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WWII Pictures

World War II Soldier Photos

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Augusta, GA - Tomorrow marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
The photographic record of World War Two is extensive.
But one man who contributed to the historical recollection wasn't a journalist.
Jim Bittermann has his story.

In France the old vets are gathering by the busload.... if they were 18 when they charged the beaches in WWII...   they're 88 today...some are a getting a bit creaky....
Some but not all... 92 year old american G.I. Tony Vaccaro moves along the French boulevards like a much younger man....but it's not his youthful gait...that attracts the most attention...
That got him a box full of medals from France, Luxembourg...
even the Germans
and even Germany....
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 eight thousand uncensored, sometimes raw photographs, that follow the 83rd infantry division's journey from the landing in normandy to end of the war in Germany...
I was with the same unit, I knew everyone intimately, so that the intimacy was at such a level that if I aimed a comrade they didn't react to it.
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 Vaccarro 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.
So he begged and borrowed rolls of film where he could and processed them at night by pouring chemicals into two army helmets.
While many of his photos of the horrors of war are too graphic to broadcast, many of his most famous ones, like the scene of a soldier kissing a young girl as her town celebrated its liberation...show there was humanity amidst  the conflict...still his experience left the war photographer, fiercely anti-war....
You'd think we would learn a lesson with World War II. One of the greatest thing we should have, we don't have. a department of peace, we don't have it. You'd be surprised the need that we have to have one of those.
After the war, the amateur war photographer 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.
He has every intention to come back here for the 80th anniversary of D-Day in 2024...
I'm gonna do this at 102. My doctor says: "I don't know how you do this."

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