MELVILLE JACOBY
WAR CORRESPONDENT
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII

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Mel Jacoby was a foreign correspondent with Time Magazine who spent time in China with Annalee Whitmore before the start of WWII in the Pacific. Annalee was a journalist who had previously been a Hollywood scriptwriter. They started a relationship whilst in Chongqing, the then Capital of China. Mel was then sent to report on events in Manila and he pleaded with Annalea to also move move there with him and marry him. She agreed and arrived in Manila on 26 November 1941. They headed straight for the church and were married. They then went on to jointly cover the early days of WWII in Manila, followed by the fall of Manila and then the eventual fight for Bataan and the retreat to Corregidor.

Mel Jacoby and Carl Mydans from Life magazine watched the Japanese bombing of Cavite Navy Yard from the Manila waterfront on 10 December 1941. Due to his reporting in China, the Japanese had him on a blacklist which meant he would be executed if captured.

A number of well known journalists were in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. In addition to Mel and Annalee, Frank Hewlett of United Press, Clark Lee of Associated Press, Nat Floyd of The New York Times and Curtis Hindson of the British Reuters' news agency all escaped to Corregidor the night before the Japanese capture of Manila. Ten other War Correspondents who stayed in Manila were captured and interned by the Japanese.

On 26 January 1942, Melville Jacoby sent "Philippines Cable No. 71 sent from Corregidor via Honolulu to David Hulburd. Jacoby described how General Douglas was bearing up and the General's morale boosting visits to the front lines.

The book "They Call It Pacific" by Clark Lee has an account of the start of the war in the Philippines and about Clarke Lee's escape to Australia with Mel and Annalee Jacoby.

On the 22 February 1942, near the west entrance to Malinta Tunnel on Corregidor, Mel Jacoby told Clarke Lee  that he and his wife Annalee were going to escape that night on the "Princesa de Cebu". Mel suggested that Clarke should go with them. Lee remarked that he thought he would be going by PT Boat with Bulkeley to China. Mel told him that he thought that trip had been called off. Clark found out a very short time later from Admiral Rockwell's Chief of Staff, Captain James Ray, that Bulkeley's PT Boats were required for another mission. Unbeknown to Clark Lee this mission was the escape of General Douglas MacArthur and his family and senior staff to Australia.

Lee and Jacoby met with Macarthur early that afternoon to get permission to go together on the "Princesa de Cebu". After an hour's discussion with MacArthur, Lee and Jacoby decided they would go on the "Princesa de Cebu". They left on board the "Princesa de Cebu" on 22 February 1942. The ship took them to Cebu Island where they waited for a larger ship for the journey to Australia. Four days later they boarded the "Dona Nati" and sailed for Australia.

James McAfee landed in Melbourne on 14 April 1942 at 8pm after returning from Del Monte Airfield via Batchelor Airfield and Katherine where he spent the night. He was flying General Ralph Royce back to Melbourne after their daring raids on the Philippines known as the "Royce Mission". McAfee had an interview with Mel Jacoby the next morning. Jim had known Mel and his wife when they were at Bataan. Jim McAfee spoke with Mel and his wife on the morning of 15 April 1942 to share his story of his escape to Australia.

 

Melville Jacoby tragically killed

On the afternoon of 29 April 1942, a Lockheed C-40 transport landed at Batchelor airfield with General Hal George and a small Press Corps. "Pursuit Hal" as he was known was General Douglas MacArthur's Air Force Co-ordinator. He was on an inspection tour of bases in the Northern Territory for strategic planning and publicity purposes. They were headed for Livingstone airfield but as they flew over Batchelor airfield, an Australian Major on board commented that this was his eventual destination. General George decided immediately to land at Batchelor  airfield, to save the Aussie Major a long trip and to have the opportunity to inspect the base. General George had just been appointed Commander of the Northwest Territories, and this was one of his bases.

It was twilight when Major Joseph "Joe" H. Moore, the pilot of the C-40, landed at Batchelor airfield. Major Moore parked the aircraft half way down the runway in the designated area to disembark. General George and his party had just left the Lockheed C-40 and were about to hop into some vehicles that were to take them to the 49th Fighter Group's headquarters.

Not long after this, two Kittyhawks of the 49th Fighter Group were continuing their dual take-off training session. Lieutenant Jack Dale lead the way, followed by Lt. Bob Hazard. Unfortunately Lt. Hazard lost control of his Kittyhawk due to the engine torque pulling him to the left which then put him in the slip stream turbulence of the lead aircraft.

(NOTE:- The Book "Protect and Avenge" indicates that Lt. Hazard's right tyre may have blown out causing the Kittyhawk to swerve violently to the right across the runway smashing into General George's party.)

The aircraft continued moving to the left and hit the leading edge of the Lockheed C-40 knocking both engines and the cockpit completely off, and then struck the group of people standing at the left wing tip, and crashed into the ground about a hundred yards further on. Lt. Hazard suffered only a minor injury to one of his feet. 

War Correspondent Mel Jacoby and "jeep driver" 2nd Lieutenant Robert D. Jasper of the Headquarters Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group were both killed instantly. General Hal George was struck in the head and chest by flying debris from the collision with the jeep and was thrown several feet from the wrecked Kittyhawk. Another young 2nd Lieutenant standing nearby was knocked unconscious but was not seriously injured.

The bodies of General George and Mel Jacoby were flown to Laverton Airfield in Victoria, where they were met by General Ralph Royce on 30 April 1942. Melville Jacoby was the first War Correspondent to die in WWII.

Mrs. Annalee Jacoby, widow of Mel Jacoby, visited General Douglas MacArthur in his office in General Headquarters, Southwest Pacific Area in Melbourne on Monday 8 June 1942. at 1515.

Annalee married Clifton Fadiman in 1950. Annalea Whitmore Fadiman died on 5 February 2002.

An American Liberty Ship the "Melville Jacoby" was launched on 18 January 1944.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"Eve of a Hundred Midnights"
"The Star-Crossed Love Story of Two WWII Correspondents and their Epic Escape Across the Pacific"
By Bill Lascher

"Thunder out of China"
by Theodore H. White and Anna Lee Jacoby

"The Battle of Bataan - A Complete History Second Edition"
by Donald J. Young

 

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This page first produced 23 February 2017

This page last updated 23 February 2017