As first dates go, Rita Petry thought this one was pretty great: a beautiful summer afternoon in the city, a matinee at Radio City Music Hall, drinks after, followed by a passionate, soon-to-be-iconic kiss.
Such is the incredible story behind one of the most romantic and enduring photos of the 20th century — and one of our most compelling mysteries.
Since Aug. 14, 1945, the identities of the smooching sailor and the nurse in Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Times Square V-J Day photograph have never been determined — until the publication, last week, of the book “The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo that Ended World War II.”
There’s another person in the frame, one nobody even knew to look for, who makes the image that much more poignant: Rita Petry, the future wife of that sailor, George Mendonsa.
“I really liked him, but I didn’t know I was the future wife,” Rita tells The Post. “I guess I thought he looked nice or something.”
To this day, Rita insists that the kiss never bothered her and that the photo, while “nice,” hasn’t changed her life one bit. But much like the photograph itself, nothing is as it seems. “In all these years,” Rita says, “George has never kissed me like that.”
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