Presentation Date: June 25, 2015
Dean Diz Laird, Commander, United States Navy
Dean "Diz" Laird was born in February 1921 in Loomis, California. His father was in the gold mining business; his mother was a housewife. Diz graduated from Placer High School in Melbourne, CA in the Class of 1939. He:
- entered the U.S. Navy Aviation Cadet Program on Jan 2, 1942
- was commissioned an Ensign on Aug 11, 1942
- was designated a Naval Aviator at NAS Miami, Florida, on Oct 21, 1942.
Ensign Laird’s first assignment was as a F4F Wildcat and then a F6F Hellcat pilot and assistant gunnery officer with VF-4 at NAS Norfolk, Virginia, from Nov 1942 to Mar 1943. Diz served:
- aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) from Mar 1942 to Dec 1943
- at NAS Quonset, Rhode Island, from Dec 1943 to May 1944
- at NAAS Ayer, Massachusetts, from May to July 1944
- at NAAS Hilo, Hawaii, from Jul to Sep 1944
- aboard the aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) from Sep to Nov 1944
- aboard the aircraft carrier USS Essex (CV-9) from Nov 1944 to Mar 1945.
During this time, Lt Laird was credited with the destruction of 5.75 enemy aircraft in aerial combat plus one damaged in the air. He shared in the shoot-downs of a German Ju-88 and a He-115 off Norway in October 1943. The rest of his air victories were against Japanese aircraft in the Pacific Theater, making him the only Navy ace to have scored air victories against both Germany and Japan.
His next assignment was as a Utility Test Pilot with CASU-6 at NAAS Crows Landing, California from May to Jun 1945, followed by service:
- as Operations Officer of VF-200/VF-1L at NAS Brunswick, Maine from Jun to Nov 1945
- at NAAS Fentress, Virginia, at NAS Atlantic City, New Jersey and aboard the aircraft carrier USS Saipan (CVL-48) from Nov 1945 to Aug 1947.
Lt Laird next served:
- as a Flight Officer and Assistant Operations Officer with VF-171 at NAS – Quonset, Rhode Island from Aug 1947 to Jan 1949
- at NAAS Cecil Field, Florida, aboard the carriers USS Saipan and USS Roosevelt (CV-42) from Jan 1949 to Sep 1949.
He was one of the first seven Naval Aviators selected for Exchange Duty with the U.S. Air Force; he served with the 84th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Hamilton AFB, California, from Oct 1949 to Oct 1950.
LCDR Laird next served as:
- Safety Officer and as a Flight Instructor with ATU-2 at NAAS Cabaniss Field, Texas, from Oct 1950 to Jul 1951
- Operations Officer and Training Officer with JTU-1 at NAAS Kingsville, Texas, from Jul 1951 to Dec 1952.
He attended Navy Line School from Dec 1952 to Jul 1953, then served as Executive Officer of VF-51 from Jul 1953 to Jan 1955.
His next assignment was Assistant Air Boss aboard the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-10) from Jan 1955 to Apr 1956, followed by service as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations of the 85th Air Division at Andrews AFB, Maryland, from May 1956 to Aug 1958.
CDR Laird then served as:
- Training Officer of VFR-32 from Sep 1958 to Jan 1959
- Executive Officer of VF-121 at NAS Miramar, CA, from Jan 1959 to Mar 1960
- Commanding Officer of VF-213 at NAS Moffett Field, CA, from Mar to Nov 1960
- Air Operations Officer with Carrier Division ONE from Dec 1960 to Jan 1963
- Aircraft Maintenance Officer at NAS Miramar, CA from Feb 1963 to Jan 1965
- Chief of Staff for Operations of RCVW-12 from Jan 1965 to Jan 1968.
CDR Laird's final assignment was as Executive Officer of VRF-32 from Jan 1968 until his retirement from the Navy on July 1, 1971.
His Distinguished Flying Cross Citation reads:
For heroism and extraordinary achievement in aerial flight as Pilot of a Fighter Plane in Fighting Squadron FOUR, attached to the U.S.S. ESSEX, in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Tokyo area, February 17, 1945. While protecting friendly bomber planes attacking heavily defended aircraft engine factories, Lieutenant Laird engaged and destroyed two hostile fighter aircraft, thereby assisting materially in the accomplishment of the assigned mission. His airmanship and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
In 1942, Diz married Lorraine Lardner in Reno, Nevada; they had three children and eight grandchildren. Lorraine died in 2014. After 30 years in the Navy, Diz invested in real estate and became a partner in an aircraft replacements parts business. He resides in Walnut Creek.