Edwin Q. White, former AP Saigon chief, dies

Associated Press Modified: November 1, 2012 at 10:17 pm •  Published: November 1, 2012
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Volunteering for postwar duty in Japan, White joined Pacific Stars and Stripes, a new Asian edition of the military newspaper. "I figured I'd never see Asia again, so I did that," he said.

Back in civilian life, White spent five years at newspapers in Kansas and Missouri.

But he talked of returning abroad, and a boss told him to consider the AP. In 1949, White joined the news service in Kansas City, moved after five years to New York and in 1960 to Tokyo, as news editor in the flagship bureau of AP's Asian operations.

The growing conflict in Vietnam led international news agencies to expand their staffs, and White soon found himself commuting between Japan and Vietnam, spending weeks at a time in the war zone.

As the U.S. shifted from an advisory to a full combat role in 1965, White was named chief of AP's Saigon bureau.

In 1979, White left Tokyo for Hawaii. A year later, however, he returned to Asia in Seoul, where AP's all-Korean staff had come under severe government pressure.

He retired in 1987 and returned to Hawaii with his wife, a native of Vietnam, and daughter.

In four decades with AP, White saw his craft evolve from typewriters to computers, but he felt strongly that the digital revolution should not be the doom of traditional journalism.

"If you learn the facts, report them accurately and get people to put it in the newspapers, or television or radio, that's the mission," he said in the oral history interview. "The means of doing it may have changed, but not the basic principle."

White said in remarks read by a colleague at an AP reception in August that he talked extensively with Faas about Vietnam.

In their last conversation, White said they recounted a "magical" moment after an uneventful military operation in which troops and reporters, including Faas and White, spontaneously began singing Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon" while trekking home.

"Over the years, references to the moon became a kind of shorthand between us. In that last call, Horst asked, 'Well . are you ready for the moon?'" White recalled.

Both said they were working on it.

White is survived by his wife, Kim, daughter Rachel White Watanabe, and Rachel's husband, Michael Watanabe.

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Richard Pyle, who covered Asia for 13 years as a field reporter, including five years in Vietnam and three as Saigon bureau chief, contributed to this story from New York. He worked with White during the war. Associated Press Writer Mary Pemberton in Anchorage, Alaska, contributed to this report.

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Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/oskargarcia .