Sinica backgrounder: Wartime China and Bill Lascher’s ‘Eve of a Hundred Midnights’

Society & Culture

An American correspondent in wartime China

People marching with KMT flags in Lanzhou in 1941. Photo by Melville Jacoby, courtesy Peggy Stern Cole.

When aspiring journalist Bill Lascher learned from his grandmother that her cousin had been a war correspondent in China with a fantastic story of adventure, tragedy, daring and romance, Bill was determined to learn what he could about the life of Melville (“Mel”) Jacoby. The man he discovered was larger than life: a dedicated and intrepid reporter whose story intertwined with some of the most important figures of wartime China, from T. H. White to Henry Luce, from Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek to his beguiling wife, Soong Mei-ling—and even General Douglas MacArthur. Moreover, Mel’s often-harrowing work in Asia took him from Peiping (Beijing) at the very outset of the war to the bomb shelters of Chungking (Chongqing) and the dank caves where MacArthur’s troops held out on Corregidor.

The result of Bill’s research is Eve of a Hundred Midnights, an excellent book about Mel and his wife, Annalee, and their time as reporters in China and the Philippines during World War II.

In this week’s Sinica Podcast, we speak with the author about his remarkable first cousin twice removed, and see World War II in Asia through the eyes of Mel Jacoby and his wife, Annalee Whitmore Jacoby. Before the podcast, we invite you to read up on some of the dramatis personae and the events that shaped them.