Steve Kott


Cullum No. 23916-1962 | October 31, 1967 | Died in Died in Hanoi, No. Vietnam 

Interred in Arlington National Cemetery, VA


It really was a dark and stormy night when Stephen Jay Kott’s A6 Intruder took off from the Marine Airbase at Da Nang, South Vietnam. On Oct 31, 1967, Steve’s mission would take him over Hanoi, North Vietnam, for dangerous low level bombings. Steve’s aircraft could fight and survive under the worst of night flying conditions, but on this evening, it was not to be. During Steve’s low level run, his wingman saw a bright flash in the vicinity of the target and nothing again was heard from Steve or his fellow Marine crew member.

Steve never took the easy way out. He spent his life for the very military mission that unfortunately took his life. He was born in Nassau County, NY, on May 12, 1940, to Samuel and Thelma Kott, but moved to Greenville, SC, when he was ten years old. While there, he became a boxer and rose to be a Golden Gloves Champion. He graduated from Staunton Military Academy in Virginia and received a Congressional appointment to West Point, where he joined Company K2 with the Class of 1962.

Life at the Academy was rarely a challenge for Steve. He was bright, tough, and determined. He would often bounce into classmates’ rooms with that big smile and share funny and relevant stories. He left his mark on Company K2 as a great football player on the 150 pound team and as a Corps’ Champion boxer, winning both Regimental and Corps Championships for his weight class. He was quick, had a terrific right hook, and coached the K2 boxing team his First Class year. Not only was Steve very successful in his studies, but he was always ready to provide help to those company classmates struggling in theirs. Academic departments identify cadets who demonstrate potential to be future instructors—in Steve’s case, the then Department of Military Psychology and Leadership wanted him to return to West Point to teach its courses.

Steve married Julie following graduation and, because of his toughness and determination for something different, chose a Marine Corps commission. The two headed for Quantico, VA, where Steve attended The Basic School (TBS). They loved every minute of the grind of being a Marine family. After graduation from TBS, they left for Ft. Sill, OK, where he attended Officer’s Basic Artillery School. There he would take his new Studebaker Golden Hawk over the Oklahoma prairie chasing buffalo and long horns; Julie took it all in stride with their first baby, little Stevie, in her arms. After Ft. Sill, they were off to the Fourth Marine Brigade at Kaneohe Bay, HI, where Steve was assigned to “H” Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Artillery Regiment. In addition to other duties, Steve coached the Marine Pacific Boxing Team and was as a competition marksman for the Marine Corps. While there, they grew their family with the birth of Tara.

Steve loved artillery but longed to be a Marine aviator. After a year as a “cannon cocker,” he applied for flight school at Pensacola, FL, and while there welcomed his third child, Jack. From the T28 to carrier qualifications, Steve loved flight school. After graduating he was trained in the A6 Intruder as a bombardier navigator and assigned to the 2nd Marine Air Wing at Cherry Point, NC, where he was promoted to captain. In August of 1967, he was assigned to the I Corps at Da Nang, South Vietnam, and was assigned to his A6 squadron, the VMA (all weather) 225, 2nd Marine Air Wing. He was with his squadron only three months when shot down.

He was declared Missing in Action, and his family hoped and prayed he was safe and alive and would return home when the war was over. When the POWs returned, Steve was not among them, and his status was changed from MIA to Presumed Dead. Then in 1984, North Vietnam returned the remains of eight Americans, including Steve’s. As sad as it was to bury his remains, the family felt fortunate to at last have him home because many were still unaccounted for. Steve was laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on Aug 13, 1984. His military awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross with one gold star, four Air Medals, Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Unit Commendation, Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation with Gallantry Cross Colors, Republic of Vietnam Unit Citation with Civil Actions Colors First Class, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

At his funeral, many classmates and close friends came to welcome Steve home and say goodbye. Steve’s parents never gave up hope that he was alive and would come home, but they passed away before his remains were returned. Steve’s final resting site is near the intersection of Patton and Eisenhower streets and in view of Headquarters, Marine Corps, which is quite fitting. After the ceremony, many classmates gathered Steve’s children and regaled them with stories of mischief, adventure, toughness, and brilliance that they had experienced with their father. In the proud tradition of West Point, his classmates were there to comfort and assuage the painful sense of loss and grief of 18 years of hope extinguished and to share in the bittersweet realization of his children’s prayers answered, “Please bring Daddy home”.

It was our personal loss as well as our Nation’s when Steve died. But his memory and devotion to country, Corps, and family was carried on by his loving wife, Julie. To this day, his children: Steve, Tara, and Jack; as well as his grandchildren, hold his memory dear to their hearts.

When you, his classmates, visit Steve’s grave at Arlington, place a stone on his headstone in the Jewish tradition and say a prayer for him, affirming that he is respected, remembered, and revered for his service and sacrifice. He would love that.

When you visit the Vietnam Memorial, you can find Steve’s name on Panel 28E, Line 104.

—Tom Faley ’62, Jerry Garwick ’62, and Steve Kott’s Family

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