A. Peter Dewey

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A. Peter Dewey
Born(1916-10-08)October 8, 1916
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedSeptember 26, 1945(1945-09-26) (aged 28)
Saigon, Vietnam
Service/branchPolish Military Ambulance Corps
U.S.Air Transport Command, in Africa
U.S.Office of Strategic Services (OSS)
Years of servicePolish Army, 1940;
United States Army, 1942–1945
RankLieutenant Colonel
UnitOffice of Strategic Services
Battles/warsWorld War II
Battle of France (with the Polish Army)
Operation Dragoon
AwardsSilver Star
Legion of Merit
Croix de Guerre avec Palmes
Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur
Croix du Combattant
Order of Polonia Restituta
Tunisian Order of Glory

Albert Peter Dewey (October 8, 1916 – September 26, 1945) was an American Office of Strategic Services operative shot to death in a case of mistaken identity by Communist aligned Viet Minh troops on September 26, 1945.[1][2][3] Dewey was the first American fatality in French Indochina, killed during the 1945 Vietnamese uprising.

Early life and education[edit]

The younger son of Congressman Charles S. Dewey and his wife, Marie Suzette de Marigny Hall Dewey,[4][5] and also a distant relative of New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey,[6] Dewey was born in Chicago. He was educated in Switzerland at Institut Le Rosey, before attending at St. Paul's School (Concord, New Hampshire). He graduated from Yale University, where he studied French history and was a member of the Berzelius Secret Society along with friends such as William Warren Scranton.[7] Later, Dewey also attended the University of Virginia School of Law.

Newspaper work[edit]

After his graduation from Yale in 1939, Dewey worked as a journalist for the Chicago Daily News in its Paris bureau.

Dewey later worked for family friend Nelson Rockefeller and his Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. Rockefeller once sent him to France to meet secretly with General Charles de Gaulle.

Battle of France[edit]

While reporting on the German invasion of France for the Daily News, Dewey became more directly involved in the war.

In May 1940, during the Battle of France, Dewey enlisted as a lieutenant in the Polish Military Ambulance Corps with the Polish Army fighting in France.[3][8] Following the defeat of the French army, Dewey escaped through Spain to Portugal, where he was interned for a short time.

Marriage and family[edit]

On August 1, 1942, Dewey married Nancy Weller.[4][9][10] The couple had one child, a daughter, Mrs. Nancy (Charles) Hoppin.[11][12] Dewey's widow, Nancy, married John Pierrepont in 1950.[13]

Dewey's nephew David Dewey Alger, a descendant of Michigan political scion Russell A. Alger, was killed in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.[14]

Office of Strategic Services[edit]

On August 10, 1944, Dewey parachuted into southern France as the leader of a 10-man team from the United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Operating behind enemy lines for six weeks, he transmitted intelligence reports on German troop movements. For his service, General William "Wild Bill" Donovan personally awarded him the Legion of Merit and the French gave him the Legion of Honor and a second Croix de Guerre.[15]

Dewey arrived on September 4, 1945, in Saigon to head a seven-man OSS team "to represent American interests" and collect intelligence.[15] Working with the Viet Minh, he arranged the repatriation of 4,549 Allied POWs, including 240 Americans, from two Japanese camps near Saigon,[16] code named Project Embankment. Because the British occupation forces who had arrived to accept the Japanese surrender were short of troops, they armed French POWs on September 22 to protect the city from a potential Viet Minh attack. In taking control of the city, the French soldiers were quick to beat or shoot Vietnamese who resisted the reestablishment of French authority.

Dewey complained about the abuse to the British commander, General Douglas Gracey, who took exception to Dewey's objections and declared Dewey persona non grata. Adhering to strict tradition, Gracey prohibited anyone but general officers from flying flags from their vehicles. Dewey had wanted to fly an American flag for easy identification among the Viet Minh, who Dewey claimed were only concerned about attacking the French. The jeep he rode in prior to his death had a flag wrapped around a pole that was unidentifiable.[17]

On the night of September 24–25, Capt. Joseph R. Coolidge IV, part of the OSS team in Saigon, became the first post-World War II U.S. casualty in Vietnam when he was shot and critically wounded in a Viet Minh ambush in Thủ Đức, outside of Saigon. He was rescued by the Japanese, treated at a British field hospital and airlifted out of Vietnam to Ceylon by the USAAF.[18]

On September 26 because the airplane scheduled to fly Dewey out did not arrive on time at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, he returned for a lunch meeting with war correspondents Bill Downs and Jim McGlincy at the villa that OSS had requisitioned in Saigon.[19] As he neared the villa, he was shot in the head in an ambush by Viet Minh troops. Dewey's jeep overturned, and Dewey's subordinate, Captain Herbert Bluechel, escaped without serious injury, pursued by Viet Minh soldiers.[20]

The Viet Minh afterward claimed that their troops mistook him for a Frenchman after he had spoken to them in French. Bluechel later recalled that Dewey had shaken his fist and yelled at three Vietnamese soldiers in French while driving back to headquarters.[21] According to Vietnamese historian Trần Văn Giàu, Dewey's body was dumped in a nearby river and was never recovered.[12][18] Another versian is that his body was first hidden in a well and then reburied in nearby village of An Phu Dong[22] Reportedly, Ho Chi Minh sent a letter of condolence about Dewey's death to U.S. President Harry S. Truman while also ordering a search for the colonel's body.[12] His body was never recovered.

A. Peter Dewey was noted for his prediction over the future of the First Indochina War and the Vietnam War: "Cochinchina is burning, the French and the British are being destroyed there and we are forced to get out of Southeast Asia" due to recent conflict between France and the Viet Minh.


Dewey is not listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. because the United States Department of Defense has ruled that the war officially started, from a U.S. perspective, on November 1, 1955, after the U.S. took over following the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu.

Dewey's name is listed on the American Battle Monuments Commission's Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery and Memorial as "Major Albert P. Dewey."[23] His name is also listed as a cenotaph on his parents' grave at Arlington National Cemetery.[24]

Dewey is also remembered in an inscription on one of the walls in the National Cathedral, Washington, DC, which states that he was killed in action Indo-China 1945.

Dewey is also commemorated in a side chapel in Bayeux Cathedral.

After his death, Dewey's non-fiction book, As They Were, about life in Paris before the war,[25] was published with the help of his widow Nancy and the Rockefeller family.

Also, 2005's Fatal Crossroads: A Novel of Vietnam 1945 is based on Dewey's time and death in Vietnam and written by journalist and Dewey family friend Seymour Topping. Topping dedicated the book to Dewey and his O.S.S. colleagues. He also had returned to visit Vietnam with Dewey's daughter Nancy and her husband.[26]


  1. ^ Tucker, Spencer (2011). The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. pp. 289–290. ISBN 978-1-85109-960-3.
  2. ^ "Fever in Saigon". Time. New York: Time, Inc. October 8, 1945.
  3. ^ a b "Indo-China Rebels Kill U.S. Officer: Slay Lieut. Col. A. Peter Dewey From Ambush – British Arrest Commander of Japanese Indo-China Rebels Kill U S. Officer From Ambush Near Headquarters Dewey's Companion Escapes Saigon Without Power Served With Polish Army French Protest on Chinese". The New York Times. New York, N.Y. September 28, 1945. p. 1.
  4. ^ a b Cass, Judith (August 1, 1942). "A. Peter Dewey Takes Bride in Capital Today". Chicago, Il.: Chicago Daily Tribune. p. 13.
  5. ^ "MRS. C.S. Dewey, Red Cross Leader; Former Director in Chicago and Washington Dies – Wife of Ex-Legislator". The New York Times. New York, NY. December 14, 1957. p. 21.
  6. ^ Morgan, Ted (2010). Valley of Death: The Tragedy at Dien Bien Phu that Led America into the Vietnam War. New York: Random House. p. 66.
  7. ^ The Manuscripts and Archives Digital Images Database (MADID) Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine at mssa.library.yale.edu
  8. ^ "Polish Embassy Party Honors Peter Dewey". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. March 25, 1941. p. 14.
  9. ^ "Miss Nancy Weller Engaged to be Wed; Madeira School Alumna Will Be Bride of A. Peter Dewey". The New York Times. New York, N.Y. May 18, 1942. p. 11.
  10. ^ "Miss Nancy Weller Is Wed To Lieut. A. Peter Dewey". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. August 2, 1942. p. S2.
  11. ^ "Miss Dewey Wed to Robert Harrison; 1962 Debutante and Harvard Graduate Marry in Jersey". The New York Times. New York, N.Y. October 22, 1967. p. 92.
  12. ^ a b c Topping, Seymour (Summer 2005). "Vietnamese Historian Recalls Untold Story of Tragic Murder of Peter Dewey". O.S.S. Society Newsletter. McLean, VA.: The O.S.S. Society, Inc. pp. 3–4.
  13. ^ Forrest, Gillian (26 February 1950). "Mrs. Dewey to Marry Pierrepont". The Miami News. Retrieved 18 April 2013.[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ Martin, Douglas (September 25, 2001). "David Alger Is Dead at 57; Manager of Mutual Funds". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-09-08.
  15. ^ a b Morgan, p. 67.
  16. ^ Morgan, p. 68.
  17. ^ Lee, Clark (1947). "French Colonials Are Sad Sacks". One Last Look Around. Duell, Sloane and Pearce. p. 211.
  18. ^ a b Williams, Kenneth (2019). The US Air Force in Southeast Asia and the Vietnam War A Narrative Chronology Volume I: The Early Years through 1959 (PDF). Air Force History and Museums Program. p. 27.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  19. ^ Lee, Clark (1947). "French Colonials Are Sad Sacks". One Last Look Around. Duell, Sloan and Pearce. pp. 200–211. The following day Colonel Dewey invited two of our party, Bill Downs and Jim McGlincy, to lunch at the O.S.S. house on the northern edge of Saigon. They drove out...and sat in the patio to have a drink and wait for Dewey to return from the airport. Five minutes later there was heavy firing up the road, and an American officer came running toward the OSS villa which was also, in effect, American Army headquarters in Saigon. The officer halted every few yards to crouch and fire his .45 back down the road at some invisible pursuers.
  20. ^ Morgan, pp. 67–70.
  21. ^ "Interview with Herbert Bluechel, 1981". April 23, 1981. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved 2010-11-17.
  22. ^ Find a grave memorial
  23. ^ American Battle Monuments Commission Archived 2014-10-22 at the Wayback Machine.
  24. ^ Arlington Cemetery
  25. ^ Dewey, A. Peter (1946). As They Were. New York: The Beechhurst Press. OCLC 3682885.
  26. ^ Topping, Seymour (2005). Fatal Crossroads: A novel of Vietnam, 1945. White Plains, NY: Signature Books. ISBN 978-1891936692. OCLC 56599576.

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