John Gunther Dean
John Gunther Dean was born on February 24, 1926 in Germany and came to the US at age 12. He attended public school in Kansas City, Missouri, Harvard College, the Paris (France) Law School and Harvard Graduate School. During World War II, he served for 2 years in Military Intelligence both in Europe and in the US. In 1950 he joined the European Headquarters of the Marshall Plan in Paris. A tour of duty followed with the Marshall Plan Mission to Belgium and the Economic Assistance Mission to French Indochina. From 1956 to 1958, Mr. Dean served as Political Officer in Vientiane, Laos. In March 1959, Dean opened the first American Consulate in Lomé, Togo, and briefly stayed as Diplomatic Adviser to the new first President of Togo. In the autumn of 1960 he opened the first American diplomatic establishment in Bamako, Mali. From 1961 to 1965, Dean was assigned to the State Department in Washington.
During a four-year tour in France (1965-69), Mr. Dean helped bring the Vietnamese-American peace negotiations to Paris. After a year of reflection as a fellow at the Harvard Center for International Affairs, he was sent as Deputy for CORDS to the Commander of the 24th Corps with headquarters in Denang, Vietnam (1970-72). During his tour of duty with the US military with the assimilated rank of Major-General, Mr. Dean rescued sixty Americans encircled by the Vietnamese at Quang Tri City until his helicopter was shot down by hostile fire. His service was rewarded by numerous American and Vietnamese decorations.
Mr. Dean’s second Laos tour (1972-73) gave him a chance to make peace. As Chargé d’Affaires, he worked behind the scenes to broker a coalition government between the Royal Lao Government and the Pathet Lao. For a year (1974-1975) Mr. Dean was Ambassador in Cambodia where he unsuccessfully tried to bring about a negotiated “controlled” solution to the Cambodian war. His departure from Phnom Penh with the American flag over his arm became the picture of the year in 1975.
After dangerous assignments in Southeast Asia, Mr. Dean served three years as US Ambassador to Denmark (1975-78). From 1978-81, Dean was ambassador to Lebanon where he established a useful direct relationship with the PLO in Beirut and earned the respect of all Lebanese warring parties by defending the sovereignty and unity of Lebanon. At least two assassination attempts nearly cost Dean and his family their lives. Mr. Dean spent the next four years (1981-85) in Thailand as US Ambassador assisting the Thai to cope with the flow of hundreds of thousand refugees fleeing Vietnam and Cambodia. He coordinated efforts to fight drug smuggling in Southeast Asia, opposed Khmer Rouge control over Cambodia, and negotiated a more balanced approach to US relations with Thailand. As American Ambassador to India (1986-89), Mr. Dean gave strong support to developing India’s outstanding scientific and technological potential. He also called attention to the long-term problems arising from America’s role in the Afghan conflict.
After retirement in 1989, Ambassador Dean has served on corporate and academic boards in the United States, Europe and Asia. Building upon his interest in classical music, in 1993 he helped found the Verbier summer music festival held in the Swiss canton of Valais.
As the personal representative of the Director General of UNESCO, he visited Cambodia several times before the US re-established diplomatic relations. A long-term board member of petroleum and science/technical institutes in Thailand, he helped readmit Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia into Thailand-based Asian regional institutions with the Support of Thai, French and Japanese authorities. He advises a variety of private investment groups active in the Middle East. He has served for twelve years on the Board of a major private corporation with global responsibilities and close links to the US government, which permitted him to follow firsthand international developments after retirement.