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General William F. Dean

His life should destroy the common stereotype of the arrogant political American General.  Dean embodied the more representative high standards of the American soldier, from private to general.

General William F. Dean 44th Infantry Division 1944
In 1944, William Dean received the assignment as Assistant Division Commander of the 44th Infantry Division, which was preparing to deploy to Europe. Dean very nearly did not make the trip. During training, a Lieutenant was engulfed in flames due to a malfunctioning flamethrower. General Dean personally attempted to rescue him and suffered severe burns on one leg.  The prognosis, the leg would have to be amputated. While the need for amputation abated, the General used a cane until the leg was able to completely heal after the war.

In Europe, Dean demonstrated his talent as a combat leader. In December 1944, he was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross after personally leading an infantry platoon through an artillery barrage to annihilate enemy positions.

Dean was promoted to command the 44th that December.  When the war ended, the 44th held the distinction of having less than forty of its soldiers taken prisoner, an impressive number for a division that set the record for days in active combat.  Dean was proud of this fact, later stating that “to say Kamerad was one of the most degrading things that could happen to a soldier.”

William F. Dean went on to serve as one of the true heroes during the early disasters of the Korean War. He led his troops bravely in the face of overwhelming odds He again led by example.  After surrounded and overwhelmed by superior Korean forces and ‘there was no more generaling to do.’ Dean led a small tank hunter unit and destroying three enemy T-34 tanks.

Once captured by the North Koreans, he survived three years of captivity and resisted numerous attempts to force him into false confessions and propaganda statements.  As the highest ranking U.S. prisoner of the war, he was subjected to long and brutal interrogations. On one occasion, one of his North Korean interrogators threatened to cut his tongue out. Dean replied that would have been fine, since then he would have been unable make propaganda broadcasts supporting the enemy

On  January 9, 1951, while still listed as missing in action, Dean was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Truman for his gallantry in action at Taejon Korea.  After the war, upon learning that he had been awarded the Medal of Honor, Dean stated that “I’m no hero. Anybody dumb enough to get captured doesn’t deserve to be a hero.”


Source: MG William F. Dean, General Dean’s Story; Clay Blair, The Forgotten War: America in Korea,General James Muir 44th Infantry


General James Muir, 1st Commanding Officer of the 44th from 1941- 1944

Letter to the 44th from William F. Dean, Major General, U.S. Army, Commanding  May 9, 1945


"Now that the close of the European phase of the greatest war of all times finds you as conquerors in these mountains in the heart of Europe is ample proof of your abilities as fighting men.  It is appropriate, as we pause in the square of this Tyrolean town, briefly to review your accomplishments which have brought you here.

On 15 September 1944, you landed at Cherbourg, France. On 24 October 1944, your division as a whole was committed east of Luneville, France, where you received your first baptism of fire. You jumped off on 13 November 1944, at Embermenil, France. You spearheaded the breath through of the XV Corps to the Rhine River, fighting in midwinter through the Vosges Mountains. A unit of your division comprised the first U.S. troops to reach the Rhine.

 Beginning the night of 23-24 November, 1944, you halted the savage attack of the crack 130th Panzer Lehr Div., which threatened the flank of the XVth Corps. Advancing steadily to the North, despite the enemy's obstinate resistance, you breached the Maginot Line and reduced the never-before-reduced fortress of Simserhof in the Ensemble de Bitche. Poised there on the threshold of Germany, you were called to relieve two divisions in the vicinity of Sarreguemines, that they might be employed into he counteroffensive in the Forest of Ardennes.

From 1-10 January 1945, you successfully held your sector against the all-out attack of 3 German divisions including the elite 17 SS Panzer Grenadier Div. Had that attack attained its objective, it would have cut off the U.S. Forces and those of our French allies in the Vosges and Hardt Mountains, and on the Plain of Alsace. This sector you continued to hold until 15 March 1945, when other divisions of XV Corps passed through you to the final assault upon Germany. You then passed in to a brief, well-earned rest in Seventh Army reserve, after 144 days of continuous commitment.

On 27 March 1945, you crossed the Rhine River and, after two days fighting, on the 29 March 1945, captured the important city of Mannheim, and opened the way for the subsequent of Heidelberg.

In the sweep of the U.S. Armies through the forests and mountains of Germany you drove fast and hard, giving the enemy never an opportunity to recover his balance. Reaching the Danube River with the 10th Armored Division, you captured the ancient city of Ulm on 25 April 1945. Driving on, up and across highlands of Bavaria, destroying the enemy before you, you swept into the Alps of Austrian Tyrol.

In your 203 days of combat, you have captured alone more than 44,000 prisoners of war, roughly equal to a force three times the size of your division. How many additional enemies you have destroyed, you will never know. Victory in Europe finds you here, among the mountains. The was is not yet won, nor is the peace. You now stand poised in the mountains, victorious soldiers, awaiting the next call of duty to your country.

Soldiers of the 44th Inf. Div., I congratulate you."

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