Glenn McDuffie has claimed for years that he was the sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square in Life magazine’s iconic photograph of the day World War II ended.
If anyone just looked hard enough, he said, they would see that it was him in the shot.
Houston Police Department forensic artist Lois Gibson took up the challenge. And after what she called a detailed investigation, Gibson said she has concluded that McDuffie, 80, is the man in Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Aug. 14, 1945, image.
The 2005 Guinness Book of World Records said Gibson has helped police identify more suspects than any other forensic artist. For this investigation, she had McDuffie pose for new photographs in his sailor uniform, recreating the famous pose with a pillow instead of a nurse. She measured his ears, facial bones, hairline, wrist, knuckles and hand and compared those to enlargements of Eisenstaedt’s picture.
“I could tell just in general that yes, it’s him,” said Gibson, a 25-year department veteran. “But I wanted to be able to tell other people so I replicated the pose.”
But Life magazine isn’t convinced the Houston man is the sailor in the photograph, which is the magazine’s most reproduced image.
Because Eisenstaedt, who died in 1995, didn’t identify the subjects of the photo, Life Books editorial director Robert Sullivan said the identities will officially remain a mystery.
“The recent (claims) are ’CSI’ type of inquiries. We think that’s great but we just can’t know for sure on our end. We can’t be in a position of anointing one or the other without hard proof,” he said.
Other men have purported to be the sailor in the picture, including a retired New York police detective and a Rhode Island fisherman. Several women have claimed to be the nurse.
Gibson also compared some of the other men to Eisenstaedt’s photo.
“All other people who have come forward I have eliminated based on their facial bones,” she said. “To me that’s definitive. Everything is consistent. I’m as positive as you can be.”
‘We never spoke a word’
McDuffie, now battling lung cancer, has had three wives and three children. He’s played semi-professional baseball and worked in construction and for the U.S. Postal Service. Before he dies, the North Carolina native wants the world to know he was the sailor in the famous photograph.
He said he’s relieved that Gibson’s analysis supports what remains a vivid memory.
He said he was changing trains in New York when he was told that Japan had surrendered and World War II was over.
“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.”
McDuffie said the kiss was prompted by the realization that his older brother, W.D., would soon be coming home from a Japanese prison camp.
“We never spoke a word,” he said. “Afterward, I just went on the subway across the street and went to Brooklyn.”
Gibson said she thinks McDuffie’s claim is bolstered by his explanation for why the sailor’s left hand and wrist are twisted around the nurse’s face. He said he realized someone was taking the picture, so he moved his wrist and hand so the nurse’s face could be seen.