Martha Gellhorn — The Hospital Ship: June 6th -7th, 1944

Steve Newman Writer
11 min readNov 13, 2018

War Correspondent

New York Times

Although she has now been dead for twenty-five years, Martha Gellhorn can still be considered one of the most accomplished war correspondents of the 20th century, having covered most of the major conflicts: from the Spanish Civil War up to, and beyond, the Vietnam War.

During World War II she outshone her more high profile husband, Ernest Hemingway, by a long shot, concentrating, as he never did, on more personal stories — as was the case with John Steinbeck and Ernie Pyle — that dealt with serving personnel, and the consequence, both physical and mental, that such personnel suffered.

But, early on the 6th of June, 1944, D-Day, the thirty-six year old, still unaccredited correspondent Martha Gellhorn, had managed to get aboard the first hospital ship to sail with the invasion fleet. Martha had simply walked on board, found a nurses uniform and, when the injured started coming aboard in their thousands, got stuck in. And as the daughter of a doctor, who had trained her well, and a fluent German speaker, Martha more than pulled her weight, as well as writing a splendid dispatch.

That first dispatch, for Collier’s Weekly, of June 1944, doesn’t mentioned her methods of course, but it’s a wonderfully encompassing piece of writing: