Melville Jacoby

March 18, 1942. Somewhere At Sea

“Whether I'll ever arrive at a point where this letter can be mailed is still a matter of fate. So far we've been scared plenty but very lucky — and I'm knocking on wood. We slid out of one island hideout just a bare two hours ahead of one of Mr. Tojo's destroyers and have been seeing dim outlines on the horizon ever since. But all that will be a story later, I guess.”

-Melville Jacoby, March 18, 1942, Somewhere at Sea

A Wedding At The Brink of War

A Wedding At The Brink of War

For a brief moment after the wedding, the world fell away from Mel and Annalee. That they didn't have the traditional wedding their friends in the Chinese government wanted to throw for them back in Chungking didn't matter. That all their things — including most of Annalee's clothes — were on a ship that would end up diverted from Manila when the war started didn't matter. They were two young reporters in love.

Notes From The Starting Line

Notes From The Starting Line

Today brings a bloom of beginnings from a tangle of endings. Perhaps that's not surprising. I suppose beginnings and endings all occupy coterminous space. And as I write, I'm struck by how my own beginnings and my own endings weave around one another and, often, between two places — Los Angeles and Portland.

But I'm writing today to recognize one simple beginning: the redesigned, relaunched version of my website*, upon which, presumably, you're reading these words. I do so hoping to re-introduce the world to my own background as a writer and journalist and as a storyteller, and to re-pique your curiosity about Melville Jacoby, whose adventures, romance and experiences as a journalist in World War II-era China and the Philippines will be the subject of a forthcoming book.

Pearl Harbor as a Reporter Experienced it in Manila

"Manila has not yet digested the fact of war. Balloon and toy salesmen and vendors on the streets with extra editions are just appearing as fully equipped soldiers are appearing," After news reached Manila that U.S. forces had been attacked at Pearl Harbor, Melville Jacoby cabled news to his Time Magazine editors about how the Philippines capital digested news of the Japanese raids.

Introducing "Monsieur Big-Hat"

Introducing "Monsieur Big-Hat"

Most of my posts about Melville Jacoby focus squarely on nonfiction. He was a journalist. I am a journalist. Though Mel worked for a time as a broadcaster and was handy with a camera, he was first and foremost a writer. So it shouldn't be terribly surprising that he dabbled in fiction a bit. I found one of those stories — "Monsieur Big-Hat" — and put it together with some photos Mel took of an air raid in Chongqing to make a short ebook that's now available online. The story describes what happens when an American correspondent meets a French diplomat as bombs fall on the Chinese wartime capital in June, 1940.

Motion Picture Treat: "When The Whole World Is So Upset"

Motion Picture Treat: "When The Whole World Is So Upset"

For the first time ever, I'm able to share a movie of Melville Jacoby himself. These snippets of 16mm movies were shot in the 1930s and are accompanied by excerpts from a moving letter he wrote his mother in early 1941 about why he pursued his dangerous careert.Mel was on a boat from China bound for Manila and, eventually, to the United States. He had just finished a year's work as a stringer in China and the region of Southeast Asia then known as Indochina. There, in the city of Haiphong (a part of modern-day Vietnam), Mel had been arrested and briefly detained by the Japanese, who'd accused him of being a spy. As he traveled back to the United States, he wrote a moving letter to his Mother in which he attempted to reassure her about the risks he'd taken in the previous year. Check out the full post to see the video.

Not even pandas could spoil this honeymoon

Not even pandas could spoil this honeymoon

This week's news of a panda cub's birth at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. reminds me of one of of the more comical aspects of Melville Jacoby's story. Shortly after Mel proposed to Annalee Whitmore he was transferred by TIME to Manila to cover the brewing war. After wrapping up her work with Madame Chiang's United China Relief, Annalee joined Mel and the two were married shortly before Thanksgiving, 1941. But the couple didn't end up in the Philippines unaccompanied, even after their nuptials.

"They slipped away for a two-day rainy honeymoon in a cottage on Tagaytay," wrote TIME in its May 11, 1942 obituary of Mel [Sorry for the paywalled link] . "But they were not alone; they had to see to the care & feeding of two baby giant pandas, gifts of Madame Chiang Kai-Shek en route to the U.S."