World War II wasn’t just a man’s war. 350,000 American women answered the call to serve their country. However, they were not part of D-Day. Only one woman was present during the time, along with 150,000 men. But who was this woman, and what was her role on D-Day?
Martha Gellhorn was the only woman to land on the beaches of Normandy alongside 150,000 men. She was a journalist, but her request to go to Normandy was denied, so she hid in a toilet and disguised herself as a stretcher-bearer.
Who is Martha Gellhorn?
Martha Gellhorn was born into a wealthy family in St. Louis, Missouri. Her mother came from a Protestant family, while her father was Jewish. Her mother supported women’s voting rights, and her father was a doctor. Gellhorn was brilliant, and she loved to write and went to a school that her parents founded in St. Louis.
After finishing high school in 1926, Gellhorn attended college in Philadelphia. She dropped out of college in 1927 before receiving her diploma because she wanted to start a career as a journalist. Gellhorn decided to move to France for two years in 1930 to pursue her dream of working as a foreign reporter. She did this in Paris.
After getting married to renowned author Ernest Hemingway in 1940, Gellhorn moved to Spain with him to write about the Spanish Civil War and the outbreak of World War II. Gellhorn died in London at the age of 89. (Source: Lottie)
The Only Woman Among the Men
D-Day was a day in 1944 when Allied forces raided France from the sea, commemorating on June 6. It was the biggest seaborne invasion in history. Thousands perished in the water, making the Normandy landing one of the bloodiest days of the war. In a last-ditch effort, 150,000 men and one woman.
The British government authorized 558 writers, radio journalists, and photographers to cover the D-Day landings in June 1944. Gellhorn, a well-known war correspondent for Collier’s magazine, should have been one of them.
Each news organization could only send one representative, and Collier’s nomination went to a man named Ernest Hemingway, who didn’t work for the magazine but had a well-known name. He also happened to be Gellhorn’s estranged husband. Hemingway got her seat when he asked for it. All the women who applied were turned down by the boys in charge, forcing them to accept no for an answer.
On the other hand, Gellhorn took action, or, more specifically, she went to the toilet. She hid in a hospital ship’s bathroom. The armada of 5000 ships stretched as far as the eye could see, ferrying men and nearly 30,000 automobiles across the English Channel to the French coast. Gellhorn disguised himself as a stretcher bearer when it came time to land. No one noticed she was a girl amid the chaos.
By the evening of June 6, 1944, over 9,000 Allied soldiers had been killed or wounded. More than 100,000 others had survived the landing, including that one female stowaway. Other women followed, but not immediately. The first 49 WACs to arrive in France landed in Normandy 38 days after D-day.
Assigned to the Communications Zone, they immediately replaced German-vacated switchboards and worked in tents, cellars, prefabricated huts, and switchboard trailers. But Gellhorn was the first woman to arrive and the only female journalist with a first-hand account of the invasion. (Source: Huff Post)
Image from The Guardian