From Newark Armory to the Amazon: An Unusual World War II Memory

by Nat Bodian


When I walked into the Sussex Avenue Armory on November 11, 1942, and enlisted in the Army, I feared my experience as a newspaper writer in Newark would have to go on "hold" until after the War.

Two years, one month and one week later, I was now a Corporal with the Army Air Force at the Belem AAF base in Brazil, on the mouth of the Amazon River.

My primary assignment was publishing a morale-oriented base newspaper, carefully monitored by the base censor so that it could be mailed home.

On that day, December 19, 1944, the evening Mail Call included an airmail letter to me in a New York Journal-American envelope, which contained a surprise.

The "surprise" was a full front page of the Sunday, December 10, 1944 New York Journal-American. I unfolded the page and was caught by the large all-cap headlines in red ink with the message:


Words in Story Look Familiar

When I started to read the story under the headline, the words looked familiar. It was my story, as I recalled having written it for the base newspaper, the Belem Bugle.

How It Happened

How it happened, unbeknownst to me, was that I was in correspondence with a number of journalist friends, among them a columnist at the New York Journal-American.

As proof that I was still "in touch" with the news reporting business from time to time, I would include a copy of a recent issue of the base newspaper that I published.

One issue – the issue of November 17, 1944 – I had sent to Cal Asher at the Journal American. It headlined a story I’d written on a photo-mapping expedition, consisting of a lieutenant, a corporal, and 4 Brazilian guides, into the Amazon interior.

The party was attacked by a hostile party of Indians, armed with bows and arrows, while portaging the rapids on the Ria Alalau approximately 150 miles north of manoas. All were killed except for one Brazilian canoeman who managed to escape by swimming under water across the river to safety.

After walking and swimming for 14 days, he was found by a search party and returned to our base, where I attended the interrogation and wrote the story.

Reaction to Story in New York

When my friend at the Journal-American got my Bugle containing the massacre story, he turned it over to his editor who made it Page One news in New York1.

It was probably the only bow-and-arrow Indian massacre of World War II.

On the second page of the Journal-American, where the story was carried over from page one, there was an illustration of the front page of the Belem Bugle issue containing my story with this caption under it:

"World Scoop"… to the Belem Bugle, an Air Force camp paper issued to the personnel at Val de Cans Field, goes the credit for "scooping" the world on the Indian massacre of a United States Army mapping party in the Amazon jungle. Here is a facsimile of the first page of the Bugle."

My enlistment-day fears, two years earlier, that my civilian newspaper career would go on "hold" for the duration of the War had now proved groundless, and after the story by the Journal-American "World Scoop" appeared in the December 22, 1944 issue of the Belem Bugle;, I found that I had earned a new nickname on the base: "Scoop."


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