Colonel Dean Hess, Class of 1941
Clergyman, Soldier, Humanitarian
Dean Hess fulfilled a childhood dream when he was ordained a minister following his graduation from Marietta College in 1941. Believing he could not expect others to bear arms in defense of his country if he did not accept that responsibility himself, he enlisted in the United States Air Force during World War II and flew 63 combat missions.
With the outbreak of the Korean Conflict in 1950, Hess took to the air again, logging 250 combat missions for which he became known as "the flying parson." When he became aware of the plight of homeless, starving Korean children, he used army planes to fly over 800 orphans from Seoul to Cheju Island, in an effort known as "Operation Kiddy Car." Hess' own money, combined with contributions from other fliers, provided food and shelter for the children.
Hess wrote an autobiography entitled "Battle Hymn," which was made into a motion picture of the same name, premiering in Marietta in 1957. His royalties from both the book and the movie were used to construct a new orphanage near Seoul, Korea. Hess has received numerous awards, including the Military Order of Merit from Korean President Syngman Rhee, the Order of the White Elephant, a Presidential Citation, Legion of Merit, Silver Star, Air Medal with 19 Clusters, and the Ohio Governor's Award. He received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Marietta College in 1956.