Frank West Hewlett, 74, the Washington bureau chief of the Salt Lake Tribune from 1958 until he retired in 1981 and a war correspondent who helped liberate his own wife from a Japanese prison camp in World War II, died July 7 at Northern Virginia Doctors Hospital. He had septicemia and pneumonia.

Mr. Hewlett, who lived in Arlington, was born in Pocatello, Idaho. He attended Idaho State University and began his newspaper career with the Idaho State Journal. He worked for several papers in California and in 1937 went to Hawaii to join the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

In 1940, he became news editor of the Japan Times in Tokyo. Shortly thereafter, he went to work for the old United Press, now United Press International, in Manila. He was the UP bureau chief there when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 8, 1941.

Mr. Hewlett covered the fighting for Manila, the Bataan peninsula and Corregidor. He escaped from the Japanese, but his wife, the former Virginia Bryant of Danville, Va., was interned.

He received the National Headline Award in 1942 for his reports on the fighting in the Philippines. For the next two years, he was assigned to the war in the South Pacific and then transferred to the China-Burma-India Theater.

In the C-B-I, he covered the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), a force composed of volunteers from other Army units and trained in long-range penetration tactics. The unit was commanded by Frank D. Merrill, then a brigadier general, and played a prominent and dangerous behind-the-lines role in the campaign for northern Burma. Mr. Hewlett was credited with bestowing upon it its famous nickname, "Merrill's Marauders."

Late in 1944, Mr. Hewlett accompanied U.S. troops in the invasion of the Philippines at Leyte. When the fighting reached Luzon and Manila, he was with a column of the lst Cavalry Division that liberated the notorious Santo Thomas prison camp on Feb. 4, 1945. Mrs. Hewlett was among its survivors.

After the war, Mr. Hewlett settled in the Washington area. He worked briefly for the Defense Department and Henry J. Kaiser, the industrialist. He returned to journalism and represented the Seattle Times, the Spokane Spokesman-Review, the Tulsa World, the Albuquerque Journal and the Guam Daily News before becoming bureau chief of the Salt Lake Tribune.

Mr. Hewlett was a former member of the Corregidor Memorial Commission and a chairman of the Standing Committee of Correspondents, which sets ground rules for covering Congress. He was a member of Sigma Delta Chi professional journalism society, and the National Press Club.

His wife died in 1979.

Survivors include a daughter, Norma Jean Hewlett of Cloverdale, Calif.; a sister, Mrs. Norman Lit Coster of Los Angeles, and two grandchildren.