Kate Webb


Born Catherine Merrial Webb in New Zealand in 1943, Kate Webb moved to Australia with her family while still a child. She graduated from the University of Melbourne, then left to work for the Sydney Daily Mirror. In 1967, she quit the paper and travelled to Vietnam to cover the escalating war. Webb was soon hired by UPI and earned a reputation as a hard-drinking, chain-smoking war correspondent: she was the first wire correspondent to reach the U.S. embassy in Saigon after the Tet offensive. With the death of Phnom Penh bureau chief Frank Frosch in 1970, Webb was selected to fill his position; she later claimed it was because she spoke French. In 1971, she made news herself when she was captured by North Vietnamese troops operating in Cambodia. Premature official reports claimed that a body discovered was Webb's, and the New York Times published an obituary. She emerged from captivity 24 days after she was captured, after having endured forced marches, interrogations, and malaria. She described her experiences in War Torn, a collection of reminiscences by women correspondents in the Vietnam War.

After the war, she continued to work as a foreign correspondent for UPI and Agence France Press, and served as a correspondent in Iraq during the Gulf War, in Indonesia as Timor Leste gained independence, and in North Korea, where she was the first to report the death of Kim Il Song. She also served in Afghanistan, and later described an incident in Kabul as the most frightening in her career. Following the collapse of Mohammad Najibullah's communist regime, she was captured by a local warlord and brought to a hotel, where she was brutally beaten and dragged up a flight of stairs by her hair. She finally escaped with the help of two fellow journalists, and hid out on a window ledge in the freezing Afghan winter, while the warlord and his men searched the building for her.

Webb retired in 2001. She died of bowel cancer on 13 May 2007.


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