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
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:
"2 YANKS VICTIMS OF INDIAN MASSACRE IN AMAZON
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
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
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
"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
Belem Bugle;, I found that I had earned a new nickname
on the base: "Scoop."