World War II Photographer Survived COVID-19 With Grit and Lots of Red Wine

Tony Vaccaro World War II photographer

In this 1944 photo titled “Firing Line” by photographer Tony Vaccaro, shows American soldiers in Germany’s Hurtgen Forest. (Photo courtesy Tony Vaccaro via AP)

By Richard Drew, AP

Tony Vaccaro’s mother died in childbirth, and at a tender age he also lost his father to tuberculosis. By age 5, he was an orphan in Italy, enduring beatings from an uncle. As an American GI during World War II, he survived the Battle of Normandy.

Now, a celebrated wartime and celebrity photographer at age 97, he is getting over a bout with COVID-19. He attributes his longevity to “blind luck, red wine” and determination.

“To me, the greatest thing that you can do is challenge the world,” Vaccaro said. “And most of these challenges I win. That’s what keeps me going.”

Vaccaro’s grit carried him into a lifetime of photography that began as a combat infantryman when he stowed a camera and captured close to 8,000 photographs of mundane and horrific moments.

One of his famous images — “Kiss of Liberation” — showed a U.S. sergeant giving a kiss to a French girl at the end of the Nazi occupation.

Tony Vaccaro World War II photographer

In this 1944 photo titled “Hell In Hurtgen” by photographer Tony Vaccaro, shows an American soldier in Germany’s Hurtgen Forest. Vaccaro, 97, was thrown into WWII with the 83rd Infantry division which fought, like Charles Shay, in Normandy, and then came to Schmetz’s doorstep for the Battle of the Bulge. On top of his military gear, he also carried a camera, and became a fashion and celebrity photographer after the war. (Photo courtesy Tony Vaccaro via AP)

He was the subject of a 2016 HBO documentary, “Under Fire: The Untold Story of PFC Tony Vaccaro,” and his images are displayed in such museums as the Pompidou Center in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Vaccaro documented the reconstruction of Europe and returned to the United States, where he became a fashion and celebrity photographer for magazines including Look, Life and Harper’s Bazaar.

He has fond memories of his subjects and their larger-than-life personalities, including Sophia Loren, John F. Kennedy, Enzo Ferrari, Georgia O’Keeffe and Pablo Picasso.

He and Picasso “got along like two brothers.” But the artist wouldn’t relax during their photo shoot, so Vaccaro tricked him by pretending that his camera was broken and that his shots weren’t real.

“He kept posing like male models. I didn’t like that,” Vaccaro said. “I wanted real photography to be real photography. Honest photography. And that’s what it turned out to be.”

Vaccaro lives in Queens, a New York City borough ravaged by the coronavirus, and next to his son Frank, his twin grandsons and his daughter-in-law Maria, who manages his archive of 500,000 photographs.

He might have caught the virus in April from his son or while walking in their neighborhood, his daughter-in-law said.

He was in the hospital for only two days with mild symptoms and spent another week recovering.

Then he surprised everyone by getting up and shaving.

“That was it,” she said. “He’s walking around like nothing happened.”

Tony Vaccaro World War II photographer

This 1945 photo shows photographer PFC Tony Vaccaro posing for a photo on the wing of an airplane during WWII. Vaccaro, 97, was thrown into WWII with the 83rd Infantry division which fought, like Charles Shay, in Normandy, and then came to Schmetz’s doorstep for the Battle of the Bulge.  (Photo courtesy Tony Vaccaro via AP)

The family is working on another documentary that looks at his life before and after the war, but the pandemic has stopped production because it’s not safe to bring a film crew into the apartment.

Tony Vaccaro. COVID-19 caught up with him last month. Like everything bad life threw at him, he shook it off, attributing his survival to plain “fortune.” (Photo courtesy Manolo Salas via AP)

“We joke that Tony survived COVID-19 because he wants to tell the rest of his story,” said Maria Vaccaro.

But it also has reminded him of his good fortune.

“I really feel I have luck on my back,” he said. “And I could go anywhere on this Earth and survive it.”

 

comments

  1. avatar jwm says:

    Those old guys were tough as nails. But each generation after that has lost some of that grit and common sense edge. If the millennials actually discover what their reproductive organs are for it will be heart breaking to see the globs they produce.

    Maybe it’s time for the experiment to end.

    1. avatar White Genocide says:

      ^this is how the west dies.

      White people: have more kids. Stop watching TV.

      1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

        Except for Mike Rowe and his support for the people among us who do all the “dirty” jobs nobody else wants to do, but must be done.

    2. avatar Ok boomer says:

      Why do boomers want their genetic offspring to die off? This is so weird.

      We need to subsidize normal people to have kids.

      1. avatar Bill Knight says:

        our kids should also experience hardship. and I don’t mean not having a good WiFi signal or dealing with a slow internet connection. I was a child of the sixties and didn’t have much besides scratches and scrapes to deal with. Always outside a lot of times with my trusty Crosman 760 in my hand or travelling my part of the city on my bike. The Soviets never bombed, but I knew the first awareness of an attack I would have would be my conversation with St. Peter as living in Jax FL I was situated between 3 Navy bases so we were ground zero for a multi-megaton blast first thing!

        1. avatar strych9 says:

          As opposed to the “non-hardship” of being the generation that bore the brunt of the GWoT and came back to the Great Recession?

          Comparing generations is always apples to oranges but this whole “millennials never did shit meme” is ignorant as fuck. On par with that “Ok boomer” retardation.

        2. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

          I don’t think that the “GI Generation” was any better than any other or that the newest are worse, but I would posit that GWoT has not involved anywhere near the participation and hardship that WWII did. Fewer had to sacrifice. However, with our geography and production advantage (and the Soviets doing the heavy lifting dying and killing wise) the Axis didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell. The Silent and GI Generation’s would have had to really top the ball to lose that one. Of course, as far as the war went they did pretty well all things considered, except for a few things like the Current Tax Payment Act of 1943, of course.

        3. avatar Kendahl says:

          According to Wikipedia, about 15,000 US military personnel and contractors have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. US military deaths in WW2 were 417,000 out of a population of 137 million. The Battle of the Bulge alone cost 19,000 KIA and 23,000 MIA. Vietnam cost 58,000 KIA.

        4. avatar strych9 says:

          What do WWII casualty counts have to do with Boomer vs Millennial generational warfare? Neither generation stormed the beaches on D-Day.

          I mean, if we’re going to go that road, WTF do Boomers have? Grenada? Where they took 1/10th the casualties of Fallujah II?

          This whole thing is stupid. Stop trying to justify shitting on an entire generation of people as though it’s somehow useful. It’s gotten to the point that people shit on millenials for CoV-2 because of Miami Spring Break.

        5. avatar Geoff "Guns. LOTS of guns..." PR says:

          Vietnam wasn’t a ‘Boomer’ war?

        6. avatar strych9 says:

          “Vietnam wasn’t a ‘Boomer’ war?”

          Not really. Boomers “start” in 1944 but the bulk of Boomers were born in or after 1955. Most boomers weren’t old enough for ‘Nam.

          Since statistically most boomers were too young, and generational warfare is by definition unreasonable, it’s clear that boomers get no claim to Vietnam. And, since one of them totaled my wife’s truck while knowingly driving with bad breaks and no insurance, clearly they’re all irresponsible cocksuckers to boot.

        7. avatar OkBoomer says:

          Yeah! Why should we want a better, easier future for our children? Fuck em! In fact, let’s stop feeding them 3 times a day! They should know what it’s like to be hungry! And cut holes in their clothes, they’re too entitled with that ‘shelter’ business that all these old folks didn’t have!

          Jesus you’re stupid.

        8. avatar Steve H. says:

          Amen to that! I’m also a child of the 60’s. My Dad served in the 29th Infantry in Europe. Wounded at St. Lo France.

          We respected parents, teachers, law enforcement, etc. If we screwed up, we were held accountable. We played Cowboys and Indians, Cops and Robbers, Army, and we played with “gasp” cap guns and an occasional BB gun. We never shot anyone.

          God bless Tony and the rest of the Greatest Generation.

      2. avatar GuyInWI says:

        Gotta agree with OK Boomer. Its bizarre how the older generation somehow thinks they are the greatest and then wants their offspring to die. I look at what my parents and grandparents went through. With the exception of the Depression which we are about to have another one don’t see any real trials the generation of today does not also face. We are a waring nation, side effect of Retardicans and the Military Industrial Complex. Technically we are still at war in Korea since the 1950s a truce was never agreed upon.

        The Internet has changed dating, I would say with mixed results. It really allows you to see women for what they are really are. Look at your average womens Facebook, IG, SC and so on. It’s not very hard to see why so many men now prefer pump and dump to any sort of meaningful relationship there simply is none to be had. Other generations did not have this option and millions of men just stuck with it because it was the “right” thing to do. Just looking at how miserable my father and numerous co workers are is more then enough to deter most younger men with any sense away for marriage.

    3. avatar Ron says:

      The boomer vs mellenial shit is getting pretty stupid considering most boomers are actually attacking Zoomers. The youngest mellenial is 25 right now with the vast majority in their 30s. All the dumb 18-23 year olds you’re making fun of are also doing the exact same thing any other stupid generation that came before them has done. World War Two was fought by the lost generation (WW1 vets) and mainly the greatest generation. Some boomers fought in Vietnam and some boomers were also part of the hippy culture. Vietnam was largely fought by the silent generation. Generation X didn’t do much except party until 9/11, when the younger portion went to war. Mellenials in turn voluntarily also went to war after 9/11 then bore the brunt of the war and recession.

      A far better gauge of someone’s values and character isn’t generationslism so much as it is location and upbringing. There’s 19 year old kids in rural Texas or in the military in Afghanistan that work far harder then some 65 year old banker in Boston or 59 year old liberal activist in San Francisco, and there’s also plenty of 19 year olds that couldn’t find their own state on a map.

    4. avatar The Crimson Pirate says:

      “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

      ― Socrates

      Every generation complains about subsequent ones throughout all of human history. The quote is from Socrates, but you can find similar things from Shakespeare and most other authors and philosophers as well. And the complained about generation usually responds in kind.

      1. avatar Young Whippersnapper says:

        This

  2. avatar Rgallagher says:

    God bless you sir many more years of a good life… and thank you for your service!!!

  3. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

    Wow!

    It’s humbling to read what this veteran has done with his life after the horrors of his youth and his combat tour.

    Instead of letting it beat him down he has celebrated Life every day on his own terms.

    Progressive dilettantes and snowflakes will never understand the Greatest Generation.

    Hooah PFC Vaccaro.

    G_d bless you.

  4. avatar strych9 says:

    Actually it was probably a healthy lifestyle and not being fat that got him through CoV-2.

    Other than occasional genetic issues, and the elderly, mostly this is a disease that kills people who’ve spent their life making poor decisions.

    He got lucky on genetics and making it through WWII. Is this latest battle he started off from a good position even at an advanced age. Just look at that picture. He’s a damned healthy nonagenarian. Far fitter than a great many 30 years younger than he is.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Bingo.

      Notice that he’s not fat. He’s barely even chubby. The #1 co-morbidity I see in COVID-19 patients is a BMI > 30; ie, “obese.” Then we start seeing other issues, usually results of being obese: diabetes type II, and high blood pressure.

  5. avatar Montana Actual says:

    so… luck or a decent immune system?

    ok.

  6. avatar Manse Jolly says:

    Love the M1 pic!

    I think Patton called it the best Infantry rifle ever.

    1. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

      No, “the greatest battle implement ever devised”.

      1. avatar Manse Jolly says:

        Thanks for the correction. I’ve been getting it wrong for a long time.

  7. avatar Bubonic plague says:

    Caught it in January, took mega doses of vitamin C, large doses of Vit D with K2, nascent iodine, zinc, Turmeric, vit B complex, wrapped up my head, went to bed, sweated it out in 18 hours and went back to work. No listen to Fauci and Gates get the dangerous, poorly tested vaccines in December snitch on your neighbors for not physical distancing, continue to virtue signal and wear a mask and gloves and glare at people that don’t, even though its all a plandemic. Be a good NPC.

    1. avatar former water walker says:

      I got the same thing. Took forever to get over. Wife got it too with the added complication of hbp. Good on this old guy. Oh and gen x,millennial’s etc. as a so-called boomer you’re a whiny bunch of bitxhes. Man up! My 45 year old son went in the military,spent 8 years around the mideast,learned Arabic(!)has a helluva gig at DoD,got married has 3 kids and DOESN’T WHINE about Boomers…and yes Vietnam was mostly boomers getting shot up. And spit on. You think there weren’t a hoard 18-20 year old’s in country in 1968?!? Retards…

  8. avatar Nanook says:

    The top photo is two Garands with a BAR in the middle. This guy stayed in shape, and is why he beat the Chinese Virus. If you are a walking blob, who never exercises and eats crappy unhealthy food…You better hide in your basement and hope for the best…Or better yet start eating healthy food you cooked and get out on your bike or start walking…

  9. avatar Scotty Crawford says:

    EVERYBODY should watch the documentary mentioned in this much-better-than-average article, not just us gun nuts. It does us so much good to learn and relearn life lessons which are not simplistic.
    . In his first battle, he was a coward who ran away and hid back at camp, but he dived deep into his soul, and he went back and put his life on the line with everybody else.
    Watch the documentary, and you will get tremendously important motivation for the rest of your life: Man oh man, will you ever see that see an old guy can be so vital, and have high energy, and be spry, and get reminded that you can be that way too….if you stop sitting on your butt and staring at screens…like you are doing right now…
    That brutal uncle of his was also the best trainer imaginable for his later life experience as a combat photographer and solder He was a horrible person, but also the greatest hunter Mr. Vaccaro ever saw. When he saw his prey, he shouldered his rifle and fired without hesitation and never missed. That training allowed Mr. Vaccaro to do the same with his camera, get the camera shot, and record the moment. As he says, it was often gone in an instant, and he would have missed it, and not just in battle at all.
    There’s more, lots more for you: Type 2016 HBO documentary, “Under Fire: The Untold Story of PFC Tony Vaccaro,”, and you should find some way to watch it by streaming it.

  10. avatar Mike Carbine says:

    Lot of you guys here have a strange view of American history. What’s so great about being drafted (66%+)to fight and die against your will? For the same crooks who took over in 33′ made gold illegal to own, killed millions of head of livestock wile Americans went hungry, and forced a dozen other Commie Diktats on the country some we still have to this day.
    And yes most of the enlisted and junior officers of the Nam were boomers(65′-73′), but most were too young to even vote before they served…
    Only been a few big wars that the USA did not have force conscripts to fight and die against their will. Yet many act like every one who ever served had some kind of choice, ignorant people.

    1. avatar Mike Carbine says:

      And just in case you forgot FDR & gang also gave the USA it’s first major Gun Control Legislation, that’s still on the books btw…
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Firearms_Act

      Thanks a lot Greatest generation…Big Government is Socialism and All American Wars the last 100+ years are a racket to enrich the Banksters.

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