Jack Foisie, a longtime foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times best known for his tough-minded reporting on the Vietnam War, died Thursday. He was 82.
In failing health for some time, Foisie died at his home in Wilmette, Ill.
The Foisie family was a force in American journalism for much of the 1960s, '70s and '80s, either writing the news, editing the dispatches or appearing in the stories themselves. Foisie's brother, Philip, was foreign editor of the Washington Post and later editor of the International Herald Tribune. Their sister Virginia was married to Secretary of State Dean Rusk.
Born into a middle-class family in Seattle, Foisie attended UC Berkeley and the University of Washington before getting his first newspaper job as a sports reporter at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a post he held for a year before joining the Seattle Times.
He moved to San Francisco in 1940 for a job at the Chronicle, but when World War II broke out Foisie joined the Army. He was a combat soldier in the 1st Armored Division and served in the North Africa campaign. By 1943, he had transferred to Stars and Stripes and was reporting on the war as a combat correspondent in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for accompanying Allied troops in the invasion of Sicily.
After the war, Foisie returned to the Chronicle, eventually covering the Korean War. In 1962, he traveled to Vietnam on assignment for the Chronicle. Two years later, Foisie was hired by The Times as bureau chief in Saigon.
Foisie's distinguished 20-year career with The Times would eventually include assignments in the Middle East and Africa, but he was best remembered for his war correspondence from Asia.
Robert W. Gibson, the now-retired Times foreign editor who hired Foisie, knew him from their days covering the Korean War.
"He was a legend among war correspondents," Gibson said, "And not just for Korea. His World War II dispatches were well known, too. All the civilians knew about Ernie Pyle, but the guys in the Army knew Foisie."
When Foisie opened The Times' bureau in Saigon in 1964, he immediately began filing first-rate copy, Gibson said. The key to Foisie's success was a strong work ethnic and the fact that he was grounded, centered and savvy to the ways of politicians and war.
"[He] was fiercely independent in his thinking on Vietnam and everything else," Gibson said. "It made him a marvelous reporter. He was never in anyone's pocket, not even the U.S. government's, even though his sister was married to Dean Rusk."
"His reporting was his strong suit," Gibson added. "He never took hearsay. If someone said the village was being shelled, he would want to go and see it himself. He wouldn't report it until he saw it."
Foisie's independent streak occasionally got him in trouble with the U.S. military in Southeast Asia.
In 1966, the year he won the Overseas Press Club Award for international reporting, his accreditation to work in Vietnam was lifted for 30 days by the U.S. military command after officials said he broke an embargo and filed a report on a Marine landing in Quang Ngai province. That despite the fact that Foisie withheld the dispatch for 36 hours after the operation and excluded any sensitive information on where the landing took place or the units involved from his report.
Four years later, as Bangkok bureau chief, he was still contrasting stated U.S. policy with actual occurrences. He reported that U.S. troops were still active in Cambodia several days after President Nixon's June 30 deadline for an end to all U.S. ground operations there.
David Lamb, a longtime foreign correspondent for The Times, remembered his compact, wiry colleague as "gracious and kind," a mentor both to correspondents in the field and to reporters back home who had never heard the sounds of combat.
"People called him Gentleman Jack and Jungle Jack," Lamb said, "and while that seemed a contradiction it really wasn't because it described him perfectly."
"He was soft-spoken and a gentleman but was best working off the beaten track, picking up information in the field, mixing with average people."
"He was the best of the old school journalists," Lamb said.
After retiring from The Times in 1984, Foisie lived on his family's 29-acre tree farm in Monmouth, Ore., from which he made occasional forays on reporting assignments.
He lectured widely on foreign affairs, and his commentary appeared in a number of newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, after a seven-month assignment to Johannesburg for the Portland Oregonian in 1990.
He and his wife moved to Illinois to live closer to his family three years ago.
He is survived by his wife, Florence McTighe "Micki" Foisie. They were married in April 1944.
He also leaves three children: Kathleen of Richmond, Va., Frank of San Francisco and Patricia Foisie Schiff of Winnetka, Ill. He is also survived by his brother Keith of Richmond, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A funeral service for Foisie will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Weinstein Family Services Wilmette Chapel, 111 Skokie Blvd., Wilmette, Ill.