Colvin, John (Horace Ragnar) 1922-2003

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COLVIN, John (Horace Ragnar) 1922-2003

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born June 18, 1922, in Tokyo, Japan; died October 4, 2003, in London, England. Diplomat and author. Colvin led a fascinating life as a soldier, intelligence officer, and ambassador in Vietnam, Mongolia, and other foreign lands, later writing down some of his adventures in his memoirs. The son of a British naval attaché, he was born in Tokyo (interestingly, Japan mistakenly tried to draft him during World War II) and spent part of his early education at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. During the war, Colvin served with the navy in the Pacific theater, and in 1945 he found himself in Vietnam leading raids against the Japanese. After the war, he remained in Saigon for a time before spending three years at the London University School of Slavonic Studies and then proceeding to Yugoslavia as part of the Secret Intelligence Service. He spent the early 1950s in Oslo and Vienna before being named British High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur, a post he held from 1958 to 1961. With tensions building in the Far East, Colvin was next made Consul-General in Hanoi, Vietnam, from 1965 to 1967, and he was still in Vietnam when the United States escalated its bombings in 1970. The next year, with the political rift growing between the Soviet Union and China, Colvin found himself assigned as Ambassador to Mongolia, a country strategically wedged in between the two communist countries. He left Mongolia in 1974, worked for three years in Washington, DC, and spent the last years of his career in the 1980s as director of international relations at Chase Manhattan Bank. Colvin wrote about his remarkable years in Vietnam and Mongolia in his biography, Twice around the World: Some Memoirs of Diplomatic Life in North Vietnam and Outer Mongolia (1991). He was also the author of several histories, including Not Ordinary Men: The Story of the Battle of Kohima (1995), Giap: Volcano under Snow: Vietnam's General Giap, Victor at Dien Bien Phu and Mastermind of the Tet Offensive (1996), and Decisive Battles (2003).



Guardian (London, England), October 15, 2003, p. 29. Independent (London, England), October 16, 2003, p. 22.

Times (London, England), October 8, 2003.