Media-Military Relations, United States

Margaret Bourke White’s Second World War

Margaret Bourke White is the ultimate trailblazer of a female war correspondent. She both wrote and photographed, owned the first ever cover of Life magazine with one of her images, and was the first ever woman to be outfitted as a GI in the U.S. Army in order to cover the Second World War’s European fronts. She is the author of They Called It “Purple Heart Valley”, an occasionally (alright, often) sentimental account of her experiences as a correspondent in the Second World War. Luckily, Georgetown’s copy is a first edition that includes a note on the copyright page “About the Appearance of Books in Wartime,” stating “A recent ruling by the War Production Board has curtailed the use of paper by book publishers in 1944. In line with this ruling and in order to conserve materials and manpower, we are co-operating by: 1. Using lighter-weight paper, which reduces the bulk of our books substantially. 2. Printing books with smaller margins and with more words to each page. Result fewer pages per book. Slimmer and smaller books will save paper and plate metal and labor. We are sure that readers will understand the publishers’ desire to co-operate as fully as possible with the objectives of the War Production Board and our government.” Here are some of my favorite images from her book:

Left: “Wherever we flew we found the face of Italy scarred like the face of the moon. This airfield shows the pattern.” / Right: “Below us, always, the tracks of war. Moving in mud, tanks, heavy trucks, artillery could not conceal their footprints.”

“A mine is a mutilating weapon. Mine hunters’ casualties are among the highest in the Army. The job is nerve-racking, and these men have been doing it for four hours.”

“This is, literally, a picture of the shock of battle.”

And the correspondent herself, dashing beside a propeller airplane:

Margaret Bourke-White