A decorated World War II Army vet—he was one of the storied “Darby’s Rangers” (1st Ranger Battalion) who saw so much action in North Africa and Sicily in 1943—Phil Stern made some of the most memorable pictures to emerge from that war. This weekend, in celebration of his recent 95th birthday, the Philadelphia native will donate 95 of his classic WWII pictures, as well as iconic Hollywood portraits, to the Veterans Home of California in West Los Angeles.
When LIFE.com recently asked Stern, through a mutual friend, what a photographer needs in order to do consistently solid work, he replied: “Access and a level of comfort with your subjects. When I was with Darby’s Rangers, part of the deal was I had to do my share of the fighting, so I was with these guys from the beginning—training in Scotland, then in North Africa and Sicily—so they were comfortable around me. They didn’t have a problem with my taking photos. I was one of them.”
Here, in tribute to the man and his long, varied and celebrated career, LIFE.com presents a small but telling selection of his pictures from the Second World War.
The celebration of Stern’s gift of 95 photos will take place at the Veterans Home of California in West Los Angeles on Saturday, Sept. 6, from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.