The Only Woman Who Landed in Normandy on D-Day

On the eve of the Normandy landings in June 1944, there were over a thousand war correspondents in Europe reporting back to the millions of British and Americans back home. A handful of these journalists and photographers were women. The government had prohibited women from going to the front lines, so while they would cover the stories from the war zone, they couldn’t go in with the troops. Many of the women were not happy with the ban, but only one decided to do something about it. Martha Ellis Gellhorn was not ready to bow out. On the night of June 6, 1944, before the ships departed for Normandy, Gellhorn made her way to the waterfront on the pretext of interviewing the nurses aboard a hospital ship. Once onboard, she hid in a bathroom. Later that night, after the troops had landed and the massacre on the beach was finally over, Gellhorn sneaked ashore with a couple of doctors and medics as a stretcher bearer to collect the wounded. She became the only woman to land in Normandy the same day the troops did and filed her story with Collier’s magazine before the military police arrested her. She continued to cover conflicts, reporting on the Vietnam War and the Arab-Israel conflicts in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Incredibly, she was 81 years old when she covered the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989. It was only when war came to Bosnia in 1992 that she decided to quit, announcing that she was “too old and not nimble enough” for war anymore.