D-Day + 80: remembering Tony Vaccaro

June 5, 2024 | Source: Monroe Gallery of Photography


black and white photograph showing waterfront and beach at Normandy, 1944
Tony Vaccaro: Normandy, June, 1944

As a U.S. Army private, Tony Vaccaro's boat sailed for Normandy on D-Day+12 in June 1944, before landing, June 18. 

Just before leaving for France, while all the other soldiers were busy checking their gear, Tony secretly wrapped his Argus C3 camera in layers of plastic to keep it from the water and to hide it from his commanding officer. He photographed the Normandy coast through a buttonhole in his outer jacket.

Drafted into the war at the age of 21, he was denied access to the Signal Corps, but Tony was determined to photograph the war and had his portable 35mm Argus C-3 with him from the start. For the next 272 days, Tony fought on the front lines of the war, documenting his personal witness to the horrors of war.

The pictures – many of them raw, graphic, disturbing – follow his advance, and that of his unit, the 83rd Infantry Division, from the beaches to Berlin.

They represent one of the most complete collections of images of World War II, as seen through the eyes of someone who fought during the conflict. 

Read "D-Day through a lens: ‘First the rifle, then photographs’" on CNN

In 1994, the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings, Tony was awarded the French Legion of Honor, among many other awards and recognitions. The documentary film Underfire: The Untold Story of Pfc. Tony Vaccaro Underfire: The Untold Story of Pfc. Tony Vaccaro premiered at the Boston Film Festival in 2016 and was distributed by HBO.  The film led to a career renaissance for Tony Vaccaro.

color photograph of Tony Vaccaro, left, with John Kerry at a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of D Day, June 7, 2014 - By U.S. Department of State
Tony Vaccaro, left, at a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of D Day, June 7, 2014
Via US Department of State/Wikipedia

Tony Vaccaro passed away peacefully on December 28, 2022, eight days after celebrating his 100th birthday.

A new exhibition, "TONY VACCARO: The Pursuit of Beauty" opens at Monroe Gallery of Photography on July 5, 2024, and will be on view through September 15, 2024.

Tags: combat photographer D-Day D-Day anniversary Normandy Omaha Beach war war photographer WWII