WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Arnaud de Borchgrave, legendary journalist and UPI editor at large, died Sunday in Washington. He was 88.
De Borchgrave was born in 1926 to Countess Audrey Dorothy Louise Townshend and Count Baudouin de Borchgrave d'Altena in Brussels. After fleeing the Nazi occupation of Belgium, he joined the Royal Navy at the age of 15 and was injured in the D-Day landings.
After the war, de Borchgrave joined the ranks of journalism, replacing Walter Cronkite in 1947 as Benelux editor for United Press in Brussels. His storied career continued at Newsweek, where for the better part of 25 years de Borchgrave covered every major international event and conflict of the Cold War.
De Borchgrave later led the Washington Times, UPI from 1991 to 2001, and joined the Center for Strategic and International Studies as senior advisor.
De Borchgrave befriended kings, presidents, generals and all manner of movers and shakers during his long career, but never risked his journalistic integrity. His political affiliation was well known -- de Borchgrave called Ronald Reagan his "personal hero" -- but he placed newsgathering above his personal safety and his ideological allegiance.
In a 1986 controversy between the federal government -- specifically, the Reagan administration's CIA -- and news media over published details of covert operations, de Borchgrave, in the face of potential prosecution, said he would publish anything in the public interest, "the CIA notwithstanding."
Stories of de Borchgrave's courage and cunning in getting to the story first would seem unbelievable were it not for their many and well-regarded witnesses. Many involve disguises, jungle treks, hardship and great personal risk.
All of his stories involved courage and an unrelenting passion to find and publish the truth.
Below are statements from some of de Borchgrave's collaborators at UPI:
The news media industry has lost a professional giant. Arnaud embodied professional and journalistic excellence, regardless of risk, difficulty or ideology.
-- Nicholas J. Chiaia, president of UPI
Working with Arnaud was always rewarding. I never read one of his articles or had a conversation with him in which I didn't learn something. A phone call from Arnaud was also a delight and his advice -- professional or personal -- was invaluable. For most people in Washington, name-dropping is a self-serving art form. But the people Arnaud would mention, and the list is a veritable "Who's Who in the World", came up because Arnaud knew them on a personal level and they were an important part of the story he was telling, not a mere mention for attention. Arnaud's professional career is the stuff of legend. The number of world events he witnessed, wars he chronicled and history-making developments he was part of is simply amazing. It's unlikely to ever be matched.
-- John Hendel, former UPI executive managing editor
I first met Arnaud when his wife Alexandra walked into the Soviet Embassy in Damascus, in 1973 (or 74). It was shortly after the October (Yom Kippur) War and Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko was meeting the US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.
We were all standing in a line waiting for Henry to arrive. Gromyko was already there. Alexandra de Borchgrave was working for my competitors and as she walked into the room she asked aloud if I was there. We had never met, but knew of each other. Someone pointed me out to her and she wedged herself in between me and the guy next to me.
I was standing directly in front of Gromyko. A few minutes later Kissinger walks in, shakes hands with his Soviet counterpart and sits down. Looks in front of him and spots Alexandra.
Kissinger stands up and comes over to Alexandra and grabs her hand in his two hands and in his deep accented voice says, "Hello Sandra, how is Arnaud these days? Please give Arnaud my best." Kissinger went on chatting for a good one to two minutes, leaving Gromyko stewing in his impatience.
Later that day Alexandra introduced me to Arnaud. He has been a real mentor, encouraging me when we worked together at UPI. It has been an honor and a privilege working with Arnaud.
-- Claude Salhani, former UPI managing editor
He was, I would argue, one of America's best, if not the best, columnist. His knowledge and understanding of foreign affairs and history, as well as his intimate involvement, were worth dozens of PhDs. His writing was brilliant, concise, often wicked in wit and prose and always on point. And his sense of humor was unmatched -- even the gallows part of it. He once joked with me that his tombstone would read: "I knew this would happen."