Outside of the Classroom - Remembering Anderson and DeCora

by Julie Mecikalski

You have probably driven past it - the Anderson-DeCora Monument, which is an island on the north side of New Lisbon. The island is connected by a bridge to the mainland. Have
you ever wondered the history of the memorial? It was there when I moved to Juneau County in 1988. But, like many people who moved to the area after me, I do not know the details other than the two names mentioned were fallen heroes from the Vietnam War. As this week is the celebration of our Veterans, I thought it would be a nice opportunity to remember a couple of our local heroes and the memorial made in their honor.

Dale Edward Anderson and Elliott Leo DeCora were local boys. They grew up in the New Lisbon area, graduated from high school, and like many boys at the time, were drafted into the Army and went off to war. Both were serving in the Vietnam for less than a year when they perished.

Specialist Fourth Class Anderson graduated from New Lisbon High School in 1965. He was the oldest of four children. According to his sister, Sue Bailey, “Dale was an awesome brother. He was a little guy, and he liked cars and motorcycles.” Bailey added that Anderson and his friend, Jimmy Fink, moved to Joliet, IL, before he was was drafted into the Army.

Anderson started his tour of duty on August 16, 1967, and he was sent to Kon Tum in South Vietnam. Anderson’s specialty was light weapons infantry. On February 21, 1968, Anderson was fighting in the Kon Tum Province. There was active fighting, and Anderson had succumbed to injuries suffered from “gun small arms fire”—ground casualty. He was one of 27 who had perished that day in Vietnam.

SP4 Anderson’s specialty was Light Weapons Infantry. He was decorated with the national Defense Service Medal, the Combat Infantry Badge, Purple Heart, Vietnam Campaign Medal, and Vietnam Service Medal. Anderson is buried in the New Lisbon City Cemetery.

Bailey noted that recently the medic, who was with her brother when he died, had called the New Lisbon Public Library to see if Anderson had any family left in the area. “I received a call from Wayne Sherwood from Ohio. He said he had stopped at my brother’s grave so many times over the years,” Bailey informed, “(Sherwood) would be with a group of friends on motorcycles on their way to Sturgis (SD), and they always stopped at Dale’s grave just to remember.”

Private First Class Elliott DeCora was a 1966 graduate of New Lisbon High School. He was known for his prowess on the high school football field. Prior to entering the Army in August 1967, DeCora studied electronics at the Northwest Electronics Institute in Minneapolis (now Dunwoody College of Technology). He was one of eight children.

PFC DeCora did his basic training at Fort Campbell, KY, and he was there until January 1968, when he was sent to Vietnam. On his final mission, DeCora was at Landing Zone (LZ) Nancy, near Quang Tri City in the northern-most province of then-South Vietnam. LZ Nancy was home to artillery and engineer units as well as infantrymen. On the night of August 16, 1968, LZ Nancy was attacked by North Vietnamese Army (NVA) forces. The dense jungle and foliage that covered the perimeter of LZ Nancy had not been cleared which allowed the enemy to approach the troops. The NVA was able to destroy bunkers and tents before U.S. forces were even alerted. After the NVA retreated, the destruction killed 20 U.S. troops including DeCora who suffered with multiple fragmentation wounds.

PFC DeCora’s specialty was Combat Engineer. He was decorated with the National Defense Service Medal, Purple Heart, Vietnam Campaign Medal, and Vietnam Service Medal. He is buried in the Mauston Cemetery.

In 1971, the island memorial was dedicated as the Anderson-DeCora Veterans Memorial in honor of the most recent hometown heroes who were martyred. The island was considered new and was developed by lowering the dam waters until the lake bed was dry. Then, it was dredged, and the dirt that was dug out enlarged the island. Hundreds of stumps were uprooted and removed in the laborious process. A flag pole was placed with more trees and flowers. Fireplaces and picnic benches were added. The dam waters were then raised.

It took three years of fundraising, donations, and hard-work to develop this project. The intent was to make it a picnic island to coincide with Riverside Park (then called “Tourist Park”). Unfortunately, due to the annual spring-thaw flooding, which at times totally covered the island, the picnic tables and fireplaces are no longer there. However, the trees remain as well as three flag poles which include flag representations of the U.S., Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA), and Ho-Chunk in honor of DeCora.

February 21 and August 16, 2018, will mark the 50th Anniversary of the deaths of Dale Anderson and Elliott DeCora.

Thank you, Specialist Fourth Class Anderson, and thank you, PFC DeCora. Your efforts do not go unnoticed, and your sacrifices are greatly appreciated.

Thank you also, to the men and women who have served in the Armed Forces - living and gone - you have made a great impact for so many. What we hold dear, you have protected. I salute each of you. If you knew Dale Anderson and/or Elliott DeCora, I hope you will add your comments to our Facebook page. They may not be with us now, but they should never be forgotten.

Eleven men from Juneau County perished during the Vietnam War:
ELROY
CPO Richard D. Pliner
LYNDON STATION
SGT Raymond J. Churchill
NECEDAH
CPL Wayne C. Chitwood
MAUSTON
PVT Dennis L. Babcock
SP4 James G. Riley
SGT James E. Larson
LCPL Albert C. Watson, Jr.
1LT Ronald R. Niles
NEW LISBON
SP4 Dale E. Anderson
PFC Elliott L. DeCora (listed as
Wyeville on the Vietnam Wall)
CPT John W. Sadler

Editor’s note: Julie Mecikalski is a teacher at New Lisbon High School. She will be writing various articles about her travels around the Juneau County area and throughout Wisconsin.