• U.S.

The Press: End of the Road

4 minute read

By the time most correspondents got to Port Said last fortnight, the fighting was virtually over—and Paris-Match Photographer-Reporter Jean Roy, 34, had the situation well in hand. The big (6 ft., 190 Ibs.), handsome Frenchman (real name: Yves Leleu) was living up to his legend as the fire-eating knight-errant of war journalism. In the 24 hours since he had landed with the first French ground troops, Roy had taken over two jeeps and a Chevrolet truck, daubed each with a new license plate, “Balzac 00-24” (the phone number of Paris-Match), and whirled through a typical swashbuckling round of good deeds and derring-do.

When Roy heard that hundreds of wounded Egyptians were suffering for lack of water and medical facilities in a hospital, he browbeat the French command into sending a water truck. When a French-speaking Egyptian woman pleaded for milk for her five small children, Roy rammed his jeep through the iron blind of a locked milk store. British MPs warned him that pillaging was a crime for which he could be shot. “O.K., go ahead and shoot,” said Roy. He gave one case of powdered milk to the woman, delivered a jeep load to a hospital.

For his fellow correspondents, Roy commandeered Port Said’s second biggest hotel, the Eastern Exchange. They found nothing to eat, so he drove to French headquarters and traded his Chevrolet truck for three cases of French rations and three bottles of Chianti.

Lust for Trouble. When Roy joined Paris-Match in 1949, his nose for news was indistinguishable from his lust for danger. As a World War II soldier, he parachuted into occupied France, landed in the Normandy invasion, was badly wounded at Bastogne (for which he won the Silver Star). As a civilian, he kept going to war. In Guatemala during the anti-Communist revolution, he climbed over street barricades carrying not only a camera but a .45 Colt. During Tunisian riots, he calmly snapped pictures in the middle of a pillaging mob looking for Frenchmen to kill. In Indo-China, snipers’ bullets ripped his uniform without touching him. In Algeria, he was often as much as five hours ahead of advancing French troops. In Moscow, he stepped up to a high-ranking Soviet officer in the street, plucked off his shoulder-boards and said “Thanks, I’ll keep these as souvenirs.”

In his latest hunt for trouble in Egypt, Roy teamed up with an oddly contrasting companion: short, owlish Photographer David Seymour, 45, a grey-haired, Polish-born, Sorbonne-educated American known affectionately almost everywhere as “Shim” (after his real name, Chimin), and as celebrated for his gentleness and ensibility as Roy for his daring. Violence lad shadowed Shim’s life: the Nazis destroyed his family in Poland, and a Communist land mine in Indo-China killed his best friend, famed War Photographer Robert Capa, with whom Shim and France’s Henri Cartier-Bresson founded he picture agency Magnum Photos Inc. Yet Shim, who replaced Capa as president of Magnum, was no combat specialist; lis most memorable pictures, collected in the UNESCO book Europe’s Children, were compassionate shots of orphans in the rubble of post-World War II.

Race to the Front. When a report reached Port Said that the Egyptians were sending a hospital train to the front to evacuate wounded, Shim and Roy hustled to shoot the scene. With Roy at the wheel, they raced south toward the front line along a road flanked on one side by the Suez Canal, on the other by a fresh-water canal. The front was unmarked. British paratroopers, dug in along the side of the road, saw the jeep coming and tried to wave it down. It roared by. Some 1,000 yards down the road, it shot past an Egyptian outpost. Then the luck that had held so miraculously through wars, riots and revolutions was suddenly shattered in a burst of Egyptian machine-gun fire. The jeep swung crazily off the road with the riddled bodies of the two photographers, the first press casualties of the war that had halted with a cease-fire even before they were hit.

In Cyprus, where he had gone to cover the Egyptian fighting, 27-year-old Angus Macdonald of London’s weekly Spectator fell last week under a Cypriot assassin’s bullet, shot in the back on a Nicosia street. He was the third newsman to die in the Middle Eastern crisis. Ironically, his last dispatch argued “the bankruptcy of [Britain’s Cyprus] policy of shoot first, negotiate afterwards.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com