By his own account, Browne survived being shot down three times in combat aircraft, was expelled from half a dozen countries and was put on a “death list” in Saigon.
In 1964, Browne, then an AP correspondent, and rival Times journalist David Halberstam both won Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting on the conflict in Vietnam. The war had escalated because of the Nov. 1, 1963, coup d’etat in which Diem was killed.
The plot — by a cabal of generals acting with tacit U.S. approval — was triggered in part by earlier Buddhist protests against the pro-Catholic Diem regime. These drew worldwide attention when the monk set himself afire in protest as about 500 people watched.
One of Browne’s burning monk photos became one of the first iconic news photos of the Vietnam War.
“Malcolm Browne was a precise and determined journalist who helped set the standard for rigorous reporting in the early days of the Vietnam War,” said Kathleen Carroll, AP executive editor and senior vice president. “He was also a genuinely decent and classy man.”
Former AP reporter Peter Arnett, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his work in Vietnam, said in an email: “Malcolm Browne’s personal bravery, his intellectual brilliance and uncompromising dedication to the truth set the high standard of AP reporting from Vietnam in the critical years early years of the war. He gave unselfish encouragement to the many young journalists arriving to cover their first war. His example was inspirational to me in the four years I worked with him in the Saigon bureau, and I valued him as a mentor for the rest of my career.”
Hal Buell, who was a deputy photo editor in New York City when the photo of the burning monk was taken, said, “That picture put the Vietnam War on the front page more than anything else that happened before that. That’s where the story stayed for the next 10 years or more.”