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Army Photographer Captures Her Own Death on Camera

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Tony Maples Photography


The U.S. Army recently published the final photos shot by a combat photographer who captured the blast on camera that killed her. The incident occurred in an accidental mortar explosion in Afghanistan almost four years ago.

The photographs from Spc. Hilda Clayton were published Monday in Military Review.
Spc. Hilda Clayton
Photo: Spc. Hilda Clayton/Military Review/U.S. Army

“Clayton’s death symbolizes how female soldiers are increasingly exposed to hazardous situations in training and in combat on par with their male counterparts,” Military Review wrote. Clayton took the picture during a training exercise on July 2, 2013, in the Laghman Province, Afghanistan. The blast also killed four Afghan National Army soldiers. One was a photojournalist Clayton had been training.

Military Review noted that the explosion happened during a critical moment in the war, when it was important for U.S. and Afghan forces to work in partnership to stabilize the country. “Not only did Clayton help document activities aimed at shaping and strengthening the partnership but she also shared in the risk by participating in the effort,” the journal added.

Clayton, who was from Augusta, Georgia, was a member of the Fort Meade, Maryland-based 55th Signal Company, which is known as Combat Camera.

Clayton was 22 years old.
Spc. Hilda Clayton
Photo: U.S. Army

Gordon Van Vleet, a spokesman for the Network Enterprise Command, said Clayton’s final photos were published with her family’s permission. Van Vleet said the family is declining to comment.

According to Military Review, Clayton was honored by naming an annual award for the best combat photography after her. Combat Camera soldiers are trained to take photos and record video in any environment. They often accompany soldiers to document combat operations.