Rank: Major General, Commanding General,
24th Infantry Division.
Place and date: Tejon, Korea, 20 and 21
Authority: Department of the Army General
Order No.: 7, 16 February 1951
Major General 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
Tejon 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 front lines.
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 Major General Dean's heroic leadership, courageous and
loyal devotion to his men, and his complete disregard for personal
by Butch Dixon
Born on August
1, 1899, in Carlyle, Illinois, Dean graduated from the University
of California at Berkeley in 1922. Commissioned as a Second Lieutenant
in the California National Guard in 1921, he was tendered a Regular
Army commission on October 18, 1923. Promoted to Brigadier General
in 1942 and then to major general in 1943, Dean served first
as assistant division commander and later as division commander
of the 44th Infantry Division.
In 1944 while serving in southern Germany
and Austria, his troops captured 30,000 prisoners and helped
force the surrender of the German 19th Army. There he won the
Distinguished Service Cross for bravery.
In October 1947, he became the military
governor of South Korea. He took command of the Seventh Infantry
Division in 1948 and moved it from Korea to Japan. After serving
as Eighth U.S. Army chief of staff, he took command of the 24th
Infantry Division, and then headquartered at Kokura on the southern
Japanese island of Kyushu, in October 1949.
When the Korean War began in June 1950,
the 24th Infantry Division was the first American ground combat
unit to be committed. General Dean arrived in Korea on July 3,
1950. He established his headquarters at Taejon
His orders were to fight a delaying action
against the advancing North Korean People's Army. Although he
planned to withdraw from Teajon, he was asked by General Walton
H. Walker, the Eighth U.S. Army Commander, to hold that city
until July 20,1950, in order to buy time necessary for deploying
other American units from Japan. His regiments had been, decimated
in earlier fighting, and Dean personally led tank killer teams
armed with the newly arrived 3.5-inch rocket launchers to destroy
the attacking North Korean T-34 tanks. He gained acclaim by such
exploits as attacking and destroying an enemy tank armed with
only a hand grenade and handgun.
The T34 Tank knocked out by General Dean
in the battle of Tajon, July, 1950 it was still there in 1977
as a memorial to General Dean and the twenty five day battle
On July 20, as his division fell back
from Taejon, General Dean became separated from his men. He hid
alone in the woods around the countryside during the day and
traveled at night for over a month. On August 25,1950 after a
hand to hand struggle with fifteen North Koreans he was captured,
and remained a POW with the North Koreans until his release on
September 4, 1953.
In 1951 Congress voted General Dean the
Medal of Honor for his actions during the defense of Tajon. The
Medal was received from President Truman, on January 9,1951 by
his wife Mildred Dean, son William Dean Jr. and daughter Marjorie
June Dean. General Dean was still reported missing in action
General Dean had no contact with the outside
world until he was interviewed on December 18, 1951 by an Australian,
Wilfred Burchett who was a correspondent for Le Soir,
a French left-wing newspaper. This was the first time that anyone
had any idea General Dean was alive since being reported missing
General Dean, the highest ranking prisoner
of war in the conflict, later he tried to commit suicide during
his confinement because he feared "he might squeal when
they started to drive splinters under my fingernails."
He was given a hero's welcome upon his
return to the United States in 1953 and showered with military
and civilian honors. General Dean however, insisted he was no
hero but "just a dogface soldier."
Three months after his return from Korea
General Dean was assigned as the Deputy Commanding General of
the Sixth U.S. Army at the Presidio of San Francisco in California.
When he retired from active duty on October 31,1955, he was awarded
the Combat Infantryman Badge for his front line service in World
War I I and Korea, an award he particularly cherished.
"If the story of my Korean experience
is worth telling, the value lies in its oddity, not in anything
brilliant or heroic.
There were heroes in Korea, but I was
not one of them. There were brilliant commanders, but I was a
general captured because he took a wrong road. I am an Infantry
officer and presumably was fitted for my fighting job.
I don't want to alibi that job, but
a couple of things about it should be made clear. In the fighting
I made some mistakes and I've kicked myself a thousand times
for them. I lost ground I should not have lost. I lost trained
officers and fine men. I'm not proud of that record, and I'm
under no delusions that my weeks of command constituted any masterly
No man honestly can be ashamed of the
Medal of Honor. For it and for the welcome given to me here at
home in 1953, 1 am humbly grateful. But I come close to shame
when I think about the men who did better jobs some who died
doing them and did not get recognition. I wouldn't have awarded
myself a wooden star for what I did as a commander.
Later, as fugitive and prisoner, I did
things mildly out of the ordinary only at those times when I
was excited and not thinking entirely straight; and the only
thing I did which mattered to my family and perhaps a few others
was to stay alive. Other prisoners resisted torture, but I wasn't
tortured. Others hid in the hills and finally escaped, but I
failed in my escape attempts. Others bluffed the Communists steadily,
whereas I was lucky enough to do it only once in a while.
Others starved, but I was fed and even
learned to like Kimchee. Others died for a principle, but I failed
in a suicide attempt.
My life was an adventure, I did see
the face of the enemy close up. I did have time to study his
weaknesses and his remarkable strengths, not on the battlefield
but far behind his lines. I saw communism working with men and
women of high education or none, great intelligence or little
and it was a frightening thing.
I ought to know. I swatted 40,671 flies
in three years and counted every carcass. There were periods
when I was batting .850 and deserved to make the big leagues.
General Dean died on August 25, 1981. General
William F. Dean is buried at the Presido of San Francisco along
with his wife
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