“I have too frequently received the impression that women war correspondents were an irritating nuisance, and I wish to point out that none of us would have our jobs unless we knew how to do them and this curious condescending treatment is as ridiculous as it is undignified,” wrote journalist Martha Gellhorn to military authorities in 1944.
To be allowed in a war zone, the government required reporters to attain accreditation, a long and tedious process. In exchange for adherence to regulations, the military would provide transportation, meals and lodging, and transmit the writer’s article. Unfortunately the 127 accredited women correspondents often found themselves up against attitudes of ridicule, contempt, and hostility combined with miles of red tape as officers refused to take the “girls” behind the lines. Instead, these women had to coerce, bribe, or charm their way onto jeeps, trucks, or ships.
Given the excuse it was too dangerous for a woman to fly from England to North Africa, Margaret Bourke-White’s request to cover the campaign was denied. Eager to see the action, she secured passage on a ship which was torpedoed almost immediately. Undeterred, she grabbed her camera and climbed aboard a lifeboat where she produced an article about the dangers of wartime sea travel.
Dickey Chappelle, a petite, bespectacled blonde was determined to cover the Battle of Iwo Jima. When a testy general argued that he didn’t want one hundred thousand Marines pulling up their pants because she was around, Chappell countered, “That won’t bother me a bit. My object is to cover the war.” Known for her pluck and tenacity, Gellhorn stowed away on a hospital ship and hid in the head (bathroom) to get to Normandy to cover the invasion. Ex-fashion photographer Lee Miller managed to make her way to Dachau where she captured pictures of the camp’s liberation. Months earlier, Miller broke the rules and arrived in Paris before it was liberated. As a result, she was confined by the Allied command until the Germans retreated.
The grit and gumption of these ladies and others enabled them to provide eyewitness accounts to the harrowing events of WWII. Because, as BBC Correspondent Lyse Doucet says, “They did it, not just because they were exceptional women, but because they were great journalists.”
Linda Shenton Matchett is an author, journalist, speaker, and history geek. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry, Linda has lived in historical places most of her life. She is a volunteer docent at the Wright Museum of WWII and a Trustee for the Wolfeboro Public Library. Active in her church, Linda serves as treasurer, usher, choir member, and Bible study leader.
About Under Fire
Journalist Ruth Brown’s sister Jane is pronounced dead after a boating accident in April 1942. Because Jane’s body is missing, Ruth is convinced her sister is still alive and follows clues to war-torn London. By the time she uncovers the truth about Jane’s disappearance, she has stumbled on black marketers, resistance fighters and the IRA – all of whom may want her dead for what she has discovered.
As I noted, Linda has been a busy writer. Here are her other works:
Love’s Harvest, a Modern-Day Retelling of the Story of Ruth: Noreen Hirsch loses everything including her husband and two sons. Then her adopted country goes to war with her homeland. Has God abandoned her? Rosa Hirsch barely adjusts to being a bride before she is widowed. She gives up her citizenship to accompany her mother-in-law to her home country. Can Rosa find acceptance among strangers who hate her belligerent nation? Basil Quincey is rich beyond his wildest dreams, but loneliness stalks him. Can he find a woman who loves him and not his money? Three people. One God who can raise hope from the ashes of despair.
Love Found in Sherwood Forest: Award-winning Broadway actress Leighanne Webster has it all until an on-stage panic attack brings her career crashing to the ground. Returning to England to help produce the annual Robin Hood Festival play, could be the diversion Leighanne needs. But with ex-fiance, Jamison Blake, as the play’s director, focusing on her new job won’t be easy. Breaking his engagement with Leighanne so she could pursue her dream of being a Broadway star was the hardest thing Jamison Blake ever did. When she returns to Nottingham, his heart insists he made a mistake. Can he convince her to give their love a second chance, or will he have to let her go again? This time, forever.
On the Rails: A Harvey Girl Story: Warren, Ohio, 1910: Katherine Newman loves being a teacher, but she loves Henry Jorgensen more, which is why she’s willing to give up her job to marry him. But instead of proposing, Henry breaks up with her. Devastated, Katherine seeks to escape the probing eyes and wagging tongues of her small town. A former Harvey Girl, Katherine’s mother arranges for Katherine to be hired at the Williams, Arizona Harvey House. Can she carve out a new life in the stark desert land unlike anything she’s ever known?
Henry Jorgensen loves Katherine with all his heart, but as the eldest son of a poor farmer can he provide for her as she deserves? The family’s lien holder calls in the mortgage, and Henry must set aside his own desires in order to help his parents meet their financial obligation. But when Katherine leaves town after their break up, he realizes he’s made the biggest mistake of his life. Can he find her and convince her to give their love a second chance?
A Love Not Forgotten (part of The Hope of Spring collection): Allison White should be thrilled about her upcoming wedding. The problem? She’s still in love with her fiancé, Chaz, who was declared dead after being shot down over Germany in 1944. Can she put the past behind her and settle down to married life with the kindhearted man who loves her?
It’s been two years since Charles “Chaz” Powell was shot down over enemy territory. The war is officially over, but not for him. He has amnesia as a result of injuries sustained in the crash, and the only clue to his identity is a love letter with no return address. Will he ever regain his memories and discover who he is, or will he have to forge a new life with no connections to the past?
WWII Word-Find: Enjoy hours of fun with 78 WWII-themed word-find puzzles. Descriptive paragraphs include facts and information about each topic.
To read Inner Source’s interview with Linda’s heroine, Ruth Brown, from Under Fire you can find it here.
Linda’s Inner Source interview can be found here.