In a 2015 interview, Mendonsa told CNN
that he never failed to convince anyone of the fact.
"And when I get through showing you the photos ... if you don't admit that, I'd say you're a phony bastard," he told a reporter who visited his Middletown home.
'We're all drinking and raising hell'
The picture, which has sparked numerous homages as well as admonitions
from those who say it represents an unwanted sexual advance, was truly a product of its time.
It was taken August 14, 1945, shortly after news of Japan's surrender -- aka Victory Over Japan Day or V-J Day -- spread through New York's streets, a prelude to World War II's imminent end. Even the caption Life placed under the photo, known alternatively as "V-J Day in Times Square," speaks to the sexism tolerated in newsrooms during the era.
"In the middle of New York's Times Square a white-clad girl clutches her purse and skirt as an uninhibited sailor plants his lips squarely on hers," the caption says, describing the 21-year-old woman who, decades later, would be identified as Greta Friedman
Mendonsa was on leave after a stint in the Pacific, he told CNN in 2015, and was on a first date with Rita Petry, who was related to his younger sister's new husband.
While taking in a matinee, a crowd outside Radio City Music Hall began pounding on the theater doors, shouting, "The war is over!" -- a cry that resonated through the building.
Mendonsa and Petry walked outside to find thousands of revelers in the streets. They stopped at a bar.
"The booze was flying, and I popped quite a few," he recalled. "We're all drinking and raising hell."
After leaving the bar, they found themselves in Times Square.
"So we get into Times Square and the war ends and I see the nurse," he remembers. "I had a few drinks, and it was just plain instinct, I guess. I just grabbed her."