Beirut under attack by Israeli planes and gunboats during the summer of 1982.
One of the critical mottos observed by combat photographers is 'DON'T SCREW AROUND!' A pro will always evaluate the chances before going into a dangerous situation. This doesn't mean that the unexpected won't happen, but anything you can do to give yourself an edge on survival is worth doing. After spending two months running Time's photo coverage of the siege of Beirut during the summer of 1982, I was due to hand off the bureau to my replacement, Rudi Frey, who was arriving from Rome. I was to leave by fast car to Damascus late in the day, once Rudi was in place. That morning I decided to take one last look at the Beirut seafront. I climbed to the fourth floor of a building under construction overlooking the Corniche. Legendary war photographers Don McCullin and Catherine Leroy accompanied me. As we climbed the stairs to a room from which the wall had been blown away, Israeli jets, ships and artillery opened fire on the city in a sustained assault. Shells impacted scores of buildings along the Corniche. As it seemed to me that the hits were getting closer, I noticed McCullin appear below us in a red shirt, on the deck of a swimming pool. Horrified, I saw the shells begin to walk across the water towards us. They were firing at McCullin. In this frame, you will see smoke rising from an amusement park Ferris wheel that was just below our building. In the next split second another shell hit the floor just above our heads, raining debris down on Catherine and me. We tumbled down the four flights of stairs and staggered out onto the ground, covered in dust. Catherine was beaming with delight. She yelled at me, 'Dirck, did you get it? What a great picture!" I answered her, 'Well, yes, Catherine. And you know what? I had a POLARIZER on my lens!' Her Gallic reply is unprintable. The picture, the last I took of that war, made the cover of Time the following week, but I knew I had tempted fate.