The Parachuting Female Photojournalist Who Dove Into War Headfirst
Dickey Chapelle jumped out of planes, marched through the jungle and survived enemy prison—redefining what it meant to be a woman on the front lines.
Images courtesy Wisconsin Historical Society
Dickey Chapelle took the pliers from her guard’s hand, applied the tongs to her own index fingernail, and twisted until it stung.
“You do it like that, huh?” she goaded him.
She had seen enough mangled hands of refugees fleeing Hungary’s brutal Communist regime to know how they did it. But back then she had been a reporter interviewing those lucky enough to escape capture in Vienna. Now she was a prisoner in Budapest’s infamous Fö Street Prison.
How she got there is a complicated story.
Born in 1919 as Georgette Louise Meyer, Dickey Chapelle had two great loves as a child: America and airplanes. Both came together in her hero from whom she derived her nickname: Admiral Richard E. Byrd, the first person to fly over the South Pole. On the day he accomplished this feat in 1929, Dickey paraded around her grammar school flagpole — much to the bemusement of her classmates and the consternation of her mother, writes biographer Roberta Ostroff in Fire i…
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