Colonel Don Jay Slee USMC (Ret.)
February 15, 1930 – June 9, 2010
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.
- Visitation Thursday, June 17, 2010
- Funeral Service Wednesday, September 15, 2010
- Burial with Full Military Honors Thursday, September 16, 2010
Colonel Don Jay Slee USMC (Ret.)
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August 3, 2010
I am so sorry to find out that Col Slee passed away. He was someone I truly looked up to during my youth. It was the first time I heard the phrase "don't burn your bridges" even though it took me a few years to understand the true meaning of those words.
July 8, 2010
I have know Don for more years than I can remember and he was always a fine Marine Officer, dedicated, professional, and a true friend. I will miss that fine gentleman, and hope to fly wing with him once again.
Saepe Expertus.Semper Fidelis,Fratres Aeterni(Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brother Forever.
July 7, 2010
The VMA-332 Korea 1953 Group was deeply saddened to hear the news of Don’s death. Don has gone on his final mission and he served his country in a time of need and did so to make the United States Marine Corps proud of his service.
More than a motto, a way of life.....Semper Fidelis distinguishes the Marine Corps bond from any other. It goes beyond teamwork - it is a brotherhood and lasts forever!
Rich Newell and the VMA-332 Korea 1953 Group
July 5, 2010
DEAR NANCY AND FAMILY - I SERVED WITH THE COLONEL DURING THE KOREAN WAR. MY NAME IS JOSEPH DELISE AND I HAD THE HONOR OF BEING THE COLONEL'S PLANE CAPTAIN. HE WAS TRULY A GREAT MAN AND MARINE - I WILL NEVER FORGET HIM. MY WIFE JOY AND I SEND OUR DEEPEST CONDOLANCES TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY. WE WILL PRAY FOR HIS SOUL. "SEMPER FI" SGT. JOE DELISE
June 27, 2010
I first met Colonel Slee when I was a senior year cadet at the US Air Force Academy in 1978. He was in uniform...it took me about 5 nanoseconds to see and feel I was meeting a true American fighting man, an American hero, a real American man, father and husband. While I didn't know him well, I have told the story of meeting him and his combat flying record to many an Air Force officer. To my good friend, Don H and Janet, and the entire Slee family, I am truly sorry for your loss. I'm sure you have countless memories of him as a husband, father, and grandfather. He will live on in all of you. My best to all, Col Greg Postulka, USAF (Retired)
June 21, 2010
You have completed your tour of duty here on earth Sir. It is my prayer your next tour of duty will be in a place of peace and rest. To your family I send my heartfelt condolences for your loss.
June 20, 2010
God bless you Sir.
And bless your entire family, including your young Marine grandson, Jack.
Sgt 3rd Tanks
RVN '68 - '69
June 20, 2010
Though I did not know Don, his career speaks volumes of the man and Marine that he was. He is now sharing the streets of Heaven with other great Marines. Thank you, Don, for your outstanding career in our Corps, and for the man who has earned such inspiring words of love and respect from so many. I am sorry I never got to meet you, but that day will come...when I can thank you for your service and sacrifice to this great country of ours. Rest in peace.
June 18, 2010
Throughout the 40+ years that we have known you, you have always been a true and dedicated friend. As a Marine officer you have been above repoach. As our motto says "Semper Fidelis"-Always Faithful. Rest in Peace, Old Friend!
Carl and Barbara Black
June 16, 2010
Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the Slee family for their loss.
June 15, 2010
I was lucky enough to call Colonel Slee, Dad. I will cherish his stories he told during the many hours in the car on trips back from vacations in New Jersey and Virginia and his frequent visits to our home in Florida. From tales of Alaska to the Tet Offensive, he gave glimpses into his life experiences. My favorite stories were of his childhood growing up in New Jersey. He told of the Hindenburg and his love of trains interspersed with great love for his mom, dad, brothers and sisters and how he met the love of his life, his wife, Suzanne. He was in Florida when his three grandsons were born, sitting by the pool answering the phone and spreading the news. He truly enjoyed being a grandpa. Together we shared his favorite books and movies. I will deeply miss and always love the “Great Santini”.
June 15, 2010
Our neighborhood called Don the "sheriff" for his help in keeping our area great, my wife and I called him Colonel out of respect to the title he earned, but I will always be blessed by being able to call the Colonel my friend. Our last conversation a couple of weeks ago was about getting a good haircut and living honorably. The Slee family can rest assured that Colonel Slee lived, served and loved honorably, the consummate Marine officer that he was. God bless our national hero and his family.
June 15, 2010
By the time I was old enough to know him, "Uncle Don" already had flown missions in the Korean War, and at some point in the mid-1960s, I knew he had gone to Vietnam. I remember my brother Steve and I making cassette audio tapes of televised NHL games to send to Uncle Don when he was stationed in that awful place, and I built a model of the F-4B Phantom II that he flew in the Vietnam War.
Throughout the years, I would see him now and then. Like all the Marines before him and all the ones to come, he had that bearing borne of confidence, determination and can-do spirit. That is what I will remember about my Uncle Don.
I also always will be grateful for the time he spent a few years ago with my son and me talking about his time in the Corps. I don't know if he had any influence in the matter, but I like to think he helped convince Jack to become a United States Marine.
My mom and I and Jack -- on leave for this past Memorial Day and now just days away from deploying to Afghanistan -- got to see Uncle Don one last time before he left this earth. His greeting to Jack when he entered the room: "Hey there, Marine."
Uncle Don was a true hero not because of all his achievements and the fact that he is one of the few who have earned the title Marine Corps Aviator but because he went about his job -- his life -- purposefully and steadfastly, without boast or brag.
It is said that "if the Army and the Navy ever look on Heaven's scenes, they will find the gates are guarded by United States Marines."
Surely, Col. Don J. Slee, USMC, is flying sorties over the whole place.
Nancy (Mejean) Jacobs
June 15, 2010
Don and Suzanne, you were our neighbors for many years and before I knew of Don's heroic career one of the things that touched me most was the sense of partnership I could feel between you. Don faced his illness as he surely dealt with his enemies in war - plan, attack and conquer. Suzanne was his stoic partner; a pillar of strength and support, which she surely was while her husband was protecting and defending our country.
You and Jenny and Bernard were all fighting this battle and you fought the longest. Through it all you thought of Madeleine and you were so kind and protective of her. She will never forget your kindness and strength.
It was an honor to know you Colonel Slee, an officer and a gentleman.
June 13, 2010
My "Big" brother, Don, a true, real life hero!
He pursued his military career, which placed him directly in harm's way, without hesitation or regret. He did this because his country needed him. When "the call" went out, he answered it. He never questioned what was required of him during the Korean War or the Vietnam War. He loved America and defended her at all cost, always willing to pay the ultimate price to insure our freedom!
He faced the cancer he had and the treatment of it the same way. He had a plan of attack and he approached it with the belief that he was going to defeat it just as surely as he had defeated his enemies in combat.
He never doubted that would emerge the victor, just as he had in so many of the military campaigns in which he had been engaged. His determination never ceased. Unfortunately, this new enemy was something more aggressive and relentless than any he had conquered in the past. Ultimately, the outcome was something that none of us wanted. I've never known anyone that fought cancer and kept it at bay for soooo long with the belief that he could and would beat it.
A true hero, yes. A great father and family man, yes. The most patriotic American I've ever known, without question.
My "Big" brother Don, my Hero!
Truly one of "The High and The Mighty!"
He is loved dearly, respected, missed, remembered fondly by everyone who ever knew him.
The world was a much safer, happier, better place while he was in it.
We all salute you, Colonel Don Jay Slee.
Thank you for your unyielding dedication to America and just for being a great guy to know.
I miss you Pal!
June 12, 2010
Please know that you are all in my prayers with the hope that the warmth of fond memories sees you through this sad time.