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Glenn McDuffie, man known as kissing sailor in WWII-era image, dies at 86

HOUSTON (AP) -- A man who became known for claiming he was the sailor kissing a woman in Times Square in a famous World War II-era photo taken by a Life magazine photographer has died. Glenn McDuffie was 86.

McDuffie died March 9 in a nursing home in Dallas, his daughter, Glenda Bell, told The Associated Press.

After World War II, McDuffie, who was born in Kannapolis, N.C., and moved to Houston in 1960, became a mail carrier and semi-professional baseball player.

But his life became more exciting about six years ago when Houston Police Department forensic artist Lois Gibson was able to identify him as the young man leaning over the woman in his arms to kiss her.

By taking about 100 pictures of McDuffie using a pillow to pose as he did in the picture taken Aug. 14, 1945, by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, Gibson said, she was able to match the muscles, ears and other features of the then-80-year-old McDuffie to the young sailor in the original image.

"I was absolutely positive," Gibson said of the match. "It was perfect."

The identification remained controversial, partly because other men also claimed to have been the sailor in the image, but also because Life magazine, whose photographer had died years earlier, was unable to confirm that McDuffie was in fact the sailor, noting Eisenstaedt had never gotten names for those in the picture.

Yet for McDuffie, Gibson's word was enough. A well-respected forensic artist who was in the 2005 Guinness Book of World Records for helping police identify more suspects than any other forensic artist, Gibson said McDuffie was ecstatic when she told him the results he had waited 62 years to hear.

And so began a whirlwind lifestyle of going to air shows, gun shows, fundraisers and parties to tell his story. Women would pay $10 to take a picture kissing him on the cheek, Gibson said.

"He would make money and kiss women," Gibson said. "He had the most glamorous life of any 80 year old."

McDuffie had told the AP he was changing trains in New York when he was told that Japan had surrendered.

"I was so happy. I ran out in the street," said McDuffie, then 18 and on his way to visit his girlfriend in Brooklyn.

"And then I saw that nurse," he said. "She saw me hollering and with a big smile on my face. ... I just went right to her and kissed her."

"We never spoke a word," he added. "Afterward, I just went on the subway across the street and went to Brooklyn."

Gibson's daughter, Bell, said on anniversaries of the war's end her father would recall that moment and the air of excitement in Times Square.

For years it bothered him that he wasn't identified as the man in the photo, she said, and he turned to Gibson for help to clear it up.

"He wanted to do it before he died," she said.

McDuffie is survived by his daughter and two grandchildren. His funeral will be held March 21 at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.


Plushnick-Masti can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RamitMastiAP

Join the discussion

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Guam Betty March 15 2014 at 2:45 PM

What happened to my first comment regarding the "Kissing sailor"?

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2 replies
donpantanella Guam Betty March 15 2014 at 3:45 PM

I will check into it.

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GERONIMO Guam Betty March 15 2014 at 4:29 PM

Hey are you ralated to Seabee Betty?

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junkers388 March 15 2014 at 1:56 PM

RIP Mr. Duffie, Thank you for your service. God Bless.

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hotspringspark March 15 2014 at 1:58 PM

The 30 foot ststue stand in the harbor near the musem USS Midway, San Diego Calif. Its quite a sight.

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1 reply
Mav hotspringspark March 15 2014 at 2:23 PM

Cool, I did not know that there was a statue of the famous pair in the Times Square photo. Now who was the nurse?? lol Is that known?? Too bad they were not re-united in his later years for a documentary on the event/day and the jubilation.

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1 reply
Hello, WildBill Mav March 16 2014 at 2:41 AM

There is also one in downtown Sarasota, Florida where a lot of retired WWII veterans live. It's awesome.

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biidagress March 15 2014 at 2:05 PM

If you did that today, you would be arrested and jailed waiting to see a judge and if you have a dumb lawyer, most likely you will have to register as a sex offender

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1 reply
crarob biidagress March 15 2014 at 2:26 PM

Right. A kiss of a woman on the street today would be sexual assault. Good point.

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lazv1 March 15 2014 at 2:08 PM

Would be nice if the Nurse comes out to tell her side of the story.
Do we know something about her?

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1 reply
crarob lazv1 March 15 2014 at 2:24 PM

Actually, she was identified in a story I read a few years ago. Can't remember her name though.

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houseosims March 15 2014 at 2:16 PM

Glad he was finally recognized and got his 15 minutes of fame. Too bad others tried to take it away. I'll bet most of them knew they weren't the man but hoped to reap some money out of it.

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1 reply
crarob houseosims March 15 2014 at 2:23 PM

Hey, there were a lot of nurses and sailors in NY in those days. It could be confusing.

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Gary Marshall March 15 2014 at 2:26 PM

R.I.P Great man!

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John March 15 2014 at 2:28 PM

God bless you, McDuffie. I.ve seen your photo since I was a kid and it brings back fond memories of being born in the 40's, and I was a navy guy also.

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Phyllis N Roy March 15 2014 at 2:35 PM

Does anyone know who the woman was??? She lived in Oklahoma City this I know. I never met her but I know a woman who did but I just can't remember her name. The woman was my adopted mom who passed away in 1998 who knew the nurse.

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don't like email March 15 2014 at 2:37 PM

Has no one ever checked his age? This man would have been only 13 yrs old in 1941,

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