Where the action was -Penny Colman

English review. ( For the Dutch review, click here )

where the action was- ColmanWhere the action was:women war correspondents in World War II

Author: Penny Colman
Book form: hard cover with photoghraphs
Pages: 128
Publisher:Crown Press
Released: february 2002
ISBN: 0-517-80075-6

Bookreview:For a journalist is nothing more beautiful than being there, where the news is and the most suitable place to be  in times of war is the front. Female journalists are no exception, they also wanted to cover the battles. On a small scale this happened already in the Great War, though in the Second World War their number increased strongly. These women had to have lots of courage, for it was not easy for them to make a career, unlike the male correspondents. Author and historian Penny Colman has described a number of these women in her book: “Where the action was: Women war correspondents in World War II”, was published at Crown Publishers in 2002. Yet this book is still topical, since even today the achievements of these journalists are underestimated.

Many female war correspondents in the Second World War started often their activities in the thirties, a period of large disorder. In 1936, the Spanish civil war began and in 1938 invaded Hitler Poland. In a journalistic manner Colman portrays several journalists of the first hour. Women such as Martha Gellhorn, Margaret Bourke- White, the Russian Sonia Tomara and the American Sigrid Schulz were real daredevils. Not only they underwent the same privations such as their male colleagues, they were also often thwarted. Many of them got no official accreditations, then women were not allowed to go to the front. Though they went anyway. The female correspondents were to be found all around the world. Tomara for example went to China and Dickey Chapelle was war photographer in the Pacific. Her dedication even led to the loss of her accreditation. Margaret Bourke- White and Ruth Cowan followed the war efforts in Africa. How difficult it was over there, reveals the cable Ruth Cowan sent to Eleanor Roosevelt: “Don’t encourage more women to come to Africa. The men don’t want us here.”

Nevertheless the women did not let themselves put aside. When the invasion in Normandy was imminent, female journalists also wanted to be present to cover D-day. They were very busy with the preparations, yet were stopped by their bosses at the last moment. By considering all kinds of tricks, several journalists succeeded nevertheless to go to Normandy. Gellhorn and Bourke- White even went with the allied forces to Germany and the advance of the troops brought them along the concentration camps such as Buchenwald and Dachau as well. With their camera they registered the suffering, which had dominated the prisoners. But the corpses, which laid there still piled up, didn’t escape their lenses. For most women their journalistic career stopped after the war. In the last chapter Colman gives a small résumé of each woman, mentioned in her book of what became of her career, after the war was over.

“Where the action was” is an very interesting book, because it highlights an aspect of the Second World War, which is hardly known. Everyone, who is interested in war journalism, will find this book fascinating. The way of writing is concise, because Penny Colman addresses herself also to the younger readers. She wants to let them become aware that the status, which female journalists have nowadays, is not altogether so obvious. Women had to work hard to obtain that position. Nothing could stop them being there where the action was and still nothing can stop them. Even if it means that they must be to the front lines for the best tales.

Assessment: X X X X X Excellent