I was 12 years old when the radio announced that the Allies had launched the long-awaited invasion of Europe that would ultimately lead to victory and the end of World War II. That day was June 6, 1944 and would come to be known as D-Day.
Last June was the 60th anniversary of that historic event.
I beg your indulgence as I begin the story, about one of the greatest assignments of my long career as a newspaper photographer.

By Dick Kraus
Staff Photographer (retired)


Once again, I twisted and turned in the cramped airline seat as Jim Kindall and I returned to Normandy. This time, instead of starting our story in Germany, we flew right to France. We landed at Charles DeGaulle Airport in the early morning and grabbed a cab to take us into Paris. Our first stop was the Associated Press office there. I was to have my Leaf Transmitter upgraded to enable it to interface with the French telephone system so that I could transmit my photos directly back to Newsday on Long Island. Even though there were still two weeks to go before the big June 6th D-Day Anniversary celebration, there was a tremendous amount of energy in that AP office as everyone geared up for the event. I was just one of many photographers who were trying to get AP’s help.
When the conversion was accomplished, Kindall and I took a cab to the railroad station where we boarded a high-speed train to Caen, Normandy. It was another beautiful trip through the French countryside. Now it was early summer and everything was green, unlike the bleak winter landscape we had experienced on our first trip here the previous November.
We arrived in Caen in the early evening. This time we had made reservations for a rented car. By now we knew our way around the city and had no trouble getting to the Hotel Courtonne. And, they did have a couple of rooms reserved for us.
The next morning we drove to the headquarters at the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach. That is where the White House Press Office would be setting up and where we would get our ever so vital press credentials. A large press tent had been erected and there were U.S. Army liaison officers in residence. We checked in with them, and inquired as to the status of our credentials. A major made a phone call and informed us that the good news was that there were White House Press credentials for us. The bad news was that they were in the hands of the White House Press Officer who was traveling through Italy and England with the President and wouldn’t be available to us until they arrived in Normandy. And that wouldn’t happen until June 5th, the day before the big event. So, for the next two weeks we would have to depend upon our New York City Police- issued press cards and hope that they would suffice.
We were expected to come up with daily stories for the paper for the next couple of weeks. We were to report on preparations for the anniversary and do stories about the WW II veterans that were pouring in to Normandy for the occasion.

French school children hold up souvenir noisemakers called "crickets" for the sound they make. These were used by U.S. Paratroopers to identify one another as they assembled in the dark after landing on the morning of D-Day.
©Newsday Photo by Dick Kraus

The days flew by in a blur as we ranged up and down Normandy looking for our stories. One of the things that Kindall and I both wanted desperately to report on was how these old veterans of D-Day would react to being back where they fought and where they saw their buddies die. Each day there were more and more of these old soldiers arriving. Kindall wrote and I photographed but the emotion that we were looking for just didn’t seem to be present. Probably because many of these earlier arriving veterans hadn’t landed on the beaches on the first day. They had come ashore days or weeks after D-Day and weren’t involved in the initial carnage.
We did the best that we could, but Kindall didn’t want to submit any of these early attempts. He and I both felt that we stood a better chance of getting a good story as more old timers started arriving. In the meantime, we shot the arrangements being made by the French. Signs and posters were appearing all over Normandy, welcoming the Allied soldiers and the other attendees. There were shops and stores springing up all over the Normandy beaches that were dedicated to selling memorabilia of D-Day. Maps, books, photo albums, scarves and tee shirts, model planes, tanks and ships, commemorative plates and glasses were offered up as remembrances.

D-Day souvenirs for sale on the invasion beaches in Normandy.
©Newsday Photo by Dick Kraus


A souvenir stand at Omaha Beach.
©Newsday Photo by Dick Kraus

A souvenir stand at Utah Beach.
©Newsday Photo by Dick Kraus


The French are a strange people. Several months ago, on our first trip here, Kindall and I had a difficult time getting cooperation from them. There was a very distinct animosity towards Americans in evidence. They showed little inclination toward trying to speak English. Nor did they try to understand my attempts in French. Granted, my command of the French language is pretty bad. But, at least I tried to use their language. No one seemed willing to make any effort to meet me halfway.

Signs in English adorn shop windows welcoming "our Liberators."
©Newsday Photo by Dick Kraus
Now, suddenly, my lousy French was getting me responses. And, many times the response was in English. What happened in the intervening months? Did my French suddenly improve? Did the locals suddenly learn to speak English?
I believe the answer was that the French government reminded its citizens that there would be a mob of Americans coming to France with a lot of money to spend. It kind of behooved the populous to extend some basic courtesies to us foreigners. I don’t mean to sound jingoistic but it seemed to me that the French never forgave the U.S. for becoming a major power in the world, while their own prestige kept sinking lower and lower.

Late one night; or I should say, early one morning, Jim Kindall and I had completed an extremely long day. By the time we returned to Caen and our hotel and finished filing copy and transmitting photos, it was around 2 a.m.. Neither of us had eaten any food since breakfast and we were famished. There would have been no trouble finding a place to eat since most European restaurants open late and stay open much later than our American eateries. But, the two of us were really dragging ass and had a full schedule ahead of us that day. So, we opted to grab something simple right near the hotel. Across the street was a creperie. Here, they served crepes, which are very thin pancakes that can be filled with cheese or fruit. The weather was very mild so we took an outdoor table in a section that was separated from the rest of the sidewalk by a row of potted hedges.
Jim and I chatted about our stories while we waited for our crepes to arrive. I saw the battered and bloody drunk approach us from the street. He wore torn clothes and had dried blood crusted across one side of his face that had come from a gash over his left eyebrow. He staggered over to us, separated by the hedge.
“ Allez! Allez!” I told him. “Go away! Go away!” France was suffering from tremendous unemployment and we were constantly besieged by panhandlers with their hands out. I was tired, hungry and cranky and in no mood for this. The man stood there, swaying on unsteady legs. He was saying something and I tried not to pay any attention to him. But, then I realized that he was speaking in heavily accented English.
“ Sirs,” he was saying, “Forgive my intrusion and my appearance. I am a French merchant marine sailor and I am very drunk and I have just been in a fight. But, I wanted to thank you Americans for rescuing my country from the Nazis. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be here today.” And then he staggered off into the night before either of us could say anything.
We sat there for several minutes, allowing what this Frenchman had just said to sink in. I sat with my jaw agape, mortified about my attitude of a few moments ago. My God. This Frenchman had just thanked us for rescuing his country and I had told him to beat it. In spite of my efforts not to, I had become The Ugly American. I was chagrined.
"He was wrong about him not being here if not for America’s intervention,” I told Jim. “He would be here, but he would have been speaking German.” I needed to break the mood, I guess.

Every morning, we would stop at the press tent at the cemetery to check on our credentials. Then we would scour the grounds, looking for a veteran kneeling at the grave of a fallen buddy. Finding nothing that was any better than what we already had, we would then travel up and down the coast, checking other battle sites.

Days later I was able to get this shot. I still felt that I should have done better.
©Newsday Photo by Dick Kraus

A solitary American Veteran wanders through the American Cemetery in Normandy, looking for names.
©Newsday Photo by Dick Kraus
We would return to the Hotel Courtonne late each night and I would rush my film over to the Fuji shop where I had made arrangements with the lovely Marievann, the owner. I would leave my color negative film to be developed, without prints. Then Jim and I would find a restaurant where we would enjoy dinner. I would stop at the Fuji shop to pick up my film and then return to our rooms where Jim would type up his story on his laptop computer to be e-mailed back to his desk. I would go over my negatives with a loupe and would select several frames that I felt would be relevant to Jim’s story.

Jim Kindall finds a quiet spot in his hotel bathroom to go over his notes before writing his daily story.
©Photo by Dick Kraus

My nightly routine; hunched over the Leaf Scanner on my hotel bed, transmitting daily pictures back to Newsday.
©Photo by Jim Kindall

Hunched over the Leaf Scanner, I would crop and make adjustments to my shots and then add captions. I would then call the special number back at Newsday and speak to a technician who would plug me in to the computer there. I was using an old model Leaf and had to transmit each photo separately. But, since it was such a convoluted system just phoning back to the office, I would tell the technician that I had four or five shots to transmit. Rather than break the connection each time, we would hook up the computer and Leaf scanner and I would transmit the first shot. It took almost a half hour for each picture so the tekkie would leave the connection open and would proceed to go about his other duties, returning only when the allotted time was up. If he heard silence when he picked up the phone, he knew that the transmissions were over and he would throw the switch enabling him to talk with me. If all went well, he would check each transmitted photo and inform me if they looked good. Sometimes there might have been a line break causing a missing section of the photo and I would have to resend it. More often than not, the signal would be broken during the first transmission and nothing at all would be received at the other end. There was nothing I could do but wait until the tekkie returned to check the system. Which meant that several hours were wasted and I had to start all over again. Often I would crawl into bed after one of these long and infuriating sessions, only to be jangled awake by the alarm after an hour of sleep. And, we would be off to start another quest.
As the D-Day anniversary approached, more and more veterans were arriving and Jim and I knew that we would find the story and the photo that we knew would sum up this whole experience. On this particular day, the sun was bright and the green grass covering the American graves seemed even more vibrant than ever. Still, the morning passed without anything of substance. There was something going on up the coast that we wanted to check out, so we left and drove the 40 miles to do that story. But, we felt that today was the day we would get what we had been searching for. Jim made a phone call back to his editor to let him know what we were doing. He was told that the managing editor had been looking for him and he was switched to the ME’s line. Howie Schneider told Kindall that a group of American schoolgirls from a Long Island academy were touring the Normandy battlefields and Newsday wanted a front page story using that local hook. Of course, neither he nor anyone else had a clue as to the whereabouts of the girls. Nor was he at all interested when Jim told him of our quest for the elusive emotional veteran. “Go find those Long Island kids before today’s deadline!” were our orders.
Jim Kindall was an exceptional reporter and he pulled out every trick of the trade. He made call after call. We had no cell phones in those days, so he had to use French pay phones. He called the American Embassy. He called any number of French charter bus companies. He finally got through to the school on Long Island and was told that sometime that afternoon the students would be visiting the American Cemetery from whence we had just come.
We jumped into our rented car and sped through the narrow winding Norman roads, back to the cemetery. It was late in the afternoon when we got there and many of the tour busses had already left the parking lot. We ran through the remaining ones, asking if any were there for these American schoolgirls. A woman stepped forward, telling us that she was one of the chaperones for the group. Thank God. If we had missed them there, who knows how or if we would have ever caught up with them. We were told that the girls were being rounded up, as we spoke, to head to another of the D-Day landing sites.
“ No, no!!” I shouted. The ME had specifically said that he wanted a shot of the girls in the cemetery. I ran through the gates and spotted a large group of young women in the uniform of their academy, heading for the gate. I quickly identified myself and asked them to wander through a section of nearby graves. I was able to bang off several quick frames before the girls were shepherded onto the bus.
Whew. Now I wanted to continue our search for the elusive old soldier, but Kindall said that he didn’t have enough material for his story about the girls. He wanted to ride in the bus so that he could interview some of them. I had to drive the rental car and follow them to their next stop. I never did get a chance to photograph that emotional vet. But, I did make page one of the next day’s Newsday with the girls in the American Cemetery.


The Airborne GI’s had played a major role in the D-Day invasion. They had parachuted into enemy held Normandy in the early morning dark. They had also landed behind enemy lines in flimsy gliders and had suffered tremendous casualties. Many books and films recounted the valor of those brave men.
To commemorate these events, a huge multi-national parachute exercise was scheduled to take place in a large meadow outside of the village of St. Mère Eglise. The Army Press Liaison officers in the press tent kept everyone informed of all the happenings regarding the D-Day anniversary. One of these officers was particularly helpful to Kindall and me. He was the one we kept bugging about our press credentials. He warned us that the drop zone was expected to be particularly muddy. Not just, “Oh my gosh. My shoes are getting dirty,” muddy. It would, deep, sucking, thick sloppy like you couldn’t believe muddy. “People would be losing their shoes in this muck,” he told us. “Get boots,” we were warned. I bought a pair of boots during one of our excursions through the countryside.
The morning of the big drop, Jim and I left before dawn to avoid the crowds that would be drawn to this spectacle. We had been directed to park in the village where there would be busses to take the press to the drop zone. We filed off the bus into the mud. It was exactly as we had been told; deep, sucking, thick, sloppy mud.  Some of the glamorous TV standup reporters who had distained any suggestion of wearing ugly boots over their Gucci pumps were reluctant to get out of the busses. As we walked along the edges of the field, many newsmen and women did, indeed, lose their shoes to the sucking muck. Some clever souls had brought large sheets of cardboard cut from cartons and they stood on those. Unfortunately, they couldn’t claim those havens from the slime for themselves alone and soon there was a crowd of humanity seeking relief on each of them.

I, on the other hand, strode bravely through the ankle deep mud, shod in my newly acquired French rubber boots. This enabled me to take positions otherwise denied most of the rest of the newspukes who weren’t as well advised as I. However, to the credit of some, the more dedicated removed their shoes and socks, rolled up their pants and waded into the goop. Bravo!

While a TV reporter next to me tries to keep his sneakers dry by standing on a folded step-stool, I am standing in the wet and muddy field in my boucage boots. (Boucage is French for meadow, I believe.)

Heralded by the thunder of many large planes overhead, paratroopers fill the sky.
© Newsday Photo by Dick Kraus

Soon the sound of many planes reached us and we looked up to see hundreds of troop carrying transports flying low across the meadow. Little black dots tumbled from them and fell through the air. Suddenly, white blossoms billowed out behind each dot as hundreds of parachutes deployed. The figures grew larger as they descended and we had a clear view of the paratroopers landing.

Paratroopers from several nations fill the skies and then come to earth in the muddy fields of Normandy, just as those soldiers did on D-Day, 50 years ago. Only then, they landed in the early morning dark.
©Newsday Photo by Dick Kraus

They gathered up their chutes, formed up and marched off the field. No sooner was the meadow empty than another formation of planes flew over and more dots tumbled out. In addition to American troopers, there were airborne units from all the Allied Forces. My two Nikons joined the clatter of hundreds of other shutters around me, as photographers from newspapers around the world captured this monumental display. There were pictures everywhere that you pointed your lens. Behind us, crowds of French spectators cheered as each wave of planes disgorged their human cargo.

Parachutes descend over Normandy.
Newsday Photo by Dick Kraus

We had been told that there would be a special flight of WW II airborne veterans who had made this drop 50 years earlier on D-Day. Now mind you, these were men who were now in their 70’s. They had to undergo special testing to ensure that they were physically capable of enduring this jump.

A flight of vintage World War II C-47’s came into view. They were the same aircraft that had carried these old soldiers into battle 50 years earlier. That grew a lump in my throat. I watched the black dots emerge and I thought of how these same men had risked their lives jumping into a strange and hostile environment so many years ago.
The vets had wanted to use the combat parachutes that were still used by today’s airborne soldiers. But the French government was concerned about their safety and required them to use the safer and more reliable sport chutes that sky divers use today. So, it was a different shape that bloomed behind each jumper. That didn’t diminish the feeling of pride that I felt as these old timers floated to the ground.

A WW II Vet jettisons his tangled main chute (seen at upper left) and floats to safety with his reserve cute.
©Newsday Photo by Dick Kraus
Suddenly, from the crowd of spectators behind me, I heard a gasp. I whirled around and saw them looking up and pointing skyward. I followed their pointed fingers and saw one of the old timers plummeting to earth with his useless parachute tangled into a knot. It looked like certain death for this brave soldier. But, he pulled the cord on his reserve chute. It deployed moments before he crashed to his doom and he floated into the crowd of cheering French men and women.
I must have been hitting my motor drive button without realizing it, because I ended up with a decent sequence of photos. Sometimes, Argus, the many-eyed god of Greek Mythology, looks after us poor, bewildered human photographers. Thanks, Argus.

And then it was June 5th, the day before the big anniversary dog and pony show. Today, Jim and I were supposed to go to the press tent at the American Cemetery to get our coveted White House Press credentials with which we could gain access to President Clinton as he visited the various invasion beaches and memorial sites. The trick would be getting to the cemetery to get the cards. The French had announced that there would be a day-long lock down of all roads in the area on June 5th to allow them to test their security procedures. There would be many heads of state at the next day’s events and the French wanted to ensure that there would be no incidents to mar the festivities. So, we were told that at 5 a.m., all roads leading to D-Day sites would be sealed unless you had the required credentials. Unfortunately, our required credentials would be at the press center, 40 miles from our hotel.
At 4 a.m., Kindall and I were on the road, heading north. The roads were jammed with traffic trying to beat the curfew. Jim drove and I sat next to him with road maps of the area, trying to work our way around traffic jams. By 5 a.m., it was growing light and it was obvious that we would fall far short of our destination before the roads were sealed. Shit!! We would really be screwed if we didn’t get those all important press credentials.
And then, there it was. The first roadblock. Traffic came to a standstill as French gendarmes and military police turned traffic off the main road. We inched forward, hoping to be able to convince the authorities ahead that we were really American journalists trying to get our press cards. When we finally got to the barricaded intersection, the police didn’t even give us the opportunity to explain our situation. With whistles screeching from their mouths and their hands on their guns, we were bruskly directed off of our intended route and onto a side road heading in the wrong direction.
As Jim drove us down this secondary route, I checked the map and saw that it went nowhere near the press center. I told Jim to hang a left at the next side street. This would take us through the town we were in and would bring us onto a road that followed the coastline north, towards the American Cemetery. I knew that there would be another roadblock somewhere ahead, but I saw that there were many little farm roads indicated on the map, that might take us around the roadblocks. Worst case scenario, if we got close enough, we could dump the car and walk up the beach to the cemetery to get our credentials.
Several hours passed as we wove around towns and villages and roadblocks, getting closer and closer to our goal. There was just one more stretch of road left to navigate before…OH, SHIT!! Here was another blockade. I saw traffic stalled for almost a mile and up ahead were the gendarmes and military waving drivers away. I checked the map and damned if we weren’t in an area where there were no small secondary roads. There was no place else to go, and we were so goddam close.

My mind was in turmoil and I was really frustrated. I turned to Jim and told him to drive the car up on the shoulder of the road, turn on his headlights, lean on the horn and gun the engine. I leaned out of my window and waving my New York City Police Press Card in my hand, I screamed, “JOURNALISTE! JOURNALISTE!” at the top of my lungs. The startled gendarmes waved us through the blockade and within minutes Kindall and I, laughing our asses off, were picking up those magic press credentials at the press center.

The New York City Police Press Card that got us past the road block.

Finally, the long awaited D-Day Anniversary Press Card.

For the rest of the afternoon, we attended briefings detailing the timetable for the D-Day ceremonies the next day. The president would be attending several events, culminating in speeches and the laying of wreaths at the American Cemetery in the afternoon. All of these would be covered by pool assignments so I had to sit in on several of these briefings to put my name in for pool slots. I was lucky and drew two good ones. The first was an early morning ceremony at Pte. Du Hoc, where the American Rangers had scaled the cliffs to silence German shore batteries. The second was the big one at the cemetery.
Quite frankly, I didn’t need to be at any of these things. To be blunt, my job was over. Jim and I had supplied stories and photos for the daily paper for the past two weeks leading up to this time. Our White House correspondent, who had been traveling with Clinton, was now responsible for coverage of the D-Day anniversary events. She would be in the front rows with the rest of the White House press corp, and wire service photographers would be in the prime positions to make photos to go with the stories. Kindall and I were only supposed to supply sidebar accounts of the veterans who were in attendance.
But, like most veteran newspukes, who are like firehouse Dalmatians, we couldn’t resist the call to action when the alarm sounded. And so, bright and early on the morning of June 6th, 1994, I was getting off the press bus at Pte. Du Hoc. There was a thick fog hanging over the area and you could barely see the end of your long lens right in front of your face. Too bad. There were great photos to be made. There was an armada of warships standing off shore in the English Channel, much like the morning of June 6th, 1944. In fact, Clinton had spent the night aboard the American command ship before being airlifted by helicopter to the memorial site. Even though I had a pool spot, it was a low-priority position. The better spots went to the White House pool and the wire services and big name publications. It didn’t bother me, because I wasn’t really expected to be able to get anything for Newsday. The low-priority media were led to a grassy field near the memorial where the prez would disembark from his chopper. From there, he would walk to the memorial to lay a wreath and greet the American vets who were assembled there.

President Bill Clinton reaches out to greet American D-Day Veterans at the Pte. du Hoc war memorial.
©Newsday Photo by Dick Kraus
When the chopper landed, I was in a good position to get Clinton walking from the bird and shaking hands with the old soldiers along his route. It made a good shot. It would have been a great shot had we been able to see the naval ships off shore. Too bad. Before the speeches began, a member of the press liaison came over to us and brought us over to a position from where we could photograph the speeches. It turned out to be just about as good as the one being occupied by the White House Pool. How about that? After the speeches and wreath laying at the memorial, I got even better shots of Clinton pressing the flesh with the vets as he headed back to his helicopter. This time I was even closer.

The chopper took the president to his next stop and the bus returned the rest of us to the press center at the cemetery. I had several hours to kill before my next pool shot so I found Kindall. He had been interviewing some of the veterans who were waiting at the cemetery. He pointed out some of them and I made some pictures of them.
While I had some time, I decided to try to get my early shots transmitted back to Newsday. There was no need to go back to Caen to get my film developed and then to my hotel to transmit. Associated Press had set up their facilities right at the base of the cemetery memorial, complete with color film processors and transmitters. I walked over there with a pocket full of color film and filled out the necessary paperwork and handed off my film to one of the AP techs. The place was filled with photographers from all over the world, doing the same thing. It would probably be hours before they got to my film. Everyone had to take a number. I went outside and sat down against a tree, waiting to be told that my film was done so that I could select the few frames to be transmitted. I was talking with another photographer for just a few minutes when I heard my name called. “Kraus! Is there a Dick Kraus from Newsday here?”
“ Yeah. Here. What’s up?” I asked as I walked over to him.
“ Do you have a son named Doug who was a student at the University of California at Long Beach?” he asked.
“ Yeah,” I answered. “Why?”
“ He was my roommate.” He introduced himself and told me to make sure I gave my film to him each time I came in and he would see that it got right through without waiting.
Jeez! Thanks for being my son, Doug, and for going to college in California instead of New York.

Later that afternoon, the crowd waiting at the cemetery began to stir. Clinton had arrived. We saw the helicopters circle the area and settle to the ground in a field just outside the cemetery perimeter.

I went to my pool position, which once again was a low-priority spot toward the rear of the bleachers that had been erected. But, as before, someone came and gathered up the White House Press pool and escorted them to another position at ground level, just to the right of the memorial. And we were free to move forward and occupy their former positions.

Newsphotographers photograph the crowd waiting to hear the president speak at the American Cemetery.
©Newsday Photo by Dick Kraus

President Clinton and WW II Veterans salute the fallen D-Day vets at the American Cemetery,
©Newsday Photo by Dick Kraus
The morning fog had long since burned off and the afternoon was bright and sunny. With my 300mm lens, I was able to get tightly cropped images as the president spoke and then laid wreaths at the base of the memorial.
Then it was over. Clinton left to go back to Washington and I headed to the AP facilities to look up my new friend. My film was processed and picked. AP asked to use a couple. Since Newsday is an AP member, they had that right and in view of the exceptional treatment I was given, I could hardly refuse.
The next day, Newsday ran my photo full Page One, of the president and two WW II veterans saluting the fallen soldiers of D-Day at the base of the memorial.

It’s things like that which makes the job and all of the required effort and frustration so rewarding.

There was just one thing that I wanted to do before I called it quits. I wanted to photograph Omaha Beach on June 6th, 1995, 50 years after that bloody D-Day.

Fifty years after D-Day, the blood and the wreckage have washed away from Omaha Beach and the locals enjoy a more pristine and bucolic scene.
©Newsday Photo by Dick Kraus

The next day I flew home.
                                                                              The End

This story began for me in 1944 when, as a 12-year-old child, I listened to the radio reports of the invasion. I grew up with books and movies depicting the events of that day.

To be chosen to go to Normandy to document that struggle and to photograph so many of the brave men and women who participated in that epic event was indeed a great honor for me.

I consider this to have been the greatest assignment of my career. Thank you for taking the time to share the occasion with me.

Dick Kraus



Contents Page

Contents Page Editorials The Platypus Links Copyright
Portfolios Camera Corner War Stories  Dirck's Gallery Comments
Issue Archives Columns Forums Mailing List E-mail Us
 This site is sponsored and powered by Hewlett Packard