- Lowell Silverman
William H. Dean, Jr. (1913–1944)
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William H. Dean, Jr. (1913–1944)
Early Life and Family William Homewood Dean, Jr. was born in Newark, Delaware on December 9, 1913. He was the son of William H. Dean, Sr. (1881–1950) and Maybelle M. Dean (née Press, 1881–1966). His great-great-grandfather Joseph Dean (1784–1861) founded the Dean Woolen Mills, one of the town's largest employers; his great-grandfather William Dean (1820–1887) ran the mill until it was destroyed by fire on Christmas Day, 1886. William H. Dean, Jr. volunteered for the U.S. Army on October 14, 1933 and served in the 51st Signal Battalion at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. According to a summary of his career in General Order No. 58 (Headquarters Fort Monmouth dated May 19, 1959), Dean “pursued and competed three courses at The Signal School: the Morse Telegraph Operators Course, completed 2 March 1934; Lineman’s Course, completed 21 May 1934 and another Lineman’s Course in the Battalion School which he completed 30 April 1935. Promoted to Private First Class, Regular Army, 29 July 1935, and to Corporal, 26 March 1936, he participated in the First and Second Army Maneuvers held in 1935 and 1936 respectively. Corporal Dean was very well qualified in open wire pole line construction and aerial cable construction. He exhibited qualities of leadership and initiative, was hardworking, loyal, honest, and intelligent. With a colorful style of play and an impressive athletic record in basketball, football, baseball, and track, Corporal Dean won the Outstanding Soldier-Athlete Trophy at Fort Monmouth in 1934.” Due to his athleticism and last name, he was nicknamed “Dizzy Dean,” after the famous baseball player. Corporal Dean was honorably discharged on October 13, 1936. He reenlisted for a second stint on November 2, 1936 and was honorably discharged again on May 12, 1937. A December 31, 1944 article in the Asbury Park Sunday Press stated added that after his discharge in 1937, Dean “was employed at one time by the Fischer Baking company and later as a guard at the state penitentiary, Trenton.” When Dean registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, he was described as standing 6 feet, 1½ inches tall and weighing 180 lbs., with blond hair and blue eyes. Dean married Laura Kellers (1913–1995) in New Jersey in 1939. The couple had one daughter. World War II Dean’s enlistment data and State of Delaware Individual Military Service Record (filled out by a member of his family, likely his wife, after the war) stated that he rejoined the U.S. Army in Camden, New Jersey on August 11, 1943. An article in the Asbury Park Evening Press gave his reenlistment date as September 1, 1943. (This may be a discrepancy between induction and when he went on active duty.) Dean reentered the service as a private but advanced rapidly. He was promoted to private first class on November 6, 1943. By December 23, 1943 (the day he was promoted to technician 5th grade, equivalent to his old grade of corporal), he was a lineman, telephone & telegraph in Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 255th Infantry Regiment, 63rd Infantry Division at Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi. By February 25, 1944, Technician 5th Grade Dean had transferred to Communications Platoon, Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 330th Infantry Regiment, 83rd Infantry Division at Camp Breckinridge , Kentucky. He shipped out from the New York Port of Embarkation on April 6, 1944, arriving in England ten days later. On the afternoon of June 20, 1944, Headquarters Company boarded a ship at Southampton. However, the ship didn’t depart until 0500 hours on the morning of June 23, 1944. Their ship arrived at Utah Beach at 1500 hours; the unit disembarked around 2300 hours that night. Dean distinguished himself during the Battle of Normandy, earning the Bronze Star Medal. The citation (dated September 14, 1944 and using his grade at the time the medal was awarded), stated: “For distinguishing himself by heroic achievement in connection with military operations against an enemy of the United States on 4 July 1944 near Carentan, France. Sergeant Dean, as a member of the battalion wire section established, maintained and repaired communications with subordinate and higher headquarters under intense enemy artillery, mortar and small arms fire.” Dean was promoted from technician 5th grade to sergeant on July 18, 1944. After the Normandy campaign, Sergeant Dean's division saw further action in Northern France and Luxembourg during the fall of 1944. He received the Bronze Star Medal that he had earned in Normandy during a ceremony in Luxembourg in November 1944. The Battle of the Hürtgen Forest Sergeant Dean's unit left Luxembourg on December 2, 1944. The following day, they arrived in Großhau, Germany, during the Battle of the Hürtgen Forest; according to The Story of the 330th Across Europe, “Artillery and mortar concentrations were many and intense.” One barrage began on the morning of December 7, 1944. According to the 330th Infantry Regiment Journal, at 1145 hours, 3rd Battalion reported that its communications building had collapsed after being hit by an artillery shell. A follow-up report at 1635 hours stated that 13 men from the platoon had been killed; just one soldier was pulled from the rubble alive. The December 8, 1944 morning report listed the men from Communications Platoon who were killed during the previous day’s incident (adopted below with military occupational specialties annotated): Staff Sergeant Edward J. Devlin, 31188341, 542 (communications chief) Staff Sergeant George E. Green, 35611034, 740 (radio operator, intermediate speed) Sergeant William H. Dean, Jr., 6714548, 595 (field wire chief) Technician 5th Grade Bob E. Higgins, 39338924, 641 (field lineman) Technician 5th Grade John H. Newton, 34394344, 641 (field lineman) Technician 5th Grade Andrew S. Trimeloni, 33254197, 806 (code clerk) Private 1st Class Rosario C. Colella, 31361341, 776 (radio operator, low speed) Private 1st Class Wilfred A. Maus, 37625116, 776 (radio operator, low speed) Private 1st Class Robert J. Davis, 35225765, 641 (field lineman) Private 1st Class Jerome Fisher, 33556565, 650 (telephone switchboard operator) Private 1st Class Abraham Levy, 37318524, 776 (radio operator, low speed) Private William D. Criss, 35736001, 675 (messenger) Private Casimir J. Woshchynski, 42052358, 641 (field lineman) A second Bronze Star Medal was presented to Sergeant Dean’s daughter in April 1946. General Order No. 58 summarized Sergeant Dean’s awards as follows: “Bronze Star Medal with letter “V” Device; First Oak-Leaf Cluster to the Bronze Star Medal; Purple Heart (Posthumous); Good Conduct Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three Bronze Service Stars for the Normandy, Northern France, and Rhineland Campaigns; World War II Victory Medal; Combat Infantryman Badge, and Expert Badge with Rifle Bar.” Sergeant Dean was buried in Mount Prospect Cemetery, Neptune Township, New Jersey in 1947. In 1959, a baseball field at Fort Monmouth was renamed Dean Field in his honor. Special thanks to Sergeant Dean’s daughter for contributing many of the documents cited in this article. Let me also express my appreciation to Myra Miller and Willem Doms for providing important documents, and to Yves Bellanger and Thijs Hodiamont for their advice; all were essential in telling this story. Finally, thanks to the Delaware Public Archives for the use of the photo of Sergeant Dean. This piece was written as part of the Stories Behind the Stars project (https://www.storiesbehindthestars.org/), with the goal of eventually honoring all 400,000 American service members who were killed during World War II. Click here to view additional tributes to World War II fallen written by Lowell Silverman.