Longtime Tokyo-based Star and Stripes reporter Hal Drake dies in Australia at age 83

CANBERRA, Australia - Harold A. Drake, whose diverse reporting career included the Vietnam War and interviews with global entertainers for Pacific Stars and Stripes, has died in Australia. He was 83 and had cancer.

His widow Kaz Drake said Wednesday she was by her husband's side when he died peacefully on Sunday in Gold Coast Hospital.

For almost 40 years, Hal Drake reported a range of Asian stories from his Tokyo base until his retirement in 1995.

"Stars and Stripes has lost a true legend," former colleague Gerry Galipault told the U.S. military newspaper.

"He managed to find the human element in everything he wrote," former Pacific Stars and Stripes news editor Ron Rhodes told the newspaper. "And he was always a gentleman in the process."

Drake spoke of the dangers he faced covering the Vietnam War. He returned in 1985 to cover the 10th anniversary of the war's end and flew to the Philippines in 1973 to greet returning prisoners of war released by the Vietnamese.

His interview subjects included Roman Catholic nun Mother Teresa, rock star Rod Stewart and Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor.

Drake retired with his wife to the tourist resort city of Gold Coast in Queensland state. He is also survived by two sons who live in California.

Born in Santa Monica, Calif., Drake said he was unhappy to be drafted into the army in 1951 to fight in the Korean War.

He said in a video interview late in life that he became fascinated with Japan while on leave there during his war service.

"There was just something about Japan I had to see again," he said.

He returned to the States after the war and was working at the Los Angeles Mirror newspaper in 1956 when he saw a Tokyo-based job advertised with Stars and Stripes. He joined the staff that year.

He described the Far East as "my side of the world."