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T.D. Allman, Assertive Globe-Trotting Journalist, Dies at 79

T.D. Allman, a free-spirited journalist who challenged American mythmaking in pointed, personal reporting over five decades on topics as varied as the Vietnam War and contemporary Florida, died on May 12 in Manhattan. He was 79.

His death, in a hospital, was caused by pneumonia, his partner, Chengzhong Sui, said.

In March 1970, as a 25-year-old freelance journalist, Mr. Allman, accompanied by two other reporters, walked 15 miles over the mountains in Laos to report for The New York Times about Long Cheng, a secret C.I.A. base that was being used to fight the communist Pathet Lao revolutionaries and their allies, the North Vietnamese.

“At the end of the paved runway were three Jolly Green Giant rescue helicopters,” Mr. Allman reported. “Their presence is believed to be one of the reasons the United States tries to keep Long Cheng secret. The Jolly Green Giants are regarded as proof that the United States bombs not just the Ho Chi Minh Trail but northeastern Laos as well.”

Those words were typical of a style in which Mr. Allman, in colorful reporting from all over the globe — for Harper’s, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Esquire, National Geographic and other publications — combined close observation with sharp conclusions that often pointed the finger at U.S. misdeeds or at others abusing power.

His career took off after he made specialties of reporting in Laos and Cambodia toward the end of the Vietnam War, stringing for The Times and The Washington Post from the war’s peripheries and reporting on American bombing raids that killed peasants and destroyed rice paddies but that had no military import.