Diplomat, Veteran, Peace Advocate Jonathan Dean Dead at 89

Published Jan 24, 2014

WASHINGTON (January 24, 2014)—Ambassador Jonathan Dean, a career Foreign Service officer and an adviser on international security issues for the Union of Concerned Scientists, died of natural causes in Mesa, Arizona, on January 14. He was 89.

By any measure, Dean lived an extraordinary life. Trained at Harvard, Columbia and George Washington universities, he served with distinction in World War II; spent years as a diplomat in Europe, Africa and the United States; worked in the arms control community to promote peace and disarmament after leaving government service; and authored three books on international relations.

Dean was born in New York City on June 15, 1924, and began his studies at Harvard University at 16. A year later, after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, he enlisted in the Canadian Army because a 17-year-old couldn’t join the U.S. Army without parental consent. Dean stormed ashore with the Canadian Army at Normandy two days after the initial invasion, and a month later was transferred with other American nationals in the Canadian Army to the U.S. Army.

While attempting to cross a tributary of the Rhine near Bielefeld, he was wounded and sent to a hospital in Paris. After recovering, he rejoined the Ninth Army, which met the Russian Army at the Elbe River and then withdrew to the Bavarian border. At the end of the war he returned to New York, where he finished his education at Columbia College. But after passing the Foreign Service examination in 1948, he returned to Europe in 1950 to help with the U.S. State Department’s efforts to democratize post-war Germany.

Before heading back to Europe, Dean married Theodora George of Darien, Connecticut. They moved to Bonn at the end of 1951 and remained there until 1956, where Dean worked as a political officer at the U.S. embassy. In the mid-1950s, he helped establish the new federal German armed forces and ensured German entry into NATO.

The next stop for the Deans was Africa. In the early 1960s, Dean served in the Congo during the brief regime of Moise Tshombe, who was forced into exile by U.N. forces in 1963. They then moved back to the United States, where Dean became the deputy director of the U.N. political affairs office at the State Department in Washington, D.C., and completed his doctorate at George Washington University.  

By 1971, however, Dean was back in Europe, serving as deputy U.S. negotiator for the quadripartite agreement on Berlin, ending three decades of East-West wrangling over the city. And from 1973 to 1981 he represented the United States in the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction Talks in Vienna, negotiating conventional force reductions between NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

Dean left the Foreign Service in 1982 and spent two years at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He then joined the Union of Concerned Scientists, where worked on a wide range of issues—including nuclear weapons policy, missile defense and conflict resolution—for more than 20 years. While at UCS, he found time to write three books: Watershed in Europe (1986), Meeting Gorbachev’s Challenge (1989), and Ending Europe’s Wars (1994). He retired in 2007 at the age of 83.

Dean is survived by five children and nine grandchildren. His wife of 62 years, Theodora George Dean, died in January 2012.

For a transcript of a 1997 interview with Ambassador Dean about his life, click here.