Samuel T. Dickens, a retired Air Force colonel who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars, died Dec. 29 at his daughter’s home in Oakton after battling prostate cancer. He was 80.
Col. Dickens was born in Buenos Aires and spent most of his early childhood in Argentina and Chile.
After graduating from high school in 1943, he became a clerk in the Foreign Service at the American Embassy in Buenos Aires, and in 1945 joined the U.S. Army. As a sergeant, he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1947.
Upon graduation in 1951 and pilot training in 1952, he reported to the 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron in Korea, where he flew 12 combat missions.
After the Korean War, Col. Dickens flew reconnaissance missions over the Soviet Union, China and North Korea.
Col. Dickens served in a variety of positions, including flight commander for Royal Air Force Squadron 263 in Britain and assistant air attache in Spain.
He was assigned to South Vietnam in 1968, where he became operations officer and then commander of the 615th Tactical Fighter Squadron. He flew 225 combat missions.
Later, he was base commander of Torrejon Air Base in Spain, director of operations of the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing and coordinator of U.S.-Spanish negotiations on the U.S. military presence in Spain.
After a brief tour at the Pentagon, he attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at Fort McNair. While there, he obtained a master’s degree in administration from George Washington University.
In 1974 he became chief of the Western Hemisphere Division of the Air Force Policy, Plans and Programs division, serving as a delegate to the Inter-American Defense Board and as co-chairman of NATO’s Canada-U.S. Regional Planning Group.
Among his decorations are the Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and 12 Air Medals.
After retiring in 1979, Col. Dickens was an adviser to the national commander of the American Legion and for 10 years served as director of Inter-American Affairs at the American Security Council Foundation.
Col. Dickens served as an adviser to the 1984 Kissinger Commission on Central America and served as secretary of the James Monroe Memorial Foundation.
In 2000, on the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, Col. Dickens was chosen to represent the Air Force to receive the newly authorized Korean War Service Medal.
Col. Dickens is survived by his wife of nearly 50 years, Marcella Dickens of Falls Church; two sons, David T. Dickens of Arlington, and Samuel T. Dickens Jr., of Oviedo, Fla.; a daughter, Pamela Sellars of Oakton; and eight grandchildren.