This Amazing Female War Photographer Will Change Your Perception of the Vietnam War

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Leroy says it was that moment during the Battle of 881 North that made her realise why she was in Vietnam – to capture those moments of humanity during the brutality of the Vietnam War. For Leroy, it “summed up her first fifteen months of war.” Later that year Leroy went on to win the George Polk award in the News Photography category.
Two weeks after the Battle of Hill 881 North, Leroy was seriously wounded alongside marines during a mortar barrage in a demilitarised zone on May 19, 1967. As Leroy told Life Magazine: “I took a couple of pounds of shrapnel in my 85-pound frame.” Leroy actually credited her camera which was hit by some of the shrapnel for saving her life. Leroy spent a month recovering on the U.S.S. Sanctuary which she described as being “almost like a holiday” after having become accustomed to working alongside the troops five days a week.
In 1968, Leroy and her French colleague Francois Mazure were captured by the Viet Cong during the Battle of Hue. They had their hands tied behind their backs and their cameras confiscated. Fortunately for Leroy and Mazure, they met another Frenchman and his Vietnamese wife and two children who had been captured by the Viet Cong. When a Viet Cong officer arrived, the French man’s Vietnamese wife was able to translate on behalf of Leroy and Mazure. Once the officer discovered they were French photojournalists he ordered them to be freed and have their cameras returned to them.
The officer even permitted Leroy to take photos of the Viet Cong soldiers which became a front-page story for Life Magazine on February 16, 1968, entitled, “A remarkable day in Hue: The enemy lets me take his picture.” Most Viet Cong soldiers were happy to have their photos taken with the exception of one soldier, who demanded that Leroy give him the film from her camera. Leroy was able to keep her photos by duping the soldier by handing his a completely blank role of film.
In 1969 Leroy left Vietnam and returned to Paris but she had a hard time reintegrating back into normal life. Leroy described herself as being “extremely shell-shocked” after she left Vietnam. She added: “It took me years to get my head back together because I was filled with the sound of death, and the smell of death. I was extremely cool under fire. I didn’t show anything. But when I went back to Saigon the horror of it would hit me.”
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