Retired Army Maj. Gen. William F. Dean, 82, a combat veteran of World War II who spent more than three years as a prisoner of North Korea during the Korean War and whose decorations included the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for bravery, died Monday in a hospital in Berkeley, Calif. The cause of death was not reported.
Gen. Dean commanded the 24th Infantry Division in Tokyo in June 1950 when North Korean forces crossed the 38th parallel, beginning the Korean War. Gen. Dean's division was among the first forces to reinforce units in South Korea. On July 3, 1950, he was named commander of all U.S. forces in Korea.
On July 20, he personally was leading his troops in a delaying action near the town of Taejon, when he became separated from his men. He was listed as missing in action, and it was not until December 1951 that it was announced he was a prisoner of war. He was repatriated in September 1953.
The Medal of Honor citation for his actions in the battle near Taejon, said in part: "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." The citation went on to say, "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."
In "General Dean's Story," published in 1954, he wrote of his more than three years as a prisoner, of his attempts to escape, to resist torture, of his efforts to commit suicide, and of his fight against brainwashing. He also told how he spent that last battle in Korea, standing in one of Taejon's shattered streets firing his .45-caliber handgun at an enemy tank.
After returning from Asia, he served as deputy commander of the 6th Army, San Francisco. At his retirement ceremony, Army Chief of Staff Maxwell Taylor pinned the Combat Infantryman's Badge on his blouse, and hailed him as "one of America's great heroes." Gen. Dean told reporters that he regarded himself as "just a dog-faced soldier."
In addition to the Combat Infantryman's Badge and the Medal of Honor, Gen. Dean's other decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Bronze Star Medal. He had lived in Berkeley since retiring from the Army.
Gen. Dean was a native of Illinois. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, working his way through college as a Berkeley police officer, streetcar motorman, stevedore, and short-order cook.
He received his commission in the Regular Army in 1923, and made his mark as a staff officer and something of a scholar before World War II. He was a graduate of the Command and General Staff School, Army Industrial College, the Army War College, and its Chemical Warfare School.
He was an assistant to the secretary of the Army's General Staff when World War II began. He achieved a combat command in 1944 as assistant commander of the 44th Infantry Division, later becoming its commander. The division was an element of the U.S. 7th Army, serving from the beaches of southern France to Germany and finally Austria.
After World War II, Gen. Dean served as assistant commandant of the Command and General Staff School, then from 1947 to 1949, was military governor of South Korea.
Gen. Dean's survivors include his wife of 55 years, the former Mildred Dern, of Berkeley; a son, and a daughter.