Vail Daily obituary: John R Deane Jr., 1919-2013 |

Vail Daily obituary: John R Deane Jr., 1919-2013

John R. (Jack) Deane Jr., was born in San Francisco on June 8, 1919. A third-generation San Franciscan, he was the son of John R. (Russ) and Margaret Wood (Margie) Deane. His father was a career Army officer, thus Jack grew up at many different stations: Fort Davis, Panama Canal Zone; Berkeley, Calif.; Fort Benning, Ga.; Tientsin, China; Fort Snelling, Minn.; Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; and Fort Wadsworth, N.Y.

His tremendous admiration for his father and his respect for the values and integrity of his father’s colleagues led Jack to make up his mind, by age 10, to be an Army officer. From this point on, his academic focus was on gaining admission to West Point.

As his final step in getting into West Point, Jack enlisted in the 16th Infantry in 1937. He served in G Company at Fort Jay on Governors Island in New York Harbor, where he learned to polish his brass and shine his shoes to the perfection required to serve as honor guards at Irish wakes and Polish weddings — choice duties, in New York City. He won entrance to the West Point Prep School at Fort Dix, N.J., and later won the highest ranking admission of both the presidential and Army appointments to West Point. He entered West Point on July 1, 1938.

Jack felt his enlisted service was probably the most important year of his professional life. He learned about soldiers, and what motivated them, from his girst sergeant, 1st Sgt. Oliver, who served as an inspiration to Jack throughout his career. His enlisted service was instrumental in developing the leadership qualities that led to his becoming a cadet company commander and captain of the Army polo team while at West Point.

The United States had been in World War II for six months when Jack was commissioned. He was assigned to the 104th (Timberwolf) Division, a division which became famous for its night fighting prowess. The division offered Jack the opportunity for rapid advancement — from second lieutenant platoon leader in 1942 to lieutenant colonel and battalion commander in combat, at age 25, in early 1945. During this period Jack was awarded the Silver Star upon the recommendation of Brig. Gen. Bryant E. Moore, the assistant division commander, who came originally from Gouldsboro, Maine, a fact unknown to Jack until he retired there some 50 years later. Jack also received the Bronze Star with V Device, the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantry Badge, and was recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross, which he did not receive due to clerical oversight. After the division returned home to train for the invasion of Japan, the war ended and Jack was assigned to Headquarters, U.S. Army, European Theater, where he was responsible for the establishment and operation of a major espionage apparatus.

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Jack returned to Washington in 1947 and served for five years in Army War Plans and as the executive officer to the secretary of the Army. Next, in 1952, it was off to the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

In 1953, Jack went to Korea. The war there had just ended and he joined the Armistice Commission as chief of plans until moving on to command the Second Battalion of the 17th Infantry. He returned to the States in 1955 and attended the Armed Forces Staff College.

Jack was assigned as the chief of plans and programs under the chief of research and development, Lt. Gen. Jim Gavin, in 1957. From the Pentagon, Jack went to the National War College, Class of 1959.

In mid 1959 he returned to Germany for assignments as chief of plans and programs in Headquarters, U.S. Army, Europe and later as commander of the Second Battle Group, 6th Infantry stationed in Berlin. Jack was in Berlin when the Berlin Wall was erected. During the first day of its construction, he went through every entry point into East Berlin at least once to demonstrate that the United States would not be denied its right of access to all parts of Berlin. He was the first American officer to go through any entry point that day and pictures of his first foray were published worldwide.

A few weeks later, the East Germans announced that anyone approaching within 100 meters of the Wall would be shot. Jack was directed to challenge this ultimatum. Jack had a rifle squad meet him at Check Point Charlie, the main and most famous of entry points from the U.S. Sector into East Berlin. He led this squad on a one-mile patrol along and within 10 meters of the Wall without incident. This squad received no publicity although they had completed what was, at the time, potentially the most hazardous mission associated with the standoff of the Eastern Bloc and U.S. forces at the Wall. Only a later confrontation of U.S. and Soviet tanks at Check Point Charlie approached the level of potentially explosive hazard of this first mission.

In 1962, Jack was assigned to the Office of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering, in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where he served until his promotion to brigadier general three years later.

In 1965, he was assigned as assistant division commander of the 82nd Airborne Division. Immediately he went to The Dominican Republic to command the 82nd Airborne Task Force, part of the Organization of American States Force sent to quell the revolution there.

Upon returning to Fort Bragg in late 1965, Jack volunteered for service in Vietnam. He arrived in Vietnam in January 1966, and served successively as the chief of staff and deputy commanding general of the First Field Force, assistant division commander of the First Infantry Division, and commanding general of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. He was awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses and two Silver Star Medals as well as many other lesser awards during this period, and led the only mass parachute assault made during the Vietnam war.

Jack returned to the Pentagon from Vietnam in September 1967, with promotion to major general. He served as the director of doctrine, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, Force Development, and Army representative to the President’s Scientific Advisory Board. During this assignment, Jack was directed to prepare a case to convince Secretary Of Defense Robert McNamara to reverse his decision which prohibited the Army from developing and fielding an attack helicopter. He developed the concept of formations of attack helicopters, armed with antitank rockets and armor piercing automatic cannons, being the maneuver element of Army Divisions. The concept was met with astonishment by the Army aviation community and with derision and strong opposition by the armored element of the Army. However, it was hailed by Secretary McNamara, in reversing his earlier decision, as the first imaginative thinking he had observed in the Army.

Following this assignment, Jack assumed command of the 82nd Airborne Division in 1968, a position he held for nearly two years. He was then called upon to work directly for the secretary of defense as the director of the Defense Special Projects Group, which designed and produced various electronic devices used for surveillance of enemy activity.

His next assignment, a two year tour which brought promotion to lieutenant general, was as deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. From this position he returned to the Army General Staff as deputy chief of staff for research, development and acquisition where he was responsible for planning and budgeting for the Army’s R&D program, and the acquisition of all Army equipment and materiel.

His two years in R&D and acquisition led directly to his assignment as the commanding general of the Army Materiel Command. He was responsible for the execution of the Army’s research and development plans and the procurement of all Army equipment, materiel, supplies and ammunition and the management of an annual budget in excess of $15 billion. This assignment brought him to the mandatory retirement point of 35 years of service as an officer.

Jack served the nation for 40 years — 35 as an officer, four as a West Point cadet, and one as an enlisted soldier.

Upon retirement, Jack founded a consulting company which provided advice on the development of technologies aimed at the weapons requirements of the Armed Forces. In 1986, he married his beloved wife, Carolyn, and together they built homes on Seabrook Island near Charleston, S.C., and in Gouldsboro on the coast of Maine.

Jack served on the boards of directors of several companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange, one on the Nasdaq and several that were privately owned. He continued this work and his consulting until his final retirement to his home on the coast of Maine in 1995.

Jack is survived by his wife, Carolyn, and five children, (Russ) John R. Deane III, of Panama City Beach, Fla., (Nancy) Mrs. Carl J. Kreitler, Jr., of Edwards, and North Palm Beach, Fla., (Margie) Mrs. William R. Gray, of Durango, (BC) Christopher R. Deane, of Glendale, Ariz., (Lisa) Ms. Elizabeth H. Deane II, of Glendale, Ariz. He has nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be donated to Code of Support Foundation, 2050 Ballenger Ave Suite 400, Alexandria, VA 22314, 571-527-3234

The services will be held at West Point Military Academy.

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