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Military Hero Wise Dies at 80

May 22, 1998

LONDON (AP) _ Donald Wise, a World War II military hero who became one of the most respected foreign correspondents of his generation, died Thursday in eastern England. He was 80.

``He went peacefully in his sleep,″ said his wife, Daphne. Wise had been suffering from cancer.

After a distinguished career in the British army, Wise switched to journalism, winning the admiration of fellow correspondents in trouble spots around the world for his coolness under fire and brilliant dispatches.

Tall, lean and possessed of a bristling mustache, Wise made an impact with soldiers, journalists and women alike _ charming all with his trenchant wit and gift for storytelling.

``Elegance was Donald’s middle name,″ said Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Bill Tuohy. ``He had courage, talent and a zest for showing all of us how to report and live.″

Derek Davies, former editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review, called Wise ``the David Niven of journalism,″ referring to the late movie star.

``He had a similar wit, was similarly successful with women, and bore an uncanny resemblance to the actor.″

Born near London, Wise studied French at Oxford and joined the Suffolk Regiment when World War II broke out. As a captain, he led his troops in the defense of Singapore and was wounded and captured. He was then forced to work as a slave laborer by the Japanese in building the Bridge on the River Kwai.

After liberation he re-enlisted in the Parachute Regiment as an officer and saw action in Palestine, now Israel, where he commanded British troops fighting the Jewish underground; and Malaya, now Malaysia, where the British successfully defeated the ethnic Chinese insurgency.

Before World War II, Wise had worked briefly in London for The Daily Mirror. In 1950, he decided to return to journalism and soon made his name working for newspapers again when the Mirror’s famed editor Hugh Cudlipp hired him as a roving war correspondent. Cudlipp died Sunday at the age of 84.

In Zaire, now Congo, Wise quickly became one of the best British reporters. He also covered wars in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, including Vietnam.

Horst Faas, The Associated Press’ Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who first met Wise in Congo, called him ``one of the fairest and best reporters of his generation.″

``He was the correspondent the whole press corps watched because wherever he went the story would become front-page news,″ Faas said.

Wise retired in 1989, and then traveled between Hong Kong, England and Vence, France.

He is survived by Daphne, his fifth wife, and three children from his third marriage: Susan of Somerset West, South Africa; Gillian Handley of Sydney, Australia; David of South Africa; and a granddaughter, Felicity. He will be cremated on May 29 at Ipswich Crematorium and a memorial service will be held at a later date.

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