Richard Pyle, a journalist whose career with the Associated Press spanned the globe and a half-century of crises, wars, catastrophes and indelible moments in news reporting, died Sept. 28. He was 83.
His wife, actress-writer Brenda Smiley, said the cause was lung fibrosis and obstructive lung disease. The location was not reported.
Mr. Pyle covered the presidency of John F. Kennedy, the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon and the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center’s twin towers. At 75, Mr. Pyle dashed to the shore of the Hudson River in Manhattan when Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger’s jetliner made its lifesaving splash-landing in 2009.
In the end, Mr. Pyle was proudest of his Vietnam War coverage during five critical years, the last half as chief of the AP’s Saigon bureau. He began in 1968, working alongside colleagues who included reporter Peter Arnett and photographers Horst Faas and Nick Ut, all of whom won Pulitzer Prizes.
The combat death in 1971 of AP photographer Henri Huet weighed on Mr. Pyle, by then bureau chief responsible for an entire staff. Huet and three other photographers were killed when a South Vietnamese army helicopter was shot down in a remote area of Laos. Their remains were beyond retrieval, but Mr. Pyle vowed to get there someday.
More than 20 years later he received a call from the Pentagon’s missing-in-action search teams, seeking information, and by 1998 a team was headed to the crash site, accompanied by Mr. Pyle and former Saigon photo chief Faas. They later described the mission in a book, “Lost Over Laos.” Mr. Pyle also wrote of the experience for Vanity Fair. No identifiable remains were found, but recovered shards of bone were interred at the Newseum, the journalism museum in Washington.
After a final big Vietnam story — flying to Hanoi for release of the last American prisoners of war — Mr. Pyle plunged into a new assignment in Washington in 1973 and was among the first journalists to report on the resignation of Vice President Spiro T. Agnew.
In the 1980s, first as Asia news editor in Tokyo and then as a roving Mideast correspondent, Mr. Pyle covered scores of headline stories, from revolution in the Philippines to war in Lebanon and the Iran-Iraq conflict.
Back in the United States in 1990, he joined the AP’s New York bureau. But the Pyle byline still ranged far afield: He reported on such New York stories as mob boss John Gotti’s 1992 trial and the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center as well as the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the 1999 conflict in Kosovo.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Mr. Pyle was born in Columbus, Ohio, and from age 8 lived in Michigan, first in Birmingham and then in Highland Park. In 1944, when he was 10 years old, he papered the walls of his suburban Detroit home with bulletins gleaned from the radio about the Normandy invasion during World War II.
After two years in the Army, Mr. Pyle graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit. He first worked on a suburban newspaper, then joined the AP’s Detroit bureau in 1960. In October 1962, he was covering Kennedy in Michigan when the president broke off his visit and flew back to Washington as the Cuban missile crisis unfolded.
Mr. Pyle was the author of the 1991 book “Schwarzkopf,” on the 1991 Gulf War commander H. Norman Schwarzkopf, and co-author of “Breaking News: How the Associated Press Has Covered War, Peace, and Everything Else,” a 2007 history of the AP. He retired in 2009.