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Biography

1944 Born in Sannois in the suburbs of Paris on August 27 in a night of heavy bombing by the Allied Forces during World War II.
1966 Arrives in Vietnam without any professional experience on a one-way ticket, with a Leica M2 and a hundred dollars in her pocket. Manages to secure an accreditation with the bureau of the Associated Press (AP) in Saigon.
1967 Only accredited photographer in Vietnam to make a parachute jump with the US troops in combat (during operation “Junction City”). Two weeks after the battle of Hill 881 she is seriously wounded while embedded with a Marine unit in the demilitarized zone. Wins the George Polk Award in the news photography category.
1968 Briefly held prisoner by North Vietnamese forces with French colleague-journalist François Mazure during the Têt offensive (January-February). Her exclusive photo-reportage on “the enemy” becomes the cover story of Life magazine, with an article under her byline.
1969 Returns to to Paris. Has a hard time getting back to normal daily life. Possibly suffers from post-traumatic syndrome. Photographs Woodstock festival. Lives in the US between Los Angeles and New York.
1972 Directs with Frank Cavestani “Operation Last Patrol”, a documentary film on Ron Kovic and American veterans opposed to the Vietnam War en route from Los Angeles to the Republican Convention in Miami.
1975 Goes to Beirut. She works and lives with AFP war correspondent Bernard Estrade. Covers the fall of Saigon in the hands of the North-Vietnamese forces.
1976 First woman to win the Robert Capa Gold Medal (awarded for “the best published photographic reporting requiring exceptional courage and enterprise”) for her coverage of the civil war in Lebanon.
1977 Based in Paris, she travels the world for over 10 years, reporting on international events and world conflicts. Her work is distributed first through Gamma then Sipa Press.
1982 Covers the civil war in Lebanon and the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by the Christian Phalangists militia.
1983 Publication of God Cried (Quartet Books) written with Tony Clifton, a description of the siege of West Beirut by the Israeli army in 1982. Separates from Estrade. Settles in Los Angeles.
1987 The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) awards her in the US the Picture of the Year prize for her report of the bombing of Tripoli in Libya.
1996 A selected retrospective of her work is presented at the annual “Visa pour l’image” photojournalism festival in Perpignan, France.
1997 Recipient of an Honor Award for Distinguished Service in Journalism from the University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, USA.
2002 Creates the website “Under Fire: Images from Vietnam” with photographs by the leading correspondents of the Vietnam war, including David Burnett, Larry Burrows, Gilles Caron, Henri Huet, Don McCullin and Nick Ut, paired with articles by journalists and writers like Phil Caputo, Jean-Claude Guillebaud, David Halberstam, Jean Lacouture, Tim O’Brien and Neil Sheehan.
2005 Random House publishes her book: Under Fire: Great Photographers and Writers in Vietnam. To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War Paris Match assigns her to what will be her last story. She photographs Vernon Wike in his home in Colorado, forty years after the former medic was the subject of her iconic Hill 881 photographs. Her Vietnam War photographs are exhibited at the Center for Photography at the University of California-Berkeley.
2006 Catherine Leroy dies of cancer in Santa Monica, California, USA, on July 8.