Mendonsa’s daughter, Sharon Molleur, said her father suffered a seizure and died on Sunday after a fall at a care home in Middleton, Rhode Island.
The photo, which went on to become one of the most enduring images of the period, was taken by Alfred Eisenstadt as a round-up of celebration pictures for Life magazine. The photographer did not give the names of the kissing strangers so it was years before Mendonsa and Friedman, who died in 2016 aged 92, were confirmed as the featured couple.
Eisenstadt described how he watched the sailor running along the street on 14 August 1945, grabbing any girl in sight.
“I was running ahead of him with my Leica looking back over my shoulder but none of the pictures that were possible pleased me. Then suddenly, in a flash, I saw something white being grabbed. I turned around and clicked the moment the sailor kissed the nurse. If she had been dressed in a dark dress I would never have taken the picture,” the photographer later wrote in his book.
Friedman, who had been working as a dental assistant, said she had not been aware of the photo until the 1960s, noting that the kiss “wasn’t a romantic event” and was just a celebration.
Mendonsa had served in the Pacific and was on home leave when the picture was taken.
The photograph represented the sense of joy felt across the US on the day Japan surrendered. However, a recent article in Time Magazine suggested that the photo is “little more than the documentation of a very public sexual assault.”