George Silk, 87, a photojournalist who spent 30 years with Life magazine, attaining fame for his coverage of World War II and later pioneering the use of a special camera for depicting athletes in motion, died of congestive heart failure Oct. 23 at a Norwalk, Conn., hospital.
Mr. Silk, a New Zealand native, joined Life's photo staff in 1943 and spent the next two years covering the war on the Italian front, the Allied invasions of France and the Pacific. He shot the first pictures of Nagasaki, Japan, after the atomic bomb was dropped, as well as Japanese war criminals awaiting trial in postwar Tokyo. He became a U.S. citizen in 1947.
In December 1972, Mr. Silk was in Nepal, shooting an assignment on Himalayan game parks, when he received news that the magazine had folded. According to the 1977 book "That Was the Life," he replied by saying, "Your message . . . badly garbled. Please send one-half million dollars additional expenses."
"He was very innovative and creative," said his wife, Margery Gray Schieber Silk, recalling how her husband adapted a racetrack photo-finish camera to take sequential stills of hurdlers and other athletes for the 1960 Olympic trials and used it for other purposes -- including a famous series of his own children in Halloween costumes.
The strip camera, in which film was exposed as it rolled past a hole, helped him become a leading sports photographer.
Mr. Silk's career as a war photographer began in 1939, when he was a combat cameraman for the Australian government, covering action in the Middle East, North Africa and Greece. Trapped with the famed Desert Rats at Tobruk in Libya, he was captured by German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's forces but escaped 10 days later.
In New Guinea, Mr. Silk walked 300 miles with Allied forces, an ordeal later described in the book "War in New Guinea." He was with U.S. forces in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 and was wounded by a grenade during a river crossing in Germany.
He was named magazine photographer of the year four times by the National Press Photographers Association.
Mr. Silk is survived by his wife, of Norwalk; two daughters; and a son.