The kiss that celebrated the end of World War II
On August 14, 1945, Alfred Eisenstaedt took a picture of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square minutes after Japan’s surrender to the United States. Two weeks later, LIFE magazine published the iconic image. V-J Day, 1945, Times Square became one of the most famous WWII photographs in history and is a cherished reminder of what it felt like for the war to finally be over.
Everyone who saw the picture wanted to know more about the nurse and sailor, but Eisenstaedt had no information. A search for the mysterious couple’s identity took on a life of its own. In 1979, Eisenstaedt thought he had found the long lost nurse when Edith Shain wrote to him claiming to be the woman in the picture.
With the identity of the woman allegedly claimed, the editors of Life asked that the kissing sailor come forward in its August 1980 issue. In the October 1980 issue, the editors reported that eleven men and three women had come forward claiming to be the subjects of the photograph. Though the identities of the sailor and nurse have never been confirmed, George Mendonsa, a 92-year-old veteran and retired fisherman, has no doubt the man in the photo is him.
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The Canadian sailor who made Navy history with the first gay kiss
Master Seaman Francis Legare made Canadian Navy history on February 2016 when he greeted his partner Corey Vautour after the HMCS Winnipeg docked in Victoria. The couple embraced and kissed in what was the “first kiss” between a male sailor returning from sea, and his male partner.
“It’s a time-honored Navy tradition that there’s a raffle to decide which sailor is allowed off a ship first to kiss a loved one after an extended time at sea,” acting sub-lieutenant Kyle Reed said. This time, Legare won the draw and the right to kiss Vautour after spending almost nine months away from home.
The man who tried to calm his girlfriend with a kiss during a riot
In 2011, Scott Jones and girlfriend Alex Thomas were photographed kissing while surrounded by riot police as chaos swirled around them following the Vancouver Canucks’ loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Illuminated in a glow, they looked like they belonged on a movie poster (their embrace even drew comparisons to the iconic image of lovers on a beach from the film classic From Here to Eternity ).
However, video later showed that the two were on the ground because they’d been knocked there by police. Rather than setting his girlfriend’s heart fluttering with a well-timed smooch, Jones was, in fact, attempting to bring it under control.
The most famous socialist fraternal kiss
The socialist fraternal kiss became famous via Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev, who were photographed exercising the ritual. During the festivities of the 30th anniversary of the German Democratic Republic of East Germany in 1979, photographer Regis Bossu got the rare shot. It appeared in magazines around the world, with one publication captioning it as “The Kiss.”
The socialist fraternal kiss consists of an embrace and a mutual kiss to the cheeks, or, in rarer cases, to the mouth. The origin of this ritual stems from the Eastern Orthodox Fraternal (or Easter) Kiss, which — through its entrenchment in the rites of the Orthodox Church — carried a substantial strength of expression and so found use in daily life.
Communist political leaders frequently kissed as a matter of formality in those days. When East German President Erich Honecker embraced the Soviet leader, the kiss wasn’t exactly shocking — except for the enthusiasm both men showed for the lip lock.
The first lesbian couple in the Navy to share a home-coming “first kiss”
In 2011, a Navy tradition caught up with the repeal of the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule when two women sailors became the first to share the coveted “first kiss” on the pier. Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta of California, descended from the USS Oak Hill after 80 days at sea and shared a kiss in the rain with her partner, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell of Los Angeles.
The crowd screamed and waved flags around the couple as they shared the short embrace, with Gaeta, 23, wearing her Navy dress uniform while Snell, 22, wore a black leather jacket and blue jeans.
The Infamous kiss between Madonna, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera on MTV
In 2003, in front of millions of viewers, and a stunned live audience, Madonna exchanged passionate French kisses with fellow pop stars Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. The impromptu display at MTV’s 20th annual Video Music Awards momentarily shocked celebrities at New York’s Radio City Music Hall into silence before they recovered and roared their approval.
Madonna — who is more than twice the age of Britney and Christina— pounced on the pair while her then six-year-old daughter, Lourdes, was onstage and husband Guy Ritchie, who has already complained his wife shows off her body in public too much for his liking, sat in the audience.
MTV cameras immediately cut to a close-up of Spears’s former boyfriend, Justin Timberlake, looking distinctly uncomfortable.
The NHL’s first gay kiss-cam moment that made the crowd go wild
In January 2016, the crowd went wild at Kings-Leafs game in Los Angeles, but it wasn’t for the on-ice action. When the infamous kiss cam landed on a gay couple, and the pair locked lips, the Staples Center crowd erupted in cheers.
Toronto native Brad Parr and his partner, Andy Evans, were reportedly the first-ever same-sex couple to smooch on an NHL kiss cam.
The female soccer star who kissed her wife after World Cup win
After the U.S. team won the Women’s World Cup final in July 2015, a joyous Abby Wambach — who has scored more goals than any other soccer player, male or female, in U.S. history — spotted a friendly face in the crowd. It was her wife, Sarah Huffman! Wambach ran toward Huffman, and the jubilant couple kissed — all on national TV.
For many fans, the pair’s tender embrace was the perfect tribute to the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage across the nation a week before. Wambach and Huffman were married in 2013 in Hawaii.
The virgin couple who shared their first kiss at the altar
Christian couple Ryan and Shanna vowed to wait for everything until after they were married, including their first kiss. After being pronounced husband and wife, they engaged in what is widely considered to be the most awkward first kiss ever — which was caught on camera for a reality show, of course!
The actress who passionately kissed a GI
This photo shows Marlene Dietrich passionately kissing a GI as he arrives home from World War II. It was first published in Life with the caption, “While soldiers hold her up by her famous legs, Marlene Dietrich is kissed by a home-coming GI.” The photo was taken by Irving Haberman.
Marlene Dietrich has a curious story. She was a German actress and singer who became a Hollywood star. She was approached by the Nazis to return to Germany but had turned them down flat. She became an American citizen in 1939.