was no tongue in the kiss, but that it was a wet one," said Gibson on Friday.

She said the reason his left arm was cocked the way it was in the picture was because he was half-expecting a jealous boyfriend or husband to come at him.

"I heard someone running and stopping right in front of us. I raised my head up, and it was a photographer," McDuffie told the Houston Chronicle in 2007.

"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."

After taking precise measurements of McDuffie's wrists, knuckles, arms, forehead and ears, Gibson compared them to enlargements of the famous photo. To replicate the image, Gibson had McDuffie pose embracing a pillow,  a substitute for the nurse.

Gibson said Friday that McDuffie didn't want a real-life stand in for the nurse.

McDuffie spent his later years traveling the gun show and air show circuit, signing copies of the famous photo for fans young and old. Many women would ask to recreate the kiss with him, but they usually got to kiss his cheek, Gibson said, the older he got.

McDuffie enjoyed the celebrity status that came with him being identified as the sailor in the famous photo.

"My dad loved it, he ate it up," said Bell, his daughter, on Friday. "He finally got the recognition that he deserved after so many men tried to say that it was them in the photo."

Any time someone invited him to come somewhere, like fundraisers for veterans, McDuffie was there, Bell said.

"He would recreate the kiss with women happily, but not with men," she said. He even recreated it with Diane Sawyer for  a TV segment.

He needed help with crowd control, his daughter says. When he appeared in public, he was mobbed with attention, which he didn't shy away from.

"He would wear his WWII veterans cap, and that alone would gain him attention. When they found out who he was, they would all get tears in their eyes," said Bell.

Bell said that her father will be interred next week at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.

McDuffie joined the U.S. Navy at 15. He admitted that he lied to get in and forged a few documents with the help of his friend. He served as a gunner's mate in the war.

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