The brilliant photos of the first American female war photographer killed in action
On Dec. 6, 1956, after midnight, three figures methodically traversed a frost-encrusted field in Austria. Guided by a compass and saddled with a million dollars’ worth of penicillin, they were on a humanitarian mission to deliver aid to Hungarian refugees.
But the figure in the middle — at a diminutive 5 feet tall — had an additional purpose. It was the reason why she had stowed a Minox camera under her coat and wool shirt, stuck to her flesh by four bandages. The woman was Dickey Chapelle, a female photojournalist on assignment for Life magazine. Moments later the man in front of her muttered, “I’m lost,” and an enemy flare blew out the Big Dipper above. A machine gun and three rifles surrounded them, capturing her and one of her companions.
A retrospective of Dickey Chapelle’s work is featured in “Dickey Chapelle Under Fire: Photographs by the First American Female War Correspondent Killed in Action.” To see more photos from the Wisconsin Historical Images collection, click here.