Dickey Chapelle

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Dickey Chapelle
Dickey Chapelle.jpg
Chapelle at the Don Phuc command post on the Vietnamese–Cambodian border, 1964
Georgette Louise Meyer

(1918-03-14)March 14, 1918
DiedNovember 4, 1965(1965-11-04) (aged 47)
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology
Years active1941–1965

Georgette Louise Meyer (March 14, 1918 – November 4, 1965) known as Dickey Chapelle[1] was an American photojournalist known for her work as a war correspondent from World War II through the Vietnam War.[2]

Early life[edit]

Chapelle was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and attended Shorewood High School.[3] By the age of sixteen, she was attending aeronautical design classes at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She soon returned home, where she worked at a local airfield, hoping to learn to pilot airplanes instead of designing them. However, when her mother learned that she was also having an affair with one of the pilots, Chapelle was forced to live with her grandparents in Coral Gables, Florida. There, she wrote press releases for an air show, which led to an assignment in Havana, Cuba.[4]

A story on a Cuban air show disaster that Chapelle submitted to the New York Times got her noticed by an editor at Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA), which prompted her to move to New York City. Working at the TWA publicity bureau, she began to take weekly photography classes with Tony Chapelle, who became her husband in October 1940. She eventually quit her job at TWA to compile a portfolio, which she sold to Look magazine in 1941.[4] In April 1941, she was hired by Lear Avia to handle press liaison work for the New York office, according to a press release from the company. Later, after fifteen years of marriage, she divorced Tony, and changed her first name to Dickey.


Despite limited photographic credentials Chapelle managed to become a war correspondent photojournalist during World War II for National Geographic, and with one of her first assignments, was posted with the Marines during the battle of Iwo Jima. She covered the battle of Okinawa as well.

After the war, she traveled all around the world, often going to extraordinary lengths to cover a story in any war zone. During the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Chapelle was captured and jailed for over seven weeks. She later learned to jump with paratroopers, and usually travelled with troops. This led to frequent awards, and earned the respect of both the military and journalistic community. Chapelle "was a tiny woman known for her refusal to kowtow to authority and her signature uniform: fatigues, an Australian bush hat, dramatic Harlequin glasses, and pearl earrings."[5]

Later life[edit]

Despite early support for Fidel Castro,[6] Chapelle was an outspoken anti-Communist, and loudly expressed these views at the beginning of the Vietnam War. Her stories in the early 1960s extolled the American military advisors who were already fighting and dying in South Vietnam, and the Sea Swallows, the anticommunist militia led by Father Nguyễn Lạc Hoá. 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.[7] 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 a 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.[8]


  • Overseas Press Club's George Polk Award for best reporting in any medium, requiring exceptional courage and enterprise abroad.[9]
  • National Press Photographers Association 1963 "Best Use of Photographs by a Newspaper" award for her photograph of a combat-ready Marine in Vietnam which appeared in the Milwaukee Journal newspaper.[10]
  • Distinguished Service Award, presented by the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association.[11]


  • The Marine Corps League, in conjunction with the United States Marine Corps, honors her memory by presenting the Dickey Chapelle Award annually to recognize the woman who has contributed most to the morale, welfare and well being of the men and women of the United States Marine Corps.[12]
  • In 1966, a memorial was put near the site of her death, with a plaque with the message: "She was one of us and we will miss her."[13]
  • Chapelle is one of the women featured in the documentary film No Job for a Woman: The Women Who Fought to Report WWII (2011).[14]
  • The Milwaukee Press Club inducted Chapelle into their Hall of Fame in October 2014.[15][16]
  • In 2015, Milwaukee PBS produced a documentary about her titled Behind the Pearl Earrings: The Story of Dickey Chapelle, Combat Photojournalist.[13]
  • The Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association posthumously awarded her The Brigadier General Robert L. Denig Sr. Memorial Distinguished Service Award (DSA) in August 2015.[17]
  • In 2017, Chapelle was declared an honorary Marine at the Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association's annual dinner.[13]
  • Chapelle is commemorated by the 2001 Nanci Griffith song Pearl's Eye View (The Life of Dickey Chapelle) from the album Clock Without Hands.
  • In February, 1992, the first biography of Chapelle, Fire in the Wind: The Life of Dickey Chappelle, by Roberta Ostroff, was published by Ballantine Books.[18]
  • In July, 2023, another biography of Chapelle, First to the Front: The Untold Story of Dickey Chapelle, Trailblazing Female War Correspondent, by Lorissa Rinehart, will be published by St. Martin's Press.[19]



  • Needed: Women in Government Service (as Dickey Meyer). New York: R. M. McBride (1942). OCLC 3119239.
  • Girls at Work in Aviation (as Dickey Meyer). New York: Doubleday, Doran (1943). OCLC 612421869.
  • How Planes Get There. Young America's Aviation Library. New York: Harper (1944). OCLC 2580901.
  • What's a Woman Doing Here?: A Reporter's Report on Herself. Young America's Aviation Library. New York: William Morrow and Company (1962).


  • "How Castro Won" (1962). In: Osanka, Franklin Mark, and Samuel P. Eluntington (1962). Modern Guerrilla Warfare: Fighting Communist Guerrilla Movements, 1941-1961. New York: Free Press of Glencoe. pp. 325–335.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dickey Chapelle." Almanac of Famous People. Gale, 2011. Biography In Context. Web. 27 Feb. 2013.
  2. ^ "Dickey Chapelle". Archived from the original on 14 April 2014.
  3. ^ "Shorewood School District to honor alumni, ex-teachers". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 2003-05-07. Retrieved 2007-09-17.[dead link]
  4. ^ a b Garofolo, John (2015). Dickey Chapelle Under Fire: Photographs by the First American Female War Correspondent Killed in Action. Madison, Wisconsin: Wisconsin Historical Society Press. p. 2. ISBN 9780870207181.
  5. ^ a b Ostroff, Roberta (February 11, 1992). Fire in the Wind: The Biography of Dickey Chapelle. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-36274-8.
  6. ^ Chapelle, Dickey (1962). "What's A Woman Doing Here?: A Reporter's Report on Herself". New York: William Morrow and Company: 254–278. Retrieved 13 March 2018. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ Johnson, Charles (1978). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: The Landing and the Buildup, 1965 (Marine Corps Vietnam Operational Historical Series). Marine Corps Association. pp. 93–96. ISBN 978-0898392593.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  8. ^ Cutler, Thomas J. (2012). Brown Water, Black Berets: Coastal and Riverine Warfare in Vietnam. Annapolis, Md.: U.S. Naval Institute Press. p. 67. ISBN 978-1612511849. Dickey Chapelle, the first American woman war correspondent ever to die in action.
  9. ^ "Dickey Chapelle Receiving Polk Award | Photograph". Wisconsin Historical Society. 2015-07-07. Archived from the original on 11 November 2020. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  10. ^ "Pictures of the Year". NPPA. 2012-10-16. Archived from the original on 29 July 2020. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  11. ^ "Board Votes Posthumous 2015 Denig Award to Dickey Chapelle". USMCCCA. Archived from the original on 14 July 2019. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  12. ^ "Marine Corps League National Awards". Marine Corps League. Archived from the original on 2005-01-03.
  13. ^ a b c "Photographer Who Died in Vietnam Named Honorary Marine". Archived from the original on 30 July 2020.
  14. ^ "Dickey Chapelle - Women War Reporters". No Job for a Woman. Archived from the original on 16 March 2021.
  15. ^ "Milwaukee Media Hall of Fame 2014 - Milwaukee Press Club". milwaukeepressclub.org. 29 July 2014. Archived from the original on 29 November 2020. Retrieved 2018-03-25.
  16. ^ "Remembering 'fearless' war photographer Dickey Chapelle". Columbia Journalism Review. Archived from the original on 27 January 2021. Retrieved 2018-03-25.
  17. ^ "BGen Robert L. Denig Memorial Distinguished Performance Award". USMCCCA. Archived from the original on 11 May 2020. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  18. ^ Kirkus Reviews, February 19, 1992
  19. ^ "First to the Front". Macmillan Publishers. Archived from the original on 2022-09-05.

Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.

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