Peter Grose, Veteran Foreign Correspondent, Dies at 88

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Peter Grose, one of the last of a generation of foreign correspondents who cut their teeth covering the Vietnam War — an experience that he drew on later for assignments in Moscow and Jerusalem, and later still as the author of several well-received books about American history, died on Dec. 31 in Minneapolis. He was 88.

His daughter Kim Grose Moore said the cause of death, at an assisted-living home, was complications of a stroke.

Mr. Grose was the archetypal foreign correspondent: cosmopolitan, educated, able to write with sweep about world events or to zero in on the telling detail. He served in Paris, Saigon (today Ho Chi Minh City), Moscow and Washington, and was later the executive editor of Foreign Affairs, the august flagship journal of the Council on Foreign Relations.

“He was quiet, calm and judicious, very much in the old-fashioned New York Times style,” Max Frankel, a former Times executive editor, said in a phone interview.

Mr. Grose’s insights were on display in books like “Israel in the Mind of America” (1983), a broad-ranging look at how the idea of a Jewish homeland resonated through American history, and “Gentleman Spy: The Life of Allen Dulles” (1994), a widely respected biography of the dashing director of the C.I.A. under President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Mr. Grose’s widely respected biography of Allen Dulles, the dashing director of the C.I.A. under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, was published in 1994.Credit…Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

“With ‘Gentleman Spy,’ Peter Grose has produced a superb biography, full of surprises and all sorts of new information,” the journalist David Wise wrote in a review for The Times. “Mr. Grose makes the spies who march through these pages come alive.”

His journalism bespoke an eye for the offbeat: In Paris, where he started working for The Times in 1963, he covered a lawsuit brought by a French literary society against the release of a slimmer, happier edition of Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” (spoiler: Jean Valjean lives). In 1969, in Washington, he observed a White House briefing on the use of psychedelic drugs by American youth, complete with an achingly unhip film used by the Pentagon for training recruits.

“There were recordings of rock tunes, with the lyrics flashed onto a movie screen so that the largely middle-age audience could follow what the young people were singing,” he deadpanned.

Like his Times colleagues David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan, Mr. Grose arrived in Vietnam with an open mind. But he almost immediately recognized the insanity of the American military mission in the region.

He spent two years in Saigon, and as he left, in the spring of 1965, he filed a serious of scathing news analyses that put paid to the optimistic accounts about the war coming from the U.S. government.

A major bombing campaign called Rolling Thunder was underway, with generals insisting they could win from the air. But it all struck Mr. Grose as a failure in the making.

“The danger in the new situation is that while the United States might ‘win’ in the new war,” he wrote, “it may find itself ultimately defeated in its original purpose: defending South Vietnam against Communist domination.”

Peter Bolton Grose was born on Oct. 27, 1934, in Evanston, Ill. His father, Clyde, was a professor of history at Northwestern University, and his mother, Carolyn (Trowbridge) Grose, was a homemaker.

Peter’s father died in 1942, after which the family moved to Tucson, Ariz. During his teenage years they lived in Europe, and he attended schools in Vienna and in Avignon, France. They returned to Arizona, but he spent his senior year in Washington, working as a page on Capitol Hill.

He studied history at Yale and graduated in 1957. He then spent two years at Oxford, where he studied politics, philosophy and economics and received a master’s degree in 1959.

His first job in journalism was with The Associated Press, which sent him to cover the Congo as it prepared to achieve independence from Belgium. He stayed almost three years before joining The Times in Paris.

He married Claudia Kerr in 1965. She died in 2021. Along with his daughter Kim, he is survived by another daughter, Carolyn Grose, and three grandchildren.

After Vietnam, Mr. Grose worked for The Times as bureau chief in Moscow, a diplomatic correspondent in Washington, bureau chief in Jerusalem, a member of the editorial board and, finally, United Nations bureau chief.

He left the newspaper in 1977 to serve in the Carter administration as deputy director of policy planning at the State Department, working closely with Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance. He then worked for the Middle East Institute, a Washington think tank, and the Seven Springs Center, a private research institution, before joining the Council on Foreign Relations, where he worked as managing and executive editor of Foreign Affairs.


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