Edwin White, Associated Press’s Saigon bureau chief during Vietnam, dies at 90

Edwin Q. White, who served as Saigon bureau chief for the Associated Press as the U.S. committed massive numbers of combat troops to Vietnam, died Nov. 1 at his home in Hono­lulu. He was 90.

Mr. White died of congestive heart failure, said his daughter, Rachel White Watanabe.

Mr. White, known among colleagues as “Quigley,” his middle name, was on emergency duty in Saigon when South Vietnam fell to Hanoi’s communist forces on April 30, 1975. He left on one of the last evacuation helicopters from the roof of the U.S. embassy.

Mr. White is one of five former AP Saigon staffers to die this year, including his former Hawaii neighbor Roy Essoyan, along with George Esper, Horst Faas and Malcolm Browne.

Mr. White was born in Tipton, Mo., on Aug. 29, 1922. He graduated from the University of Missouri’s journalism school and was an Army veteran of World War II. In the Philippines when the war ended in 1945, his unit was sent to Korea to help handle the repatriation of the defeated Japanese troops.

Volunteering for postwar duty in Japan, Mr. White joined Pacific Stars and Stripes, a new Asian edition of the military newspaper.

In 1949, Mr. 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 the AP’s Asian operations.

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

As the United States shifted from an advisory to a full combat role in 1965, Mr. White was named chief of the AP’s Saigon bureau.

He worked for the wire service in South Korea before retiring in 1987. Survivors include his wife, Kim, and his daughter.

In four decades with the AP, Mr. White saw his craft evolve from typewriters to computers but 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 an oral history interview. “The means of doing it may have changed, but not the basic principle.”

— Associated Press

Richard Pyle, who covered Asia for 13 years as a field reporter and bureau chief, contributed to this story from New York. He worked with Mr. White during the war. Associated Press writer Mary Pemberton in Anchorage also contributed to this story.

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