Elizabeth ‘Lee’ Miller: The story of a globetrotting war correspondent, model, and talented photojournalist of WWII

Credits: Twitter/YouTube

While many a person on Instagram call themselves “models” these days, very few are actually badass enough to make – let alone looking fabulous while doing do.

Born in New York in April of 1907, Elizabeth “Lee” Miller was the daughter of an amateur photographer, who frequently used her as a model for many photos.

Known as “Lee” by most, Miller had a hard upbringing. At the age of seven, she was sexually assaulted by a Sailor, who gave her a painful sexual transmitted infection that was equally painful to treat at the time.

During her childhood, Miller was expelled from nearly every school she attended.

Upon reaching the age of eighteen, Miller went to Paris, France, where she studied stagecraft at where she studied lighting, costume and design at the Ladislas Medgyes’ School of Stagecraft. She would return home the following year and enter a drama program at Vassar College and the Art Students League of New York in Manhattan, where she studied drawing and painting.

At nineteen, Miller was nearly hit by a car in Manhattan, only to be saved by Vogue Magazine publisher Conde Nast.

The serendipitous encounter would launch Miller’s cover girl career for around two years, with Miller being seen as the “modern girl.”

Unfortunately for Miller, a photo of the young woman was used without her authorization, and used to advertise Kotex feminine pads. The move would end her career, and she would move on to become an artist for fashion designers.

Miller would eventually become friends with Pablo Picasso, Paul Éluard and Jean Cocteau.

Interestingly enough, Cocteau found Miller so beautiful that he coated her in butter and transformed her into a plaster cast of a classical statue. The work of art was used in the 1930 film, The Blood of a Poet.

Miller would live all around the world during the 1930s, creating revered works of art and partaking in collaborative works.

When World War II broke out, Miller was living in England as Germany began bombing London. Designating herself the war correspondent for Vogue Magazine, she covered the London Blitz and eventually got accreditation with the US Army.

In 1944, less than one month after the landings at Normandy, Miller would go to Europe, recording the first-ever use of napalm.

Throughout the rest of the war, Miller would follow the front line as it moved forward, covering the grittiest aspects of warfare.

She would participate (as a journalist) in the siege of St. Malo, the Battle of Alsace, the Liberation of Paris and even the liberation of two Nazi concentration camps, Dachau and Buchenwald.

On the day of Adolf Hitler’s suicide, David Scherman took a photo of Miller sitting in the bathtub of Hitler’s Munich apartment, with her boots -covered in dirt from the Dachau camp- deliberately muddying the Furher’s bathroom floor.

U.S. Army Official Photograph – Elizabeth ‘Lee’ Miller

Miller, who confessed she had known where Hitler’s address was for some time, was the first to arrive at the apartment, and later stayed the night there.

The former model and artist’s eye for detail made many of her photos quite well-known, and her willingness to capture the most graphic aspects of war would haunt her later in life.

After the war came to an end, Miller would divorce her former husband (after learning she was pregnant) and remarry, settling down in England.

Traumatized by the war, Miller suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. She would drink heavily for some time and begin a “downward spiral” that affected her for the rest of her life.

Miller would die at the age of 70, and her ashes were scattered around her East Sussex farm.

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