By Lesley Wroughton
ST BRIAC-SUR-MER France (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry commemorated the 70th anniversary of D-Day at his mother's family estate in the French resort of Saint Briac-sur-Mer on Saturday, paying tribute to the American soldiers who died during the liberation of the town in 1944.
Kerry laid a wreath at a small monument overlooking the village harbor dedicated to three U.S. soldiers who were killed during the battle to liberate the village.
Later in a speech at the town hall, Kerry credited the courage and kindness of the people of Saint Briac, on the north coast of Brittany, for saving his family's heirlooms from the Nazis during the occupation. The Nazis eventually turned the estate into their local headquarters.
He first visited the family home, Les Essarts, two years after the war ended, when he was four, returning each summer for holidays. "Almost nothing was left, just a stone staircase to the sky and an old brick chimney," he recalled.
Standing on the balcony of the town hall, Kerry was flanked by American photographer Tony Vaccarro, 93, known for his photograph "Kiss of Liberation", which depicts an American soldier kneeling down to kiss a young French girl during the liberation of Saint Briac.
The town's mayor dedicated the town hall to Vaccaro, who appeared surprised by the news. While Vaccaro took about 10,000 images during the war, he called the "Kiss of Liberation" his most meaningful image of war.
Vaccaro said he had lost his mother at age 3 and his father at 5, and that the villagers had taken him to their hearts.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Kevin Liffey)