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Deen was born in McCray, Georgia. His father was the president of South Methodist College. He was one of three kids. Their family moved to Alma, Georgia. Deen’s father ended up becoming the US Congressman from the 8th Congressional District in Georgia. Deen remembers his father having a furniture store and that he owned the Alma paper. These jobs helped he and his family survive the Depression.He remembers his grandfather showing him around town and from this he learned a lot about poverty. He recalls soup lines that people ate at. Deen’s father helped develop CCC [Annotator’s Note: Civilian Conservation Corps] camps for young people who did not have jobs. The kids had room and board covered and they earned a dollar a day. Deen's first job was selling boiled peanuts for five cents a bag. He also cleaned shoes for awhile and was a page in the US Capitol. He would go to school in the Capitol building from seven in the morning until ten. After that they dressed up in a suit and were available for whatever was needed of them. Deen graduated Bacon County high school in 1942. A lot of his friends were serving in the military. At the time of Pearl Harbor, he was only sixteen. He worked in the New Brunswick shipyard helping to build liberty ships but he wanted to be a pilot. He was told early on he was too tall to be a pilot. He joined the United States Marine Corps and was sent to San Diego for boot camp. He took a troop train to San Diego. He recalls stopping in New Orleans for a couple hours. He recalls the drill instructor telling the Marines that they would be taught how to kill a human being. There was a lot of fear but the camaraderie kept people together. They learned how to shave, wash their own clothes, and manage their money. Deen recalls seeing videos on combat. To him, the most dreadful kind of fighting was done with a bayonet or a knife. He remembers the Biddle system which called for the attacker to go for the hands of his opponent. Deen used that training on Peleliu. He also recalls the ceremony that was done on ship when they crossed the equator for the first time. Their first stop was on New Caledonia.
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