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Obituaries : D. Schoenbrun; Francophile, World War II Correspondent

May 25, 1988|BURT A. FOLKART | Times Staff Writer

David Schoenbrun, a World War II correspondent recruited for CBS News by Edward R. Murrow who as an author became one of the world's best-known Francophiles, has died at age 73.

Schoenbrun, the only journalist to broadcast from Vietnam when he described the French debacle at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, suffered a heart attack Monday and died in a New York City hospital.

Schoenbrun, who had a history of heart illness, suffered the attack after prostate surgery.

Author of several best-selling books, Schoenbrun left CBS in 1964 in a policy dispute and most recently had been a news analyst for Independent Network News.

'True Original'

"David Schoenbrun was one of broadcasting's true originals," said Howard Stringer, president of CBS News. "His access to the great news makers of Europe was extraordinary, and his understanding of foreign affairs remarkable. He will be long remembered by colleagues and audiences alike."

Said CBS-TV anchor Dan Rather: "This was not just another guy in the business. He was one of the original Murrow men; absolutely fantastic war reporting record. What he did, nobody did it better."

Schoenbrun, a native of New York City, was one of the first commentators of Voice of America in the early 1940s. He had gone to Europe in 1941 with the War Information Office as editor of the Western European desk.

He joined the Army in 1943, was assigned to Military Intelligence and covered the invasion of southern France in 1944. He also accompanied the First French Army during the taking of Vienna and earned both the French Croix de Guerre and the Legion d'Honneur.

Schoenbrun, who once taught high school French, was introduced to Murrow by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower in Algiers at the end of the war.

Murrow hired Schoenbrun as Paris correspondent. He was Paris bureau chief from 1947 until 1961, and thanks to his fluent French became close personally with Charles de Gaulle who gave him one of the first interviews De Gaulle granted after becoming French president.

He was the only American correspondent inside the French garrison at the historic 1954 battle of Dien Bien Phu won by North Vietnam and the first broadcast journalist to report from North Vietnam.

Friendship With De Gaulle

In his 1984 book, "America Inside Out: At Home and Abroad from Roosevelt to Reagan," Schoenbrun told of his lifelong friendships with such men as De Gaulle and De Gaulle's counterpart in North Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, whom he met in Paris in 1946.

Schoenbrun wrote that he tried unsuccessfully to make America aware of the reality that only the Communists could truly win in Vietnam after the French colonial failure.

"To my everlasting sorrow," he said, "I would see my own beloved United States step into the same jungle traps as the elephant of France, making the same mistakes with the same results."

His other books included "The Three Lives of Charles de Gaulle," "Soldiers of the Night: The Story of the French Resistance," "Triumph in Paris: The Exploits of Benjamin Franklin" and "As France Goes," which became a best-seller and earned an Overseas Press Club Award in 1957.

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