Saturday, July 21, 2012

TFH 7/21: Major General William F. Dean, USA

William Frishe Dean, Sr. was born on August 1, 1899 in Carlyle, Illinois. While underage, he tried to enlist for service during World War I, but was denied permission by his parents. He attended the University of California at Berkeley, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant with the California Army National Guard in 1921. After graduating from Berkeley, he received a commission with the United States Army.

During World War II, he served in a variety of stateside headquarters positions until, as a Brigadier General, he was assigned as the Assistant Division Commander of the 44th Infantry Division in 1943. Dean was promoted to Major General later that year, and commanded the 44th Division when they landed in Normandy on September 15, 1944. He was the 44th's commander until the unit was disbanded at war's end. For his World War II service, he was decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army Distinguished Service Medal, and the Legion of Merit.

In 1950, Dean was posted as the commander of the 24th Infantry Division on occupation duty in Japan. With the outbreak of the Korean War, the understrength and ill-equipped 24th was sent to South Korea to fight a delaying action until more forces could arrive. Yesterday, I wrote about Sergeant George D. Libby, 24th Division Medal of Honor recipient for the Battle of Taejon.

During the same battle, General Dean refused to leave any member of his unit behind, even as they were being overrun. Generals aren't expected to fight at the front, but Dean did, and his indomitable fighting spirit was quite appropriately recognized with our Nation's highest award.

From Medal of Honor Citations for the Korean War:


Rank and organization: Major General, U.S. Army, commanding general, 24th Infantry Division. Place and date: Taejon, Korea, 20 and 21 July 1950. Entered service at: California. Born: 1 August 1899, Carlyle, Ill. G.O. No.: 7, 16 February 1951. Citation: Maj. Gen. Dean distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the repeated risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. In command of a unit suddenly relieved from occupation duties in Japan and as yet untried in combat, faced with a ruthless and determined enemy, highly trained and overwhelmingly superior in numbers, he felt it his duty to take action which to a man of his military experience and knowledge was clearly apt to result in his death. He personally and alone attacked an enemy tank while armed only with a hand grenade. He also directed the fire of his tanks from an exposed position with neither cover nor concealment while under observed artillery and small-arm fire. When the town of Taejon was finally overrun he refused to insure his own safety by leaving with the leading elements but remained behind organizing his retreating forces, directing stragglers, and was last seen assisting the wounded to a place of safety. These actions indicate that Maj. Gen. Dean felt it necessary to sustain the courage and resolution of his troops by examples of excessive gallantry committed always at the threatened portions of his frontlines. The magnificent response of his unit to this willing and cheerful sacrifice, made with full knowledge of its certain cost, is history. The success of this phase of the campaign is in large measure due to Maj. Gen. Dean's heroic leadership, courageous and loyal devotion to his men, and his complete disregard for personal safety.

General Dean did not know of his receipt of the Medal for three years, as the North Korean communists took him prisoner - but only after he evaded capture and tried to return to friendly lines for thirty-six days. After his capture, it was thought he was dead until he was interviewed by an Australian journalist in December, 1951.

Dean was repatriated to freedom after the Korean Armistice on September 4, 1953. He continued serving in the Army until his retirement on October 31, 1955.

Major General William F. Dean, Sr. - American hero - passed away at age 82 on August 24, 1981. He rests in peace in the San Francisco National Cemetery at the Presidio.

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