The Associated Press
FILE - In this Jan. 1, 1966 file photo, AP special correspondent George Esper poses with a Vietnamese boy in Quang Ngai Province, south of Da Nang. Esper, the tenacious Associated Press correspondent who refused to leave his post in the last days of the Vietnam War, remaining behind to cover the fall of Saigon, has died. He was 79. Esper died in his sleep on Thursday night, his son, Thomas, told the AP on Friday, Feb. 3, 2012. (AP Photo, file)

HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam has extended its condolences for late Associated Press correspondent George Esper, who covered both war and peace in the country he came to love.

The Foreign Ministry delivered a letter to the AP's Hanoi bureau Monday remembering a "kind and caring gentleman and friend" whose "professionalism and tenacity impressed us very much."

Esper died Thursday in Massachusetts after a long illness. He had retired from AP in 2000 after 42 years.

He reported on the Vietnam War for 10 years from the former U.S.-backed Saigon and refused to leave when it fell to the northern communists on April 30, 1975. He returned in 1993 to open the AP's first postwar bureau in Hanoi and maintained close ties with many Vietnamese after leaving.