Kate Webb, a courageous foreign correspondent who forged a path for other female journalists in a four-decade career spent largely in turbulent Asian outposts, including a harrowing period in Cambodia during the Vietnam War when she was captured and presumed dead, has died. She was 64. ...
Webb was the first woman to head a bureau in a war zone for United Press International, according to Tracy Wood, a former UPI correspondent and investigative reporter for The Times who was assigned to Vietnam a year after Webb's release by her North Vietnamese captors.
"She was a reporter's reporter," Wood said Monday, "truly one of the finest war correspondents, and not just in Vietnam."
Assigned to the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, Webb was one of six journalists captured by North Vietnamese troops while covering a battle in April 1971. Subjected to forced marches with little to eat or drink, malarial fevers and repeated interrogations, she emerged from the jungle after 24 days, astonishing colleagues who had already published her obituary.
Over the next decades she scored exclusives on Cambodian Premier Lon Nol's incapacitating stroke and the death of North Korean leader Kim Il Sung. She also reported on revolution in the Philippines, the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in India and the Persian Gulf War.
She covered the collapse of the Najibullah regime in Afghanistan, where soldiers smashed her head on the floor and tore out part of her scalp. When she retired from journalism in 2001 after 13 years as a correspondent for Agence France-Presse, she said the Kabul incident was the most frightening in a career filled with close encounters with death.
A shy, waif-like woman who spoke in a near whisper, Webb undermined the stereotype of the hard-bitten war correspondent. She was slender and pretty, with large eyes framed by a bubble of wavy brown hair. "Picture a brunet Princess Diana in jungle fatigues with about 40 more points of IQ," a UPI colleague once described her. Men fell over themselves trying to protect her, not knowing that "that was the last thing Kate needed," Wood said.
Born in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1943 and raised in Canberra, Australia, Webb grew up in an academic family. Her father taught political science, and her mother was a historian. Both were killed in a car accident when Webb was a teenager. She is survived by a brother and a sister. ...