NEWS
GOOD PEOPLE
HISTORY
LIFE HACKS
THE PLANET
SCIENCE & TECH
POLITICS
WHOLESOME
WORK & MONEY
About Us Contact Us Privacy Policy
© GOOD Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The only journalist to report on D-Day landings from the ground was a woman. Here's how she did it.

When her then husband Hemingway tried to stop her from reporting the war scene, she crafted a foolproof plan to reach the war site

The only journalist to report on D-Day landings from the ground was a woman. Here's how she did it.
Cover Image Source: Journalist Martha Gelhorn returns to New York from Europe aboard the SS Rex. (Getty Images)

When Martha Gellhorn married Ernest Hemingway, they were prominent writers of the 20th century. But over time, their relationship turned sour, and the two became competitors from lovers. By early 1944, their marriage was already going through a rough phase. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Hemingway had taken Gellhorn’s job at Collier’s as a war correspondent for World War II. Undaunted, Martha pursued her passion and became the “only female correspondent to report the D-Day landings.”

Image Source: Ernest Hemingway With Martha Gellhorn (Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images)
Image Source: Ernest Hemingway With Martha Gellhorn (Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images)

Martha was the only woman reporter present on the beaches of Normandy when the Allied forces liberated France from the Nazis. At that time, no woman was permitted to report on the war. Despite Hemingway’s attempts to stop her from covering the war, she didn’t give up.



 

"It is necessary that I report on this war," Martha wrote in a rage-filled letter to the authorities. "I do not feel there is any need to beg as a favor for the right to serve as the eyes for millions of people in America who are desperately in need of seeing but cannot see for themselves," BBC quoted her letter.

 

To carry out her mission, Martha crafted a bizarre plan. The night before the invasion, she stowed herself inside a hospital ship by telling the military guards that she was there to interview nurses, according to the Military. Once inside, she locked herself in a bathroom and stayed put there until the ship was en route to France on June 6, 1944.

Image Source: 1944: Journalist and writer Martha Gellhorn talks to Indian soldiers of the British Army on the 5th Army's Cassino front. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Image Source: 1944: Journalist and writer Martha Gellhorn talks to Indian soldiers of the British Army on the 5th Army's Cassino front. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

During the ship’s voyage to the French coast, Martha endured snipers, landmines, gunfire, and German warplanes. “Double and triple clap of gunfire,” Martha wrote in her diary, reported Smithsonian Magazine. “Unseen planes roar. Barrage balloons. Gun flashes. One close shell burst… Explosions jar the ship.”

Image Source: African American soldiers with the 603d Quartermaster Corps Graves Registration Company, collect and process the soldiers killed from both the United States Army and German Army for temporary burial at the Omaha Beach Collecting Pointin 1944 on Normandy. (Photo by Wilmott Ragsdale/Pool/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images).
Image Source: African American soldiers collect and process the soldiers killed from both the US Army and German Army for temporary burial at the Omaha Beach Collecting Point in 1944 on Normandy. (Photo by Wilmott Ragsdale/Pool/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images).

During the next few days, Martha witnessed the ship’s harrowing conditions. The vessel had 422 hospital beds and six water ambulances to tend the wounded. Martha reached Omaha Beach and assisted the medics. “There was no time to talk; there was too much else to do,” she wrote in Collier's article “The Wounded Come Home.” She helped the wounded by lighting cigarettes, serving coffee, and lifting teacups to their bandaged mouths.

Image Source: 1940s The Los Angeles Times Newspaper June 6 1944 Headlines Invasion Allied Forces Invade France D-Day World War 2 Ca USA. (Photo by American Stock/Getty Images)
Image Source: 1940s The Los Angeles Times Newspaper June 6 1944 Headlines Invasion Allied Forces Invade France D-Day World War 2 Ca USA. (Photo by American Stock/Getty Images)

Dated August 5, 1944, the article recorded her risk-taking endeavor, “It will be hard to tell you of the wounded, there were so many of them,” she wrote. “They had to be fed, as most had not eaten for two days. They wanted water; the nurses and orderlies, working like demons, had to be found and called quickly to a bunk where a man suddenly and desperately needed attention.”

Image Source: American novelist and war correspondent Martha Gellhorn (1908 - 1998) at a press conference held at the offices of the Spanish Refugee Appeal in New York City, circa 1946. Photo by FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Image Source: American novelist and war correspondent Martha Gellhorn (1908 - 1998) at a press conference held at the offices of the Spanish Refugee Appeal in New York City, circa 1946. Photo by FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

After her return, Martha was arrested by the British military police and was dispatched to a nurse training camp outside London. Undeterred, Martha continued her reportage of the war. She said she never expected any recognition or praise for her lionhearted adventures. She believed it was her job and made sure she did it right. “I followed the war wherever I could reach it,” Martha expressed, according to the National World War II Museum, “I had been sent to Europe to do my job, which was not to report the rear areas or the woman’s angle.”

Image Source: American novelist and war correspondent Martha Gellhorn (1908 - 1998), USA, May 1946. Photo by FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Image Source: American novelist and war correspondent Martha Gellhorn (1908 - 1998), USA, May 1946. Photo by FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Martha’s exceptional journalism stemmed not only from her unfaltering courage but also from her unique perspective. Rather than writing about war equipment or gunfire, she wrote about people who were affected by the war. She wrote about death and destruction. After the war, she continued reporting conflicts elsewhere. These toilsome years of witnessing wars took a toll on her health. Ovarian cancer eventually made it difficult for her to perform even basic tasks. So, she swallowed a cyanide pill and died at age 89 in February 1998. “For Gellhorn, I think it was all about making the world a better place,” said Maggie Hartley, director of public engagement at the National WWII Museum, “Whenever I give a talk, I like to include this quote by her: ‘There has to be a better way to run the world, and we had better see that we get it.'"

More Stories on Good