Watson Sims, foreign correspondent, editor, and veteran

RALEIGH, N.C. — Watson Sims, who won a Silver Star for helping rescue General Douglas MacArthur during World War II and went on to become a foreign correspondent and World Services editor for the Associated Press, died Friday. He was 90.

Mr. Sims died at a hospice care center in Asheville, said his son, Win Word-Sims. He had been in declining health and died of pneumonia.

Mr. Sims worked for the AP for 25 years, leaving in 1971 to be editor of the Battle Creek Enquirer in Michigan. He also edited The New Brunswick Home News in New Jersey.


He later directed media studies for The George H. Gallup International Institute in the United States and Eastern Europe.

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Mr. Sims was proudest, however, of his work as a committee chair for the American Society of Newspaper Editors, where he helped American journalists working in the Soviet bloc countries, Word-Sims said Friday.

‘‘I think he thought that was probably helpful in contributing to the end of the Cold War,’’ he said. ‘‘It was a tiny piece of the larger puzzle, but he thought he had done something useful there.’’

In 2008, Mr. Sims talked with an AP archivist about World War II and his journalism career. His story is peppered with mentions of the Hindenburg, the Dalai Lama, and the Rosenbergs.

His description of World War II, when he was a radioman in the Navy, is breathtaking in its nonchalant explanation of the actions that got him a Silver Star and Bronze Star.


He was on PT 32, one of four PT boats whose crews evacuated MacArthur from Corregidor in the Philippines to Mindanao and eventually to Australia.

‘‘We had all kinds of engine trouble and were eventually abandoned and left behind by the other boats,’’ Mr. Sims told AP archivist Valerie Komor. ‘‘We were left behind, on our own, and the Philippines were collapsing. There was no hope.’’

But the USS Permit, a submarine, rescued them and took them to Australia, he said.

When they evacuated the general, MacArthur told the squadron leader: ‘‘You have delivered me from the jaws of death, and I am awarding a Silver Star to you and every one of your men.’’

The Bronze Star was later added, Mr. Sims said.


In 1943, he was reassigned to the Torpedo Boat Training Center in Melville, R.I., where he became editor of the paper, the start of his journalism career. He began working for the AP in 1947 in Nashville, where he was a night editor.

He left the AP for a year for a Nieman fellowship at Harvard University, then returned to a career that took him through New York and overseas. As bureau chief in India, he planned the coverage of Dalai Lama’s release in 1959, including a tale of competition with competing wire service United Press to get out the first photos.

He returned to the AP in New York in 1961 to be World Services editor, responsible for its world operations overseas. He left the AP in 1971.

Besides his son, he leaves his wife, Elisabeth, and a daughter, Holly, of Albany, N.Y. A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday at Deerfield Chapel in the retirement community where Mr. Sims lived.