Colonel Don J. Slee
Marine Corps Aviator
Flew 300 Combat Missions
Colonel Don J. Slee, USMC (Ret.), age 80, died in Springfield, Virginia on Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 11:00 p.m. after a long battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
He entered the Naval Aviation Flight Training Program, Pensacola, Florida, in February 1951, receiving his gold wings and commission as a Marine Corps Second Lieutenant in July, 1952. He flew his first combat missions during the last few weeks of the Korean War as an attack pilot, flying the famous F4U "Corsair" from the deck of a "Jeep" escort carrier stationed in the Yellow Sea. Over the next several years, Lieutenant Slee flew jet fighter aircraft in Japan and Cherry Point, North Carolina.
In 1955, now in the grade of Captain, Slee was accepted into the regular Marine Corps, and received formal training as an air traffic controller. Between 1955 and 1960, Captain Slee was assigned as Officer-in-Charge of three Marine air traffic control units based in New River, North Carolina, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, and Iwakuni, Japan. While stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe, Captain Slee flew the F8U "Crusader" Supersonic Jet Aircraft. It was during this tour that he adopted his tactical call sign: "Batjak."
From early 1963 to mid-1965, Slee resided in Beeville, Texas with his wife and three sons, where he was assigned as a jet instructor in the Naval Air Advanced Training Command at the Naval Air Station, Chase Field. During that assignment, he logged over one thousand hours of flying time, and was promoted to the grade of Major.
Over the next three years he was graduated from the Air Forces Command & Staff College, Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. Also, as the Executive Officer of an Air & Naval Gunfire Liaison Company based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, he received his "Jump Wings" at the Army Airborne School, Fort Benning, Georgia.
In 1967, the now Lieutenant Colonel Slee moved his family, including a new daughter, to their home state of New Jersey, while he served his first of two tours in Vietnam. As the Commanding Officer of a Fighter/Attack Squadron, flying the now famous F4 "Phantom" Supersonic Jet, Slee completed 251 combat missions, participating in the siege at the Marine Base at Khe Sanh, and the battle for control of Hue City in 1968. He returned to the States in December of that year to begin his first tour at Headquarters Marine Corps in Arlington, Virginia. He and his family took up residence in Springfield in January of 1969. In the early 70s, Slee was an action officer on the Marine Corps Commandant's staff in Washington, DC. He became the Commandant's primary briefer on positions of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the SALT talks, the Chemical and Biological Treaty, the Law of the Sea negotiations, and the Seabeds Treaty. For his work he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.
In 1972 Lieutenant Colonel Slee headed back overseas to Thailand, and on May 8, 1973 flew his final combat mission – number 300. Later that year, he was back in the States, and while a student at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, he was promoted to full Colonel. For his final assignment as an active duty officer Colonel Slee served as president of the Physical Evaluation Board, Office of the Secretary of the Navy. He retired on June 30, 1982 with over 31 years of active duty.
Colonel Slee's personal decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V," three single-mission Air Medals, twenty-four Strike/Flight Awards, and the Meritorious Service Medal.
Colonel Slee grew up in northern New Jersey. He graduated from Boonton High School, Boonton, New Jersey, in 1948, in a class of 175 students. In 1997 he and one other classmate were voted into the Boonton High School Hall of Fame. Prior to entering flight training in February 1951, he was a student at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, majoring in chemistry. His college degree in international affairs from George Washington University came many years later. In his youth he was an avid hockey player, and in later years took up the game of tennis, which became his passion.
Colonel Slee is survived by his wife, Suzanne S. Slee; three sons, David L. Slee, Don H. Slee and his wife, Janet, and Frank H. Slee; daughter Nancy S. Novak and her husband, Jim; five grandsons, three sisters, and one brother.