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Lieutenant Colonel Dean Monroe Dickey, U.S. Army, Chemical Corps. LTC Dickey served both the U.S. Army Chemical Corps and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) fields with distinction during his nearly 27 years of active duty. He served in the Chemical Corps from 1 August 1949 until his retirement on 8 October 1970.
I first met LTC Dickey, my commander, during my tour at Technical Escort Unit (TEU), Edgewood Arsensal, Maryland, from May 1970 to January 1971. I was impressed with his vast knowledge of chemical and biological agents and munitions. LTC Dickey took me, a young Specialist Fourth Class, under his wing and made an impact upon my Army career and life. For that, I am ever in debt to him.
During LTC Dickey’s career in the Chemical Corps his assignment included being the Chemical Supply Officer of Technical Escort Detachment (TED), from August 1949 to September 1951. LTC Garland White, Commander of the TED, noticed 2LT Dickey’s interest in EOD and designated him as officer in charge of a seven-man team with the mission of clearing an area on Gunpowder Neck of Edgewood Arsenal, known today as Old “O” Field. Old “O” Field was basically a chemical munitions landfill. LTC Dickey would spend his whole career attempting to clean up this chemical munition dump.
As a first lieutenant, Dickey was one of the few men who survived a nerve agent poisoning. He became the Chemical Corps’ first serious nerve agent casualty after an accidental exposure. The incident occurred on the morning of 12 November 1950, during an experiment with liquid nerve agent at the Skull Valley Indian Reservation near Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. The site was 17 miles from the nearest building, 40 miles from the nearest inhabitation, and they were in their tenth week of testing. This particular test involved spraying a circular patch of ground with nerve agent and then spraying gasoline over it. The gasoline was ignited with a thermite grenade. The goal was to determine how much nerve agent can be eliminated by using that type of decontamination procedure.
1LT Dickey was in the contaminated area for four hours when he noticed the first signs of exposure. Two weeks later he woke up in Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. The doctor’s report indicated that the decontamination truck had to stop three times so a doctor could give him atropine injections. Atropine syringes, oxygen, and artificial respiration were given to him during the first 48 hours to save his life. He was seriously over medicated with atropine, which affected him for the rest of his life. He could only sleep for two to four hours a night. It is believed that the nerve gas either leaked through his protective mask or a hole in his boots.
From 1951 to 1954, CPT Dickey served in the 10th Chemical Service Company and the Japan Chemical Depot, Far Eastern Command (FECOM), Japan where he served in the position of Motor Transportation Officer and as the commander of the Chemical Service Unit. During his tour in Japan he went to Korea during the Korean War on temporary duty.
CPT Dickey was reassigned back to TED in March 1954 and served there until May 1958. He volunteered for formal Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) training at the U.S. Naval School, Indian Head, Maryland, which he completed in January 1955.
In June 1958 he was assigned as the chemical liaison officer and instructor at the U.S. Naval EOD School, Indian Head, Maryland, and served there until June 1963. From June 1963 to February 1965, he served as the EOD Staff Officer, U.S. Army Headquarters, Army Material Command, EOD Division, Building T-7, Gravely Point, Washington, D.C.
In February 1965, MAJ Dickey returned to the Technical Escort Unit (TEU) as the unit commander, a position he held until July 1970. His administration marked a period of tremendous activity and growth at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland. LTC Dickey was directly responsible for expanding the scope of the TEU mission. In his first two months of his command he oversaw 20 major moves of chemical agents. Those 20 moves included nearly 200 railcars of chemical munitions. He oversaw the efforts of over 80 officers, directing 543 escort missions to Southeast Asia for the newly developed Aerial Mine (also called gravel or button mine) XM22, XM7, XM40E5, XM41, XM41E1, XM44, XM45E1, and XM65, that were dispersed from the SUU-41A/A and SUU-41B/A dispensers. This mission earned the unit the Meritorious Unit Commendation First Oak Leaf Cluster.
During his tour, LTC Dickey oversaw Operation CHASE (Cut Holes and Sink’Em) 8, 10, 11, and 12, a Department of Defense program that involved the disposal of unwanted munitions at sea from May 1964 into the early 1970s. The disposal program involved loading old munitions onto ships which were then slated to be scuttled once they were up to 250 miles off shore. While most of the sinking involved ships loaded with conventional munitions, there were four which involved chemical weapons.
Under LTC Dickey’s influence, civilians were incorporated into the organization to give the unit continuity. His vast knowledge of both chemical and ordnance operations was unequaled. Individuals of all ranks went to him for counsel. He was demanding, yet not overbearing, as he knew how to bring out the best in his subordinates by developing confidence in their abilities. His total commitment to his job and his devoted service to the military community rank him among the greatest in the field of military professionalism.
Upon retirement, LTC Dickey was awarded the Legion of Merit for meritorious service and was commended for having a “profound understanding of the Center’s requirements and ability to communicate these needs to his subordinates.” Following his military retirement, he worked as a civilian project engineer for the U.S. Army Toxic and Hazardous Materials Agency (now the Army Environmental Center). In this capacity, Dickey was involved with Operation RED HAT in 1971, the relocation of 12,650 tons of toxic chemical agent and munitions from Okinawa, Japan to Johnston Atoll in the North Pacific Ocean.
Prior to becoming an officer in the Chemical Corps, LTC Dickey served in the Infantry during World War II. After completing basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1939, Dickey was assigned to Fort Barrancas, Florida, in 1940. He was an original member of the famous 23rd (Americal) Infantry Division and was one of the last original members to retire from active duty. He served in the Pacific during World War II and was among the first troops on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, where he served as a machine gunner and platoon leader.
Technician Fourth Grade (T/4) Dickey received the Silver Star Medal on Guadalcanal for his actions in repelling a Japanese force that was attacking the aid station on 14 January 1943. Dickey was getting a tooth removed at the time of the attack. His citation reads, “He ran through intense enemy fire to attack an enemy force with (a) bayonet. He killed seven of the enemy thus saving the lives of his wounded comrades. He voluntarily assisted in their evacuation.” His swift action prevented the aid station from being overrun. He was moved from there to a classified assignment which took him to Africa and later Holland.
Spouse: Mary Joseph “Johnson” Dickey (Passed). Children: Dean Eric Dickey, Marcia Mary Cole, Vanessa Alicia William, Kevin Stuart Dickey, Karen Leah Dennis, Kirk Philip Dickey, and Keith Norman Dickey.