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A man who claims to be the sailor kissing a nurse in a famous Life magazine photograph taken at the end of World War II has settled a lawsuit against Time Inc., but the sailor's identity remains a mystery.

The photograph by Alfred Eisen-staedt, which appeared in the Aug. 27, 1945, issue of Life, shows a sailor and a nurse kissing passionately in New York City's Times Square to celebrate Japan's surrender to the United States.The settlement approved here Friday by U.S. District Judge Ronald R. Lagueux does not state if George Mendonsa, the 64-year-old Middletown fisherman who claimed to be the sailor, truly is.

There was no exchange of money, and Mendonsa agreed to acknowledge that Time possesses a valid copyright and may use the photograph as it likes.

Mendonsa, who filed the suit in June 1987, had sought $100,000 compensation, claiming the magazine was profiting by selling copies of the photograph for $1,600.

"Time Inc. was never able to identify the sailor," said Laury Frieber, a New York-based attorney for the owner of Life. "We did not, as the result of the settlement, make any representation as to who the sailor is. We consider the result a victory."

Patrick Hayes Sr., Mendonsa's attorney, said Friday he and his client are "85 percent satisfied. We never did expect any money damages."

Hayes said his client merely wanted to submit for the record a report by Richard M.A. Benson, a photography expert and instructor at Yale University that Mendonsa hired to examine the photograph.

The report stated Mendonsa and the sailor shared several physical traits, including "an unusual bump" on the inside of the left arm, indicating with "a reasonable degree of certainty" that Mendonsa was the man in the photograph.

At least 23 men have told Time they are the sailor in the photograph, Lagueux wrote in his judgment.