Tag Archive: POW

Carl Kurfuss’ POW Trivia

A different type of Cold War 

Carl Kurfuss’ POW Trivia

Project Iceworm was the code name for a top-secret United States Army program during the Cold War to build a network of mobile nuclear missile launch sites under the Greenland ice sheet. The ultimate objective of placing medium-range missiles under the ice — close enough to strike targets within the Soviet Union — was kept secret from the Danish government. To study the feasibility of working under the ice, a highly publicized “cover” project, known as Camp Century, was launched in 1960. Unsteady ice conditions within the ice sheet caused the project to be canceled in 1966. 

Carl Kurfuss’ POW Trivia

The “official purpose” of Camp Century, as explained by the United States Department of Defense to Danish government officials in 1960, was to test various construction techniques under Arctic conditions, explore practical problems with a semimobile nuclear reactor, as well as supporting scientific experiments on the icecap. A total of 21 trenches were cut and covered with arched roofs within which prefabricated buildings were erected. With a total length of 3,000 meters (1.9 mi), these tunnels also contained a hospital, a shop, a theater and a church. The total number of inhabitants was around 200. From 1960 until 1963 the electricity supply was provided by means of the world’s first mobile/portable nuclear reactor, designated the PM-2A and designed by Alco for the U.S. Army. Water was supplied by melting glaciers and tested to determine whether germs such as the plague were present. 

It Happened at the December Post Meeting

It was a busy, if efficient December Post meeting, with a fascinating speaker in the person of Col. Bill Reeder and presentations as shown below, following which a sizable contingent retired to the Edmonds City Council Meeting in support of the Edmonds Veterans Plaza vote, details of which are covered on another post. We should all be very proud of our active and dedicated membership.

Representatives of VFW (Terry Crabtree) and American Legion (Jim Collins) present checks to Mike Reagan to support Mike’s Fallen Heroes Project. Mike has drawn portraits of well over 4,000 of our fallen comrades to date.

December Post Meeting

Sarah Browne presented a check from Spaulding Ski Bus in memory of Jim Harkness. Jim’s wife Dorothy has long been part of the ski bus project and the Post long a beneficiary.

December Post Meeting

Our December Speaker, Bill Reeder, author of Through the Valley, in which he related his experience as a POW held captive in jungle prison camps as well as the “Plantation” and the “Hanoi Hilton”. At left, Bill receives a drawing of his Cobra attack helicopter from our resident artist, Mike Reagan.

December Post Meeting

Mike Reagan presented a portrait of Ken Hicks to his daughter, Melissa Hicks at the December Post Staff Meeting. Ken, a Vietnam Veteran, passed away in July. (Ken and your editor were inducted into the post at the same meeting)

December Post Meeting


In Memoriam: Dr. Robert W. Otto 1922 – 2015

WWII Veteran, POW, combat wounded


Dr. Robert W. Otto

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 with Austrian artist Josef Schutzenhofer, with his painting dedicated to Americans shot down over Austria during World War II

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.

From the Book Shelf

Abandoned in Place by Lynn M. O’Shea

Abandoned in Place by Lynn M. O’Shea

Probably few people have ever heard of Lynn O’Shea. Lynn devoted much of her adult life as an advocate for families of United States servicemen missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. At the time of her death, Lynn served as the Director of Research for the National Alliance of Families for the Return of America’s Servicemen. This organization is the only national POW/MIA advocacy group that represents families from all past conflicts.

Ever since the end of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, a question has lingered. Did the United States government, either knowingly or unwittingly, abandon members of our Armed Forces to prison camps in Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War? Lynn was not related to a POW or MIA serviceman. Instead she took an interest in the case of Staff Sergeant John Jakovic, whose POW/MIA bracelet she wore. The book, Abandoned in Place is the result of her years of meticulous and tireless research to answer the question.

Lynn assembled an impressive array of documentation on her subject. The material included documents that have been declassified and obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) from agencies such as the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), Defense Mapping Agency (DMA), and the National Security Council (NSC). Interestingly, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which played a significant role in operations to “investigate” the issue, refused to cooperate. The book has been meticulously footnoted and annotated and includes numerous documents, maps, photographs, and drawings that support the facts she presents regarding the issue of warriors left behind.

There is much in the book that will shock the reader. You will read about:

  • Pham Louang prison camp in the remote hills of Laos near the village of Nhom Marrott;
  • Operation Pocket Change, a failed and inept CIA operation to discover the secrets of Pham Louang;
  • Continual faulty intelligence that led to the “mindset to debunk” thousands of live sightings reports;
  • Internecine fighting between and among various intelligence agencies;
  • The flawed hearings of the Senate Select Committee on POW’s and MIA’s;
  • The motivation behind Senators McCain and Kerry to aggressively conclude no Americans were left behind;
  • The decision to place the remains of a Vietnam Unknown in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier despite compelling evidence as to the identity of the remains, and then, subsequently, removing the remains of Air Force Lt. Michael J. Blassie; and
  • The ineptness of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.

Thanks to the steadfast efforts of Lynn O’Shea, our nation now has a much clearer understanding of how and why the U.S. Government left men behind. Abandoned in Place provides the reader with a riveting account of the ineptitude, lies, cover-up, and deceptions made by officials who, seemingly, valued their careers more than the men who were willing to sacrifice their lives for the country they loved.

“From the Bookshelf” will be a recurring series of book reviews that will appear in the VFW Post #8870 newsletter from time to time. This review was written by Fred Apgar.