Book By Longtime South Coast Journalist Tells True Story Of Young World War II War Correspondents

Sep 19, 2016

Hollywood couldn’t have come up with the better plot for a movie.

Two idealistic young journalists fall in love while covering the fast-moving events in Asia in the days before World War II, and find themselves on the front lines for the first few months of the conflict.

Mel Jacoby and Annalee Whitmore’s story is a real one.

It’s a story that longtime Ventura County journalist Bill Lascher has wanted to tell for years, since learning about Jacoby, who was his grandmother’s cousin.

Lascher’s new book, Eve of a Hundred Midnights, tells the story of the couple’s adventures as young foreign correspondents who, when the world plunges into conflict, become war correspondents.

The story starts when Jacoby’s curiosity lands him in China in the mid-1930’s, as an exchange student. Jacoby decided it was important to tell China’s story to the world, so after a break in the U.S., he returned to Asia freelancing for the Los Angeles Times, wire services, and eventually being hired by Time Magazine.

A former college classmate at Stanford, Annalee Whitmore, soon entered the picture.  She heard about his China travels, and they met up, eventually falling in love.   She also went to work as a foreign correspondent, and both married the week before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

They literally found themselves on the front lines when the U.S. was plunged into the war. They were in the Philippines as the Japanese overran the country. They fled Manila on New Year’s Eve, 1941 barely making onto a boat as the Japanese invaded the city, and its docks were burning.

There was no safety, because the Japanese military forces were everywhere, eventually overrunning the Bataan Peninsula, and eventually the last remaining stronghold, the island of Corregidor.

They spent months dodging Japanese forces in the region. The couple eventually made it to safety in Australia, where fate would separate them forever. Mel Jacoby was at an airfield preparing to go on an inspection tour with a general when they were hit by a plane which crashed on takeoff. Both men died as a result of the accident. Jacoby had experienced more of life than some people in the 70’s, but he died at the age of 25.

Annalee continued her career as a journalist, becoming one of the foremost experts on China.

Lascher worked on the book for years, and is happy that Eve of A Hundred Midnights is complete. The book was released over the summer, and he’s now making a number of personal appearances to speak about the story, including one in October in Ventura County.

You can find out more about the story, some dramatic photos, at about the author's upcoming talks here.