George Esper, the tenacious Associated Press correspondent who refused to leave his post in the last days of the Vietnam War, remaining behind to cover the fall of Saigon, has died. He was 79.
Mr. Esper died in his sleep on Thursday night, his son, Thomas, said. Mr. Esper suffered from a number of ailments, especially serious heart issues, and less than two weeks ago was released from a rehab center in Braintree, where he had been sent after his latest treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Mr. Esper wrote his most memorable story on April 30, 1975, the day the war ended with the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese. He and two other AP reporters declined to join the frantic evacuation of foreigners from Saigon as the North Vietnamese army drove toward the city.
Two North Vietnamese soldiers entered the bureau, accompanied by a longtime free-lance photographer for the AP who on that day revealed that he had been a communist spy. He assured the reporters they were safe. Mr. Esper offered them Coca-Cola and stale cake – the only food on hand – then interviewed the soldiers. Hours later, AP’s communications were abruptly cut, but not before the story got out. The New York Times ran it on its front page.