Americans in Wartime Experience

William Sheehan

Korean War

William Dale Sheehan was born in Chicago, Illinois on September 11, 1924.  He served our country in the United States Army during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

In 1949 William was drafted into service as a Private and was sent to Fort Lewis, Washington for Basic Training.  After basic he reported to Fort Myers, where an Air Force Colonel took notice of William’s Degree in Chemistry and selected him for the National Bureau of Standards at Walter Reed as a Dental Researcher. While there, he did research on different chemicals for  use in dental products and fillings for the troops.

At the end of his first tour, William had to make a decision to go back to civilian life or reenlist.  He decided to accept a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Reserve Officer Corp as a Chemical Engineer.  During this 2 year tour, William was married and had 2 children.

William applied for and was accepted into the Regular Army in the Medical Service Corps as a First Lieutenant at the Army Chemical Center in Edgewood, Maryland.  He was co-author of several papers published in the American Dental Magazine about dental research.  During a competitive tour as a Medical Service Officer, he was reassigned every 3 months to different assignments, and ended up as a Chemical Officer in the Chemical, Biological and Radiological Unit.

From 1953-1954, William was stationed at Ft. Bliss, Texas and promoted to Captain, assigned as the Battery Commander in an Air Defense and Mission Battery.  In that capacity he training enlisted soldiers on a radar system and the firing of 90mm radar guided guns.  At the end of his tour, William applied for Graduate School and received a Degree in Physics.

In 1957, William was assigned to the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project in the Radiological and Nuclear Events Unit in the Pentagon.  He was assigned as the Administrative Director of the unit responsible for radiation special instruments and testing at the Las Vegas, Nevada test site.  He was then selected to be the Project Director for the Davey Crockett M28 Weapon System that fired M-388 20 ton nuclear projectiles.  The Davey Crockett would be removed from the Army arsenal in the 60s.

William’s next assignment in 1960 saw a promotion to Major as the Radiological Officer in Hawaii for the Pacific Chemical-Biological-Radiological Center.  Major Sheehan witnessed a number of nuclear detonations on the South Pacific island of Bikini Atoll and the testing of balloon instruments in the air for the Defense Atomic Support Agency.  He also witnessed the detonations of nuclear weapons on several decommissioned Navy ships.

After being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel he was assigned as the Battalion Commander of the Support Services at Fort Riley, Kansas.  He remained there until he was transferred to the 9th Infantry Division as the Chemical Officer during a 1 year tour in Vietnam.  Lt. Colonel Sheehan was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions during enemy detection flights in a helicopter.  The crew which  included Lt. Col. Sheehan, rescued causalities in an unsecure ground area, and brought onboard several seriously wounded men, one who had his foot blown off by a landmine. Lt. Col. Sheehan immediately administered first aid to the wounded using the shirt off his back.

Lt. Col. Sheehan would end his 22 year Army career at the Army Material Unit in Washington, DC.  After his Army career, William found himself at Woodson High School in Fairfax, Virginia as a Chemistry and Physics Teacher for 11 years.

Thank you William for your service to our country.

Bio prepared by Rebeccah Christovich

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The Americans in Wartime Experience explores the impact of war and conflict on America since WWI. It honors those who served in the military and on the home front and highlights the values they demonstrated in serving – duty, honor, and courage. It examines how periods of conflict have profoundly shaped American society. It educates visitors about the costs of war, both on a personal and social level. It challenges visitors to remember the service and sacrifices made by their fellow citizens to preserve and defend our freedoms. LEARN MORE

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