Retired Army Col. Robert L. Cody, 56, a much decorated combat vetern of three wars, died of cancer Thursday at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

Col. Cody was born in Denver. He earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts at the University of Iowa, and was a member of the ROTC.

Called to active duty in 1944, he served in the 89th Infantry Division of Gen. Patton's 3rd Army. As a combat infantry officer he earned a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

Col. Cody stayed in Europe after the war, serving with U.S. occupation forces in Vienna, Austria.

He was then ordered to Fort Lewis, Wash., where he joined the 9th Infantry Regiment. It was ordered to Korea and fought as part of the 2nd Infantry Division during the Korean conflict. As a company commander in the 9th Infantry, Col. Cody earned the Silver Star and threee Oak Leaf Clusters in lieu of additional Purple Hearts.

Col. Cody then served on the staff of the U.S. 7th Army as an intelligence officer, based in Stuttgart, West Germany.

From there he was assigned to the staff of STRIKE Command, a joint service organization that planned and operated quick responses of U.S. forces to special conditions. As an officer with STRIKE, he saw duty in the Congo in the early 1960s and the Dominican Republic in 1965. He received the Legion of Merit.

Col. Cody served in Vietnam from 1965 to 1966, and commanded the 52nd Army Aviation Battalion, composed of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. The 52nd airlifted troops and supplies for Vietnamese forces, evacuated wounded personnel and provided fire-support for infantry operations.

As a result of his work in Vietnam, Col. Cody was awarded an Oak Leaf Cluster to his Legion of Merit, and the Air Medal with 15 Oak Leaf Clusters.

He served at the Pentagon from 1966 to 1969, where he was on the Army aviation staff and worked on combat development.

CoL. Cody was ordered to Thailand in 1969, and became chief of American military personnel (J-1). He trained Thai infantry units and served as the "Bob Hope Project Officer" in 1970 and 1971, before returning to the Pentagon. He retired in 1974.

Col. Cody also earned a second Oak Leaf Cluster to his Legion of Merit and the Royal Thai Supreme Commander's Badge.

Col. Cody had trained at the Advanced Infantry School, the Command and General Staff School and the Army Aviation School.

He had earned a master's degree at the University of Maryland, and was writing a doctoral dissertation on educational technology at the time of his death.

While in this area, he was active as a Cub Scout master and Boy Scout counselor. He was active in several other youth organizations.

Col. Cody was the author of a number of magazine articles and a prize-winning amateur photographer.

He is survived by his wife, Gwendalyn, of the home in Annandale; a son, Robert Jr., attending the Georgia Institute of Technology; a daughter, Cathleen, attending the University of Iowa and his father, O.E. Cody, of Honolulu.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy may be in the form of contributions to the Army Relief Fund.