Books by Roberta Ostroff

Released: March 1, 1992

Free-lance journalist Ostroff (Rolling Stone, Reader's Digest, etc.) offers an engaging biography of feisty combat reporter/photographer Dickey Chapelle—the first American woman journalist killed in action. Born Georgette Louise Meyer in 1920, Chapelle grew up in a staid midwestern suburb where she spent her youth dreaming of flying airplanes and emulating her hero, Admiral Richard Byrd (she changed her first name to match his). After unceremoniously flunking out of M.I.T. and failing a course in flight instruction, she turned her energies to journalism and soon met her future husband, photographer Tony Chapelle, who taught her much about photography and wartime reportage. From then on, Chapelle was on her way, determined to be where the action was (``eyeballing history,'' she called it). Despite many rejections from the military (unused to having a woman at the front) and from the New York publishing establishment, Chapelle managed to cover most of the major wars and battles of the 20th century: Iwo Jima, the 1956 Hungarian uprising (when she spent five weeks in a Budapest prison), Cuba, Korea, Lebanon, Laos, and Vietnam, where she was killed while covering a platoon on patrol. Always an outspoken eccentric, with a voice like a ``marine drill sergeant,'' Chapelle was a tiny woman known for her signature uniform—fatigues, an Australian bush hat, dramatic Harlequin glasses, and pearl earrings—and her refusal to kowtow to authority. Ostroff chronicles her life with easy, workmanlike skill, drawing on interviews with those who knew her and on her extensive correspondence, articles, and reporter's notes. And while the author does not attempt to examine Chapelle's life so much as straightforwardly report it, she does provide moments of analysis and insight. A solid if not profound biography of a remarkable woman whose life story has been sorely neglected. (Two eight-page photo inserts—not seen.) Read full book review >