January 5, 2011 - 15:50 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Barry Zorthian, a U.S. diplomat who left his mark on U.S. policy in Vietnam as a forthright and often combative press spokesman in the early years of the Vietnam War, died at 90 in a Washington, D.C., hospital.
By his own reckoning, Zorthian was the last surviving member of the original cadre of U.S. diplomats and military leaders whose policy decisions shaped events in Vietnam.
Zorthian was dispatched to Saigon in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson to defuse an increasingly acrimonious relationship between U.S. officials and news correspondents covering the war. He used a mixture of charm, sly wit and uncommonly straight talk in trying to establish credibility for the U.S. effort.
In the first U.S. war without formal censorship, Zorthian had no way to prevent unauthorized disclosures or stifle criticism, but he refused to be intimidated by officials or the news media.
Zorthian was born Oct. 8, 1920, to Armenian parents in Kutahya, Turkey. The family later immigrated to the U.S. Zorthian graduated from Yale University in 1941 and served as a Marine Corps artillery officer in the Pacific. He also had a law degree from New York University.
After working for CBS Radio, Zorthian spent 13 years with the Voice of America. He then did tours as a Foreign Service officer in India and Vietnam.
In addition to his son Greg, Zorthian is survived by a son, Steve, and two grandchildren, latimes.com reported.