Clayton O. Decker MoMM3c was born to parents Eugene and Hattie Decker in Paonia, Colorado where their parents homesteaded in 1882.
He was the youngest of seven siblings. Clay grew up with his parents in Menlo Park, California. His mother died when he was only 14 years of age. He lived with his brothers and sisters and during the Great Depression and worked in the youth camps of the CCC. His grandmother, Catherine Decker, heard of his plight and summoned him back to Paonia. There he lived in her home and worked the ranch and coal mines for four years. He graduated from Paonia High School in 1940 and that same year married his first wife, Lucile Palmer. Their son, Harry, was born in 1941. Clay entered Colorado A&M College, now known as Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, to major in Entomology. He finished two and a half years then enlisted into the Navy in December of 1942. On completion of Boot Camp training in Farragut, Idaho he volunteered for Submarine Service and went to torpedo school. While in Submarine School at Norfolk, Virginia and New London Connecticut he was the honor man in a class of 65 students. Later in his service he took up engineering and was given a ranking of Motor Machinist Mate 3rd class or MoMM3c.
In 1944, Clay was assigned to the submarine USS Tang (SS-306), which joined the Pacific fleet.
On the night of October 24, 1944 in the Formosa Strait near Turnaround Island, the Tang was finishing off a record war patrol and had attacked a convoy. O'Kane fired her last two torpedoes at a crippled Japanese merchant ship. The last torpedo fired went erratic and made a deadly circular run, the torpedo struck the Tang in the stern. The damage to the submarine's stern sank it to the bottom and the bow remained surfaced at a tremendous angle. To avoid capture of the submarine's vital secrets, the Tang's ballast was fully flooded down and she went to sit on the shallow bottom, some 160 feet below the surface.
As escape attempts were made, Clay Decker was one of the five men to make it to the surface and survive that night using the Momsen lung and exiting through the submarine's forward escape trunk. The five men were also the ONLY men to escape from a US submarine and survive.
Only 9 crew members out of 87 survived through the night. The 9 men were picked up the following morning by a Japanese destroyer. The men were then taken to a interrogation camp at Ofuna, Japan where they were tortured for information and eventually transferred to a priority POW camp at Omori, Japan for the remainder of the war.
He was liberated two weeks after the end of hostilities.
Clay was awarded with the Silver Star.
After his return from the war, he and Lucille were divorced. In 1947, Clay married a second time to Anne L. Reinecker. Their two children were Thomas, who was born in 1952 and Dee, who was born in 1955.
Clay is now on Eternal Patrol, sailor rest your oar.
Anne Lois Reinecker Decker