Catherine Leroy

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Catherine Leroy (1945 – 8 July 2006) was a French-born photojournalist and war photographer, whose stark images of battle illustrated the story of the Vietnam War in the pages of Life magazine and other publications.

Life[edit]

Catherine was brought up in a convent in Paris. She was moved by images of war she had seen in Paris Match, and decided she wanted to travel to Vietnam to "give war a human face." At the age of 21 booked a one-way ticket to Laos in 1966, with just one Leica M2 and $100 in her pocket.[1]

On arrival in Saigon Leroy met the photographer Horst Faas, bureau chief of the Associated Press. A year later she became the first accredited journalist to participate in a combat parachute jump, joining the 173d Airborne Brigade in Operation Junction City. Two weeks after the battle for Hill 881, she was wounded with a Marine unit near [1] the demilitarized zone. In 1968, during the Tet Offensive, Leroy was captured by the North Vietnamese Army. She managed to talk her way out and emerged as the first newsperson to take photos of North Vietnamese Army Regulars [2] behind their own lines. The story made the cover of Life Magazine.

Her most famous photo, Corpsman In Anguish, (1967) at the Wayback Machine (archived December 3, 2007) was one of three taken in quick succession portraying U.S. Navy Corpsman Vernon Wike. In the pictures the sailor is crouched in tall grass during the battle for Hill 881 near Khe Sanh. He is cradling his comrade who has been shot while smoke from the battle rises into the air behind them. In the first frame Wike has two hands on his friends chest, trying to staunch the wound. In the second, he is trying to find a heartbeat. In the third frame, "Corpsman In Anguish", he has just realised the man is dead.[2]

After Vietnam, she covered conflicts in several countries, including Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Lebanon. After her experiences in Beirut she swore off war coverage.

Leroy originally sold her work to United Press International and The Associated Press,[3] and later worked for Sipa Press and Gamma. In 1972, Leroy shot and directed Operation Last Patrol, a film about Ron Kovic and the anti-war Vietnam veterans. Leroy co-authored the book God Cried, about the siege of West Beirut by the Israeli army during the 1982 Lebanon War.[4]

She lived in the Hotel Chelsea in the late 1980s.[5] Later in life, she founded and ran a vintage clothing store, Piece Unique, with a website.[6]

She died in Santa Monica, California, following a battle with lung cancer.

Awards[edit]

Leroy won numerous awards for her work, including in 1967 the George Polk[7] award, Picture of the Year, The Sigma Delta Chi and The Art Director's Club of New York. She was the first woman to receive the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award – "best published photographic reporting from abroad requiring exceptional courage and enterprise" – for her coverage of the civil war in Lebanon, in 1976.[8] In 1997, she was the recipient of an Honor Award for Distinguished Service in Journalism from the University of Missouri.

Works[edit]

  • Catherine Leroy, ed. (2005). Under fire: great photographers and writers in Vietnam. Random House. ISBN 978-1-4000-6358-1. 
  • Tony Clifton, Catherine Leroy (1983). God cried. Quartet Books. ISBN 978-0-7043-2375-9. 

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