One of the most famous images from the end of World War II was of a sailor kissing someone who looked like a nurse in Times Square, celebrating the victory.

As described in a featured article in Naval History Magazine, based on a book-length version, notes that "The two participants in the world’s most famous kiss didn’t even know each other, nor was their photograph staged."

He was drunk, and the photographer thought he'd done something similar with another woman before the picture (neither of whom were his new girlfriend, several steps behind).

The liquor running through his veins transfixed his glassy stare. ...He focused on Greta, the “nurse.” She remained unaware of his advance. That served his purpose well. He sought no permission for what he was about to do. ...With background noises barely registering, he rushed toward her as if in a vacuum.

Though George halted his steps just before running into Greta, his upper torso’s momentum swept over her. The motion’s force bent Greta backward and to her right. As he overtook Greta’s slender frame, his right hand cupped her slim waist. He pulled her inward toward his lean and muscular body. Her initial attempt to physically separate her person from the intruder proved a futile exertion against the dark-uniformed man’s strong hold. With her right arm pinned between their two bodies, she instinctively brought her left arm and clenched fist upward in defense. The effort was unnecessary. He never intended to hurt her.

As their lips locked, his left arm supported her neck. His left hand, turned backward and away from her face, offered the singular gesture of restraint, caution or doubt. The struck pose created an oddly appealing mixture of brutish force, caring embrace, and awkward hesitation. He didn’t let go. As he continued to lean forward, she lowered her right arm and gave over to her pursuer—but only for three or four seconds. He tried to hold her closer, wanting the moment to last longer. And longer still. But they parted...He just had to kiss her. He didn’t know why.

The photo was taken August 14, 1945. Though the participants didn't learn of it until 1980, this was "Life magazine’s most reproduced photograph, and one of history’s most popular." It very likely came to the attention of people who happened to be in the law enforcement system.

The sailor later died at age 95, having not faced negative consequences, and even sued the magazine seeking stronger recognition for being the guy in the photo. The woman has also passed away.

The question here is, does that photograph depict sexual assault? Why or why not?

  • This isn't answerable from the information provided. You'd have to ask Ms. Zimmer whether the kiss and embrace was unwelcome and against her will. Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 5:10
  • Can't add reference, I have read some recent material about Ms. Zimmer claiming she did no will.
    – 27096
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 6:58
  • The article already explains "George’s actions fell within the acceptable norms of August 14, 1945, but not any other day."
    – Brandin
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 13:40
  • @CharlesE.Grant doesn't Dale's answer indicate that the question is answerable? Commented Apr 27, 2020 at 16:42
  • I'm now a little curious if a modern version of that photo, celebrating lifting of restrictions in limited victory over the peak of Covid-19, would count as depicting attempted murder/manslaughter. It's probably too early to tell, though, as it'll depend on the facts & circumstances around the time when that happens.
    – WBT
    Commented Apr 27, 2020 at 21:42

1 Answer 1


In 1945?

Not a chance. Basically, the only sexual crime that existed then was rape.

In 2019?

In New York, it appears the answer is still no.

All sexual crimes require “sexual contact”:

3. “Sexual contact” means any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire of either party.  It includes the touching of the actor by the victim, as well as the touching of the victim by the actor, whether directly or through clothing, as well as the emission of ejaculate by the actor upon any part of the victim, clothed or unclothed.

While lips may be considered “intimate parts”, there would appear to be no intention “of gratifying sexual desire”.

  • If it's not sexual assault per se, is it not... something? Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 17:40
  • 1
    @Seekinganswers: Depending on the jurisdiction, witnesses, and what the victim is willing to say at trial, you could maybe try to argue for simple battery, but that was not the question that was asked.
    – Kevin
    Commented Feb 18, 2023 at 6:03

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