After we stopped flying combat in World War II, Stuart Hodes and I stayed on occupation duty in Italy. We published a base weekly newspaper called The Foggia Occupator. We were always on the lookout for news. I stumbled upon a food riot where the people in Foggia hijacked a train that was attempting to ship wheat out of the country.
(Photo, left) A man came stumbling off the hijacked train. When he saw my camera, he spread his arms to show a bleeding face, and said, “Look what they did to me! "
(Photo Left) The rioters flushed people they said were black marketers off the train and beat them with clubs and sticks. No one, however, was killed.
The day after the riot, I sent them, by courier plane, negatives and prints of the
riot pictures that I had taken.
(Photo left) The rioters somehow got a U.S. flag. That picture got me in a little bit of trouble because the military brass said it made it look as if this hijacking was run by
Shortly later I got a call from Mortimer Belshaw, the Associated Press correspondent in Rome, who said he liked the pictures and would I mind if he offered some to New York? I said I would be honored and promptly forgot the incident.
About two weeks later, I got a letter from home. In it, my mother asked if I had seen those terrible food riots in Foggia. In the envelope were clippings from the New York Daily News, the Mirror and the Journal-American. There were my pictures. I was famous! Or was I? The credit lines said simply, “Associated Press Photos.”
Well, if not famous, then maybe I was rich. I had heard of news organizations paying large sums of money for good pictures. I quickly took the next Air Corps plane to Rome to look up AP correspondent Belshaw. He greeted me warmly and said that when he offered the pictures to New York, it was coincidental with former New York mayor Fiorella La Guardia’s taking over as roving ambassador to deal with food shortages in Europe. So the pictures were timely and lots of U.S.papers used them.
"What are they worth?” I asked Belshaw.
"We have a standard free-lance rate of three dollars a picture,” he said. “New York took seven of them, so I can give you twenty-one dollars.”
I don’t cry readily, but I had a hard time fighting back tears right then. I thought about it for a while and realized there wasn’t a damn thing I could do. AP had the pictures, which I had taken while in uniform and on duty, with a military camera, so they weren’t even my personal property.
"I don’t want the twenty-one dollars,” I said. “But could you give me twenty-one dollars worth of flashbulbs for the paper? We never can get enough of them."
He agreed readily and as I got up to leave, Belshaw invited me to have a cup of coffee with him. No, I was soured on the whole relationship. So all I did was tuck the flashbulb packages under my arm and, thoroughly deflated, slumped off to the next plane back to Foggia.