Dickey Chapelle

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Chapelle at the Don Phuc command post on the Vietnamese-Cambodian border, 1964.

Dickey Chapelle, born Georgette Louise Meyer (March 14, 1919 – November 4, 1965),[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 MIT. 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 in Florida with her grandparents.

Eventually, she moved to New York City, and met her future husband, Tony Chapelle, and began working as a photographer sponsored by Trans World Airlines. She eventually became a professional, and later, after fifteen years of marriage, divorced Tony, and changed her first name to Dickey.


Despite her mediocre photographic credentials, during World War II Chapelle managed to become a war correspondent photojournalist 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."[4]

Henri Huet's poignant photograph of Chapelle receiving the last rites in Vietnam.

Later life[edit]

Despite early support for Fidel Castro,[5] 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 Nguyen Lac Hoa. 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.[6] 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; she died soon after. Her last moments were captured in a photograph by Henri Huet.[4] 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.[7]


  • Overseas Press Club's George Polk Award for best reporting in any medium, requiring exceptional courage and enterprise abroad.
  • National Press Photographers Association 1963 "Photograph of the Year" award for her photograph of a combat-ready Marine in Vietnam.
  • Distinguished Service Award, presented by the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association.


  • Dickey Chapelle is one of the main women featured in the documentary film No Job for a Woman: The Women Who Fought to Report WWII (2011).[10]
  • The Milwaukee Press Club inducted Dickey Chapelle into their Hall of Fame in October 2014.
  • The Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association posthumously awarded her The Brigadier General Robert L. Denig Sr. Memorial Distinguished Service Award (DSA) in August 2015. The Denig Award is presented annually to a person or persons who, in the judgment of the United States Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association board of directors has or have made an especially significant contribution to the perpetuation of the ideals, traditions, stature and achievements of the United States Marine Corps.


  • Chapelle, Dickey (1942). Needed - women in government service. R.M. McBride. 
  • Chapelle, Dickey (1943). Girls at work in aviation. Doubleday, Doran. 
  • Chapelle, Dickey (1944). How planes get there. Young America's aviation library. Harper. 
  • Chapelle, Dickey (1962). What's a woman doing here?: A reporter's report on herself. Young America's aviation library. New York: Morrow. 
  • Chapelle, Dickey (1962). "How Castro Won". Modern Guerrilla WarFare Fighting Communist Guerrilla Movements. Free Press of Glencoe: 325–335. 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dickey Chapelle." Almanac of Famous People. Gale, 2011. Biography In Context. Web. 27 Feb. 2013.
  2. ^ http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/topics/chapelle
  3. ^ "Shorewood School District to honor alumni, ex-teachers". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 2003-05-07. Retrieved 2007-09-17. [dead link]
  4. ^ a b Ostroff, Roberta (February 11, 1992). Fire in the Wind: The Biography of Dickey Chapelle. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-36274-8. 
  5. ^ Chapelle, Dickey (1962). "What's A Woman Doing Here?: A Reporter's Report on Herself". New York: William Morrow and Company: 254–278. Retrieved March 2008.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  6. ^ 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 978-0-89839-259-3. 
  7. ^ Cutler, Thomas (2012). Brown Water, Black Berets: Coastal and Riverine Warfare in Vietnam. Naval Institute Press. p. 67. ISBN 978-1-61251-184-9. Dickey Chapelle, the first American woman war correspondent ever to die in action. 
  8. ^ "Marine Corps League National Awards". Marine Corps League. Archived from the original on 2005-01-03. 
  9. ^ Fleming, Michael (2004-06-14). "Warners enlisting in war story - Aniston to play photog in Nagle-penned script". Variety. Retrieved March 2008.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  10. ^ "Dickey Chapelle - Women War Reporters". No Job for a Woman. 

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

Further reading[edit]

  • Garofolo, John. Dickey Chapelle Under Fire: Photographs by the First American Female War Correspondent Killed in Action. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2015. ISBN 978-0-87020-718-1

External links[edit]