Dickey Chapelle

Dickey’s favorite photo of herself.

Dickey Chapelle reported on wars around the world, including the World War II battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and witnessed the reconstruction of post–World War II Europe. She worked in Hungary, India, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Cuba, Algeria, Lebanon, Korea, Laos, and Vietnam. She was imprisoned in Hungary, accompanied Fidel Castro into the jungles of Cuba, and was smuggled into Algeria by rebels who asked her to tell their side of the story in the war with France. She made numerous parachute jumps into Korea, Vietnam, and the Dominican Republic.” from “Dickey Chapelle Under Fire: Photographs by the First American Female War Correspondent Killed in Action” by John Garofolo

However before she was Dickey Chapelle she was Georgette Louise Meyer from Wisconsin. Apparently enamored with Admiral Byrd who’s nickname was Dickey, Georgette took to calling herself Dickey. During WWII she took photography lessons from a Mr. Tony Chapelle who did publicity for TWA. They married despite a 20 year difference in age; Tony being older. So from that point on the world knew her as Dickey Chapelle.

The Happy Marine

During her stint as a photojournalist in WWII she disobeyed an order to stay in a non-combat zone and went forward. This lost her credentials. She had impressed a Marine officer so much that 10 years later when she wanted to resume being “imbedded” in a unit he was happy to get her credentials back to her. While waiting for this opportunity she was busy in every war zone that she could find

“Dickey was now known to rebel leaders around the world. During the 1957 Algerian war against France, rebellion leaders from the Algerian Federation of National Liberation smuggled her into Algeria so she could help them tell the world their side of the story. Dickey photographed the war from the rebels’ point of view and observed the trial and execution of a young Algerian traitor. When Dickey asked the Algerians why they had chosen her, she was told that no one else would go.” from “Dickey Chapelle Under Fire: Photographs by the First American Female War Correspondent Killed in Action” by John Garofolo

Dickey – Dickey Chapelle, left with a Cuban rebel was taken by a Cuban youth with one of Chapelle’s cameras. The rebel is Maj. Antonio Lusson, commander of the battalion that captured La Maya. Journal Sentinel file photo1959

“Dickey arrived in Vietnam in 1961 with an assignment from Reader’s Digest to cover US advisors in Vietnam and Laos in the still-early stage of the war. She was forty-two years old, an age at which most military veterans were no longer actively fighting wars.” from “Dickey Chapelle Under Fire: Photographs by the First American Female War Correspondent Killed in Action” by John Garofolo

Once again Dickey got herself assigned to the marines who just thought of her as a conflict photographer not as a female reporter. Chapelle was killed in Vietnam on November 4, 1965 while on patrol with a Marine platoon during Operation Black Ferret, a search and destroy operation 16 km south of Chu Lai, Quang Ngai Province, I Corps. The lieutenant in front of her kicked a tripwire boobytrap, consisting of a mortar shell with a hand grenade attached to the top of it. Chapelle was hit in the neck by a piece of shrapnel which severed her carotid artery, and she died soon afterwards. Her last moments were captured in a photograph by Henri Huet.[5] Her body was repatriated with an honor guard consisting of six Marines, and she was given full Marine burial. She became the first female war correspondent to be killed in Vietnam, as well as the first American female reporter to be killed in action.

““Good correspondents are created out of the simple compulsion to go see for themselves what is happening . . . ,” Dickey wrote in her autobiography. “Other people have other missions—they can fight or halt or persuade or negotiate or barter or build or write symphonies. You may be free to do all those things or none, but what matters is that you keep your eyes open. If you call yourself a correspondent, your reason for being is first to see. “And then, of course, to tell.”” from “Dickey Chapelle Under Fire: Photographs by the First American Female War Correspondent Killed in Action” by John Garofolo


While researching for this article I got sidetracked reading another book about the horrors of any war but particularly the Vietnam conflict. I highly recommend Tim O’Brien’s THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

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