August 17, 2018
But her tally of conflict zones would end in Vietnam, where she became the first American woman correspondent to die in action. Years later, other journalists reported that Vietnamese Airborne troops were still reminiscing about the small, foul-mouthed woman who’d jumped with them.Dickey Chapelle was one of history's most fearless conflict journalists—and the first American woman to die on the job.
THE 36 HOURS before Dickey Chapelle leaped off a tower with the Screaming Eagles were terrifying. She was 41 years old and parachute jumping for the first time. But fear never lasted for the pioneering war correspondent, and she quickly proclaimed it among “the greatest experiences one can have.”
It was 1959 and Chapelle had hooked up with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, on the border between Tennessee and Kentucky. She’d been working as a war correspondent since 1942 and had reported on dozens of conflicts. She’d been called “the polite little American with all that tiger blood in her veins” by Fidel Castro; held in solitary confinement during the Hungarian uprising; and affirmed as the first correspondent accredited by the Algerian rebels. After learning with the Screaming Eagles, she became the only woman authorized to jump into combat with paratroopers in Vietnam.
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