Ira D. Vail – Major, United States Army

Ira D. Vail, 81, a retired Major with the Army Security Agency and a veteran of three wars, died July 19, 2006, at his home in Alexandria of complications from prostate and bladder cancer.

Major Vail was born in Ancon, Panama Canal Zone. He was a member of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University in 1942 when the war drama “We've Never Been Licked” was filmed there. The movie inspired him to drop out of school and join the Army Air Corps at age 17. He was a gunner in B-24s and B-29s during World War II.

After the war, he returned to Texas A&M, where he received two undergraduate degrees, one in journalism and one in advertising, in 1953. He also received a master's degree in business administration from the University of Texas at Austin in 1965.

He joined the Army Security Agency shortly after graduating from Texas A&M. During the course of his military career, he completed the company officers course and the advanced officers course, both at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, and the Southeast Asia course at the U.S. Army Intelligence School at Fort Holabird, Maryland. He served in Korea, Japan, Germany and Vietnam, where he headed the Order of Battle Section at Army headquarters in Saigon. He was awarded the Bronze Star.

After his retirement from the Army in 1973, he worked as a systems analyst researching prisoners of war and troops who were missing in action. He also worked for George Washington University, helping set up its computer system. He retired a second time in 1980.

Major Vail became a Mason while stationed in Kyoto, Japan, in 1955 and received his 32nd degree while stationed at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. He received a 50-year Masonic membership medallion this year.

A woodworker, he crafted furniture, toys and decorative pieces from many kinds of wood. He also enjoyed taking part in rifle and pistol competitions.

Survivors include his wife of 61 years, Mary Vail of Alexandria; three children, Charles Vail of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, Elisabeth Houston of Coppell, Texas, and Jennifer Spedden of Lusby; and six grandchildren.  A son, David, died in 1946

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