WWII Veteran, POW, combat wounded
Bob Otto in younger days
Post 8870 lost one of our more senior comrades late last year when Robert Otto, long time VFW member, passed away on December 7, 2015. Born October 1, 1922, at home in Jerome, Idaho, bob graduated from Jerome High School, attended Utah State Univ. and The College of Idaho; then worked in the California naval shipyards before entering the Army in 1943. Sgt Otto participated in 12 missions as a tailgunner before being shot down aboard the B-24 ‘Texarkana Hussy’ over Pollau, Austria in June 1944. Severely burned, he was taken POW to Stalag Luft IV in Poland. A German Death March survivor, he was liberated at Fallingbostel, Germany in May 1945 and awarded two Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Bob Otto (left) with Austrian artist Josef Schutzenhofer, with his painting dedicated to Americans shot down over Austria during World War II.
Bob married Mary Ann Plastino on March 24, 1946, in Jerome. They farmed west of town for several years, during which he served as County Auditor and rode with the Jerome Posse. The family moved to Ft. Collins, Colo. in 1952 where Robert finished his undergrad work at Colorado A&M. In 1954, they moved to Pullman, Wash. where he graduated in 1957 from Washington State College with a doctorate in veterinary medicine. Two more children were born during the college years, Randy and Robyn. After teaching veterinary medicine at Kansas State University, the family settled in Edmonds, where he built a veterinary practice. Later he was the Area Director for the Northwest Animal Hospital Assn. and honored as Washington State Veterinarian of the Year. He retired from his practice in 1992.
Bob was a founding member of the Edmonds Senior Center and was very active in the Exchange Club. Following his retirement, he served with Christian Veterinary Missions as Short-Term Shuttle Coordinator and Chaplain, then in the mission field on the Navajo Indian Reservation, in Haiti, Bolivia, Malawi and Kenya. He obtained his minister’s license and served at Family Life Center and Sonrise Chapel as an assistant pastor before leading a small church called The Gathering at Garden Court until 2012.
In 2001, Bob was honored by the Polish government at a ceremony dedicating a statue commemorating those who were interred at Luft Stalag IV, accompanied by his son, Randy. He was also accompanied by John Nichols, who wrote The Last Escape, including Robert’s story of his interment and liberation. In 2008, he was a guest of the Austrian government and took his three children with him to attend the unveiling of a memorial by famed artist Josef Schutzenhofer (above left) commemorating those who helped liberate Austria. The following year, Bob wrote his autobiography, A Walk with God. This led to many speaking opportunities with the VFW, schools and libraries. In 2011, he traveled with Honor Flight to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington DC. Look for a more detailed description of Bob’s wartime experience in a future issue of this newsletter.