Charles Collingwood, 68, a member of the founding generation of broadcast journalists whose career with CBS took him from the glamor of London in World War II to the austerities of Hanoi during the war in Vietnam, died of cancer yesterday at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
A native of Three Rivers, Mich., a graduate of the old Central High School in Washington and Cornell University, he was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in 1940 when he joined the old United Press in London to cover the war. The following year the legendary Edward R. Murrow hired him for CBS.
Mr. Collingwood reported on the war from Britain during the heroic days of the Battle of Britain and the German bombing offensive known as the "London blitz" and later from North Africa and Europe. He wore the standard uniform of the war correspondent of the time: trench coat or leather jacket, a crushed Army Air Corps hat and a smile that might have got him a film test in Hollywood.
In later years, he was the CBS correspondent at the United Nations and then the White House, where he worked from 1949 to 1952; the successor to Murrow as host on the famous "Person-to-Person" television series; the host of several CBS news specials, including Jacqueline Kennedy's celebrated tour of the refurbished White House that aired on Feb. 14, 1962; and, from 1964 to 1975, the network's chief foreign correspondent, based in London. He retired in 1982 and since then had been a special correspondent.
In March 1968, Mr. Collingwood became the first American newsman to visit North Vietnam. In this role he was a maker of news as well as a reporter of it, for he summarized Hanoi's views on conditions necessary to begin peace talks. His stories were studied by the White House as if they had been communications from another government.
Later in 1968 Mr. Collingwood was on the other side of the globe reporting on the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. In 1965, he covered Pope Paul VI's visit to the United States, the first ever by a reigning pontiff. He also covered the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill, the great British statesman and wartime leader. In 1967 he covered the Six-Day Arab-Israeli War.
That is what Mr. Collingwood did best: travel the world in search of stories of interest and importance. And over the years he became a familiar and trusted presence on American television screens, whether as the bearer of good news or bad.
His last appearance on the air was a roundtable discussion among CBS war correspondents broadcast from the Cafe Royale in London as part of the 40th anniversary observances of the end of the war. Others on the program filmed in May were Walter Cronkite, Winston Burdett, Douglas Edwards, Richard C. Hottelet, Andy Rooney, Eric Sevareid, Ernest Leiser and William L. Shirer.
William S. Paley, founder and chairman of CBS Inc., said yesterday: "The true strength of any news organization lied in the caliber of the people whom it attracts. Charles Collingwood, who was part of the CBS news organization almost from its inception, represented the very best -- the highest standards of accuracy, honesty and integrity leavened with humanity and sensitivity. I have lost a good friend."
In appearance and style, Mr. Collingwood epitomized the popular image of the foreign correspondent: alert, articulate, well-informed and given to adventure. In fact, he knew success as a youth. At Central High in Washington, he was president of the student council in his senior year. At Cornell, where he studied law and philosophy, he graduated with honors and won a coveted Rhodes Scholarship.
He sailed for Europe on July 1, 1939, two months before World War II broke out. He spent the summer in Switzerland and then went on to London. There he met Wally Carroll of the old United Press. His first job in the news business was as a part-time correspondent with UP, now United Press International. At the same time, he began his studies as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. Forced by the scholarship committee to choose between UP and Oxford, he chose the university.
But in the spring of 1940, when the Germans invaded Norway and prepared their blitzkrieg through the Low Countries and into France, he went to work for United Press full time.
He earned his stripes as a war correspondent in North Africa, where he covered the allied invasion in November 1942, and the campaign against the German and Italian forces under Field Marshal Irwin Rommel. He was credited with broadcasting the first eyewitness account of the fall of Tunis and the capture of 50,000 Axis prisoners. He also made a notable report on the assassination of the Adm. Jean Francois Darlan, a leading figure in French North Africa who earlier had supported the collaborationist Vichy government in France.
He later covered the Normandy invasion, the campaigns across northern Europe and the German surrender.
In 1943, Mr. Collingwood won the first of his two Peabody Awards -- the second was for Jacqueline Kennedy's tour of the White House. Other honors included the Better Understanding Award of the English-Speaking Union, the French Legion of Honor, and the rank of commander in the Order of the British Empire.
In 1970, Mr. Collingwood published a novel, "The Defector," a story about a television newsman during the Vietnam War.
At the end of his career, in an interview with UPI, he spoke for many of his generation when he harked back to the end of World War II.
"We all believed in that war because we believed we were fighting something evil," he said. "Somehow it seemed that when they signed those papers a cloud lifted from the world and we all thought there would be a better, more prosperous, more peaceful world opening up for us. Now, of course, we know it didn't happen that way . . . . "
Mr. Collingwood, who lived in New York, was married to actress Louise Allbritton from 1945 until she died in 1979. He is survived by his wife, Swedish concert singer Tatiana Angelini Jolin.