CNN -- The photographic record of World War II is extensive, but one man who contributed to our picture of the war wasn't a professional journalist. He was a soldier.
92-year-old American G.I. Tony Vaccaro moves along the French Boulevards like a much younger man. But it's not his youthful gate that attracts the most attention or a box full of medals from France, Luxembourg and even the Germans.
It's what's been put on display at the Caen Peace Memorial just a short drive from Omaha Beach where Vaccaro first came ashore 70 years ago. Because the young private was one of the few soldiers, other than official military photographers, known to have carried a camera into battle the result was 8,000 uncensored, sometimes raw photographs, that follow the 83rd Infantry Division's
the landing in Normandy to the end of the
war in Germany.
Vaccaro's photographs are believed to constitute one of the most complete collections of
the war...seen through the eyes of someone who fought it.
Because Vaccaro was a soldier with a camera, and not a war photographer, he didn't have a steady supply of film or a place to process it. He begged and "borrowed" rolls of film and processed them at night by pouring chemicals into two Army helmets.
While many of his photographs are too graphic to broadcast, many of
most famous ones,like the scene of a soldier kissing a young girl
as her town celebrated its liberation, show there was humanit
amidst the conflict.
Still, the experience left him fiercely anti-war. He believes we need a Department of Peace.
After the war, he became a professional portrait and fashion photographer and never went to war again.
Often lecturing to young people, Vaccaro has come back to Normandy repeatedly over the years, where he is something of a celebrity.
And he has every intention of coming back for the 80th anniversary of D-Day in 2024...at 102-years-old.