HONOLULU -- One night in 1969, as a salvo of Viet Cong rockets exploded in the streets of Saigon, Edwin Q. White paused after typing a dateline on his typewriter to light his pipe and reflect on his belief that as an American journalist, he belonged in Vietnam.
To his Associated Press colleagues, it was typical of the reporter-philosopher known as "unflappable Ed," the calmest person in any crisis.
White, who served as AP's Saigon bureau chief as the United States deployed massive numbers of combat troops to Vietnam, died before dawn yesterday at his home at age 90, his daughter Rachel White Watanabe said.
White said the biggest regret of his career was leaving Saigon when South Vietnam fell to Hanoi's communist forces on April 30, 1975, a moment he thought about almost every day.
He left on one of the last evacuation helicopters from the roof of the U.S. embassy.
"Going off of the roof of the embassy wasn't the greatest happening of my life," he said.
Known among colleagues by his middle name, Quigley, he was part of a fabled crew of journalists who covered the war for the AP from Saigon, a thinning group that has seen five deaths this year.
"They were such a great bunch of people. I sometimes just stood around in awe of them," White said in August, after the death of photographer Malcolm Browne.
Former AP Tokyo photo editor Hal Buell said White tightly bonded with colleagues in Asia and kept in touch long after they left the region to share a mutual affection for covering international news for AP.
"We never lost that feeling," said Buell, who worked with White in Tokyo before White went to Saigon. "It was a brotherhood, simply put."
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."