War Photographer Captures Final Moment of Her Life in Images as Mortar Explodes

War Photographer Captures Final Moment of Her Life in Images as Mortar Explodes

A war photographer managed to capture the final second of her life by photographing the moment a mortar bomb accidentally exploded.

Spc. Hilda Clayton, who was based in Afghanistan, was on photo duty as soldiers took part in live-fire training in Qaraghahi in July 2013 when suddenly a mortar went off.

The 22 year old was working alongside an Afghan counterpart at the moment of the explosion. Both parties, which included three Afghan soldiers who were taking part in the exercise, were killed instantly.

© Spc. Hilda I. Clayton / U.S. Army

Four years on, the photo has now been published in the May-June edition of the Army’s Military Review journal, after her family gave their blessing for the usage.

An article within the journal accompanied the photo with the following extract:

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 visual information specialist’s death was the first involving an Army combat documentation in the war, according to Stars and Stripes. She had been attached to 4th Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, deployed to Forward Operating Base Gamberi, and was training herself as a combat photographer.

Jack Alexander's picture

A 28-year-old self-taught photographer, Jack Alexander specialises in intimate portraits with musicians, actors, and models.

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As a USAF Combat Documentary Specialist (Det. 10, 601st Photo Squadron) in SE Asia in 73-74, my heart bleeds in sorrow for her. May she be remembered forever.

I spent 27 weeks in training with Clayton. Thank you for posting this.

I had a friend who lost an arm and most of the functionality of his other limbs in a mortar accident in South West Africa in the 80's. Sometimes I think it's probably easier to say goodbye to those who die in these accidents than to have them survive and carry the damage for the rest of their days. If it was my child my thinking might be different. I don't know. It's just sad that as humans we have to have armies in the first place. :-(

Powerful. These images seem surreal. I'm guessing a bit of HDR work had to be done. Surely the blast produced a highly over-exposed image with a ton of dynamic range. Looking at the Afghan image if that's her hand in the lower left, it would appear that Spc. Clayton has a video camera. Any ideas on what it is? Most likely both of these are frame grabs from a 1080 or 4K video.

This is really sad. Looks like the strap says sony, in 2013 it was probably an HVR Z7U

You've credited the photos wrong as 99% of the articles have... The ground level photo was by her Afghanistan trainy. Her photo is the head level standing one...