William Tuohy dies at 83; Pulitzer-winning L.A. Times foreign correspondent
Tuohy worked at The Times for nearly three decades, turning out award-winning stories from the field during the Vietnam War and later from posts around the globe.
William Tuohy, shown in 1965 in Vietnam, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for war reporting. "Few correspondents have seen and written more about the war in Vietnam than William Tuohy," the Pulitzer judges wrote.
Tuohy died Thursday morning after open heart surgery at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, said Adam Wheeler, Tuohy's stepson.
FOR THE RECORD:
Tuohy obituary: The obituary of former Los Angeles Times foreign correspondent William Tuohy in Section A on Jan. 1 did not include his siblings in the list of surviving family members. They are his brother, James S. Tuohy; his sisters, Lolita Tuohy and Julia Glab; and his stepbrother, William Littlejohn. —
During his 29 years at The Times, Tuohy served as bureau chief in Saigon, Beirut, Rome, Bonn and London. In that time, he covered wars and conflicts not only in Southeast Asia but the Middle East, Northern Ireland, Iran and the Falkland Islands, among other places.
When he was awarded his Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for international reporting for his coverage of the Vietnam War, Pulitzer judges noted that "few correspondents have seen and written more about the war in Vietnam than William Tuohy."
In 1970, while he was The Times' bureau chief in Beirut, he won an Overseas Press Club award for best reporting of foreign affairs.
Tuohy was Newsweek magazine's Saigon bureau chief in 1966 when he was hired to become The Times' bureau chief there.
"He was a great reporter, a wonderful writer, and he was steady on the ground. You could trust his judgment," said Bob Gibson, the former Times foreign editor who hired Tuohy.
In Vietnam, Gibson said, "he was out in the field a lot. He covered everything; he was a 360-degree reporter."
As a correspondent, Tuohy was known for being extremely adept at "hitting the ground running."
"He could arrive in some hellhole by plane in the early afternoon, assess the situation, talk to the right people and file a spot-on assessment within hours," said Jon Thurber, a Times managing editor who worked on the paper's foreign desk when Tuohy was overseas. "He just knew intuitively how to work under extremely high pressure."
Gibson remembers Tuohy, who retired from The Times in 1995, as being "an ebullient, charming fellow who, above all, [was] very courageous."
After Times correspondent Joe Alex Morris Jr. was killed in Tehran covering the 1979 Iranian revolution and the borders were sealed, Tuohy flew in a Times-chartered jet to the Revolutionary Guard-held airfield in Tehran to retrieve the body.
Getting into Iran, however, was a long shot.
"Nobody was getting in," Gibson said. "We were the only ones to get in. A high-ranking government official in Iran gave us permission to bring our airplane in to get the body."
When Tuohy's plane landed, it was surrounded by Revolutionary Guards. The coffin was loaded and the jet flew to Athens, where Morris was based.
"It was a long shot that it would work, but it did work," Gibson said. "It was so dramatic, the American Embassy people in Athens, after we accomplished it, told us they never expected us to succeed, and they congratulated us."
For Jonathan Randal, a former Washington Post foreign correspondent who was working for the New York Times when he first met Tuohy in Vietnam, Tuohy epitomized the romantic image of a foreign correspondent.