Goodbye, WWII and Korean War Air Force Vet Who Saved Many Orphans, Col. Dean Hess!

Retired Air Force veteran Col. Dean Hess who helped save countless of orphans during the Korean War and was also a WWII veteran passed away Monday, March 2, at his home. Hess, whose wartime exploits were immortalized in the 1957 film Battle Hymn, was 97 when he died.

According to his son, Lawrence, his father eventually succumbed to an illness he had been recently battling.

Dean Hess, an ordained minister of the Disciples of Christ Church, was born in Marietta. He went on to fly 63 missions during the Second World War and a staggering  250 combat missions in Korea during the Korean War.

Dean Hess was a US Air Force lieutenant when he helped arranged for the evacuation of hundreds of Korean orphans from the mainland to a coastal island for the children’s safety.

According to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Dean Hess, along with Lieutenant Colonel Russell Blaisdell who was a chaplain, concocted the plan to move hundreds of orphaned Korean children into the refuge of a coastal island as part of Operation Kiddy Car. For the said campaign, US planes airlifted the orphans from the mainland on to the island. Additionally, the men arranged for the distribution of food, money and clothing for these kids.

What Dean Hess did during the Korean War made him an important figure within Air Force history. His helping these orphaned Korean kids was a “shining example” of the US Air Force’s capabilities for humanitarian causes, said Jeff Underwood, a historian at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Furthermore, one of the lesser known achievements of Dean Hess was his being integral in the development of the then new South Korean Air Force. He helped train the first pilots of the said unit.

Dean Hess went on to write his war experiences in his biography Battle Hymn. It was adapted into a movie of the same title with him portrayed by Hollywood actor Rock Hudson. The proceeds Dean Hess got from the movie and his book was used to building an orphanage, the Orphans Home of Korea.

A funeral for the WWII and Korean vet is scheduled at Huber Heights this Saturday.

Our last salute to you and goodbye, Colonel Dean Hess!

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE