Tony Vaccaro: Stories of an American photographer in 1944’s Europe

Like many other US soldiers Tony Vaccaro waited on a pier of the Hudson river for a ship to take him to Europe. That was in New York City. Back in 1944. Some days later they arrived in Liverpool. Had crossed the Atlantic and forgot about what was upcoming, because they all played skat on the journey.

A few days later reality hit hard. Two thirds of the allied soldiers who landed on the coast of the Normandy died. Tony Vaccaro fought as a private in the 83rd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army and survived all that. That and the long march to Berlin. Battling for almost every stone on their way. With fear all the time. The troops almost arrived in Berlin where the Soviet Army was waiting. As allies. Just a few months later that changed, too.

Tony Vaccaro took photos all the time.

Thousands of photos. All shot in the front rows of the war. That was the deal. He had to be among the soldiers who first came to places and could take photos in return. Vaccaro was in France. Crossed the river Rhine, the Elbe, was invited by a French women who cooked and sang for him and his fellow soldiers.

Lost friends and found new ones.

Tony Vaccaro was born in Greensburg, Pennsylvania as the second child of three. December 20, 1922. The only boy of his parents, Italian immigrants. Four years later the family moved back to Italy. And then had to leave again to escape the Fascist regime – and for Tony to escape the military service in Italy.

A truly transatlantic story.

Among the many photos he took, often with film he found on the way, there’s a special one. It shows his friend soldier Henry Tannebaum. A lesson in what war makes of people and in forgiving without forgetting…

(Video by TheUSAHEC)

In 2001 the book “Entering Germany: Photographs 1944-1949” was published. Presenting an extensive collection of the photos Vaccaro took during World War II. In 1994 he was awarded the French Légion d’honneur at the celebrations of the fifty-year anniversary of the Normandy landings. [source]

Additional reading/watching:
The story on the Globalist.com
A great documentary from German Television

 

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