Pacific Stars and Stripes,
Nov. 20, 1975
SEOUL-Long before Operation
Babylift hit the headlines at the end of the Indochina War, a compassionate
clergyman turned fighter pilot moved some 900 homeless Korean waifs
away from a war that didn't respect innocence or youth.
Twenty-five years later, retired Col. Dean E.
Hess is back in Korea under a program sponsored by South Korean veterans
and tourist organizations to mark the 25th anniversary of the North
It is a country Hess knows well. He saw it at
blurred speeds from a cockpit as he lashed advancing Communist forces
with bombs and tracers. For Hess, it had been from pulpit to cockpit
in World War II, a cycle that would repeat itself in another war.
Taking the ministerial cloth just before Pearl
Harbor, he enlisted soon afterwards, and came out of the war with
a burden of conscience. As a fighter pilot over Germany, he swooped
low over Kaiserslautern to bomb a marshaling yard, overshooting that
and wrecking an apartment full of orphaned children - a tragedy he
did not learn about until after the war.
Dean was again a practicing minister until the
Air Force recalled him to active duty, calling upon his old skills
as a fighter pilot. Once again, he was stricken by a mistake of speed
and stress, strafing refugees he thought were soldiers in an enemy
As Seoul fell to the Communists, Dean saw a chance
for atonement. Through his efforts, almost 1,000 lost and parentless
children were rounded up and flown to Inchon in planes he had rounded
up. At Inchon, boats that were to take the children out of the war
zone never showed up, so Dean called upon Gen. Earle Partridge, 5th
Air Force commander, and organized one more airlift. A flock of C47
and C54 transports took the kids to Cheju Island, far beyond the reach
of the war.
The first Babylift did not have a heroic name;
it was called Kiddycar. Later, Hess wrote a book about it called "Battle
Hymn" and was portrayed by Rock Hudson in a movie.
Hess stayed in the Air Force and became an information
officer, serving once as chief of information for U.S. Forces Japan.
While here, he will tour the 2nd Inf. Div., sites around Seoul and
the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom.
S&S Korea Bureau