Arvid Hall Decker was born on January 26th, 1923, to Charlie E. and Minnie Myrtle Hall Decker in Seaton, Illinois. He graduated from Aledo High School in Illinois in 1941, and then attended Black Hawk Junior College in Moline for a time. He worked at the Rock Island Arsenal as a civilian, before enlisting with the United States Army on February 20th, 1942, in order to serve his country in the struggle against the fascist Axis Powers in World War II. He received pre-flight training in Wichita Falls, Texas, and preliminary training in Santa Ana, California. On June 3rd, 1944, he married his wife Mary Catheryn Castor in Abilene, Texas. The following August, he deployed to Europe.
Decker was a member of the 492nd Fighter Squadron, 48th Fighter Group of the Ninth Air Force, then a part of the US Army. Decker’s role in the 492nd was to fly a P-47D fighter-bomber aircraft to shoot down enemy aircraft and conduct bombing runs: “Used as a high-altitude escort fighter and a low-level fighter-bomber, the P-47 quickly gained a reputation for ruggedness. Its sturdy construction and air-cooled radial engine enabled the Thunderbolt to absorb severe battle damage and keep flying.” The stalwart reputation of the P-47D would prove true for Decker, as he was hit by anti-air fire six times southwest of Berlin, Germany, before his fighter began to plummet to earth. He recounts his parachute escape from the downed aircraft, and his subsequent capture behind enemy lines by the Germans:
I remember we had been on a strafing mission since we had cut 12 railroad tracks that day. I was at 5,000 feet, about 10 miles behind enemy lines. My biggest problem was clearing the tail on my way out. I recall getting out of the cockpit okay after unhooking everything, but I forgot the radio cord. It snapped off as I cleared the tail by three or four feet. Once outside the plane, it was real peaceful and quiet – just like death – up there! I hit the ground hard and the Germans picked me up and sent me to Stalag 3A southeast of Berlin.
Stalag 3A was a prisoner of war camp operated by the Germans near the region Hall had crashed. Shortly after Decker was imprisoned there, prisoners from Stalag 3B were relocated to Stalag 3A, making the already squalid and overcrowded prison camp even worse. Decker’s obituary claims that he escaped from the camp; an impressive feat of daring considering the heavily fortified nature of the camp. He received a Purple Heart and Prisoner of War Medal, as well as a presidential citation, for his time spent imprisoned at Stalag 3A.
Decker’s life after the war was an active one. He returned home to Aledo, where he owned and operated Decker’s Lunch and Decker’s Radio and TV Service for 30 and 40 years, respectively. He was active in his church, local politics, numerous veterans’ associations, and the masonic lodge in and around Aledo. He also worked as a school bus driver and raised three daughters. He remarried after his wife’s death in 1991 and passed away while vacationing with his second wife Margaret Lee Wise in 1993. Arvid Hall Decker’s bravery as a fighter pilot and suffering as a prisoner of war leave a legacy of courage and sacrifice for his nation; a reminder of the hardships suffered by the US citizens who serve us as armed forces personnel.