Walter Joseph Decota is a native of Pascoag, Rhode Island. He was born on 30 September 1932 to Walter and Eva Decota. He was a 1950 graduate of Burrillville High School where he was a member of the hockey team, baseball team, football team and was in the cast of the Senior Play. Walter entered the University of Rhode Island in September 1950. While at URI, he was a member of the hockey team, Scabbard & Blade and Rho Iota Kappa Fraternity. He also participated in the Army ROTC program. He graduated in 1954 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry.
2LT Decota’s initial assignment in June 1954 was at Fort Benning, Georgia. Walter always wanted to be a United States Marine. His request for a transfer to the United States Marine Corps was approved; and he was reassigned to Quantico, Virginia to attend the USMC Officer Infantry Training Program. 2Lt. Decota was assigned to the USMC Training Base, Paris Island, South Carolina.
As a young officer, he served at various staff levels within the United States and Okinawa. After graduating from the United States Army Armor Course, Fort Knox, Kentucky, he was assigned to the United States Navy Amphibious Training Center, Little Creek, Virginia prior to volunteering for combat duty in South Vietnam.
Major Decota deployed to South Vietnam in December 1965. He was assigned to Headquarters, United States Army Military Assistance Command (MACV) as a staff officer. He immediately volunteered for combat troop duty and was assigned as the Tank Officer, 3d Tank Battalion, 3d Marine Division, Quang Nam Province in July 1966. The 3d Tank Battalion, 3d Marine Division was involved in heavy combat operations during this time: the Battle of Khe Sanh, Quang Tri, Tam Ky and Phu Bai which were some of the deadliest battles of the Vietnam War. Quang Nam Province is located near the Laotian border just south of the Demilitarized Zone that separated North and South Vietnam.
Major Decota was killed in action during an enemy mortar attack on 17 August 1966 on Hill 32, Tam Ky, Quang Nam Province. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. He left behind his wife Carolyn and three young children. He was buried with full military honors in the Beaufort National Cemetery, South Carolina.
Major Walter Joseph Decota, United States Marine Corps, is a true Rhode Island hero in every sense of the word. He volunteered to serve with the troops during the Vietnam War and gave his life in service to Rhode Island and America.