Gen. Glenn K. Otis – ‘A Soldier’s Soldier’ – dies at 83

Monday, April 01, 2013

Gen. Glenn K. Otis, USA, Ret., soldier, warrior, scholar, war hero and acclaimed military innovator, died Feb. 21 at the Carlisle, Pa., Regional Medical Center. He was 83.

Prior to his retirement in 1988 after 42 years of service, Otis commanded U.S. Army Europe from 1983 to 1988, and commanded U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command from 1981 to 1983.

"General Glenn Otis was a soldier’s soldier who served his country and his Army with distinction and dedication for over four decades," Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., president of the Association of the United States Army, said.

Adding, "As the third commander of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, he followed his predecessors, General Bill DePuy and General Donn Starry, by perfecting the AirLand Battle Doctrine – that formed the basis for the Army’s warfighting doctrine in Europe. This doctrine was the forerunner of today’s ‘Full Spectrum of Operations.’

"His command experience and his visionary approach to the way the Army should fight and win on the battlefields of today and into the future emphasized the indispensable role of landpower and the unquestioned value of our soldiers with ‘boots on the ground.’"

Sullivan noted, "He will be truly missed, but his legacy to the Army, our fighting men and women, national defense and the nation, will live forever."

A Plattsburg, New York, native, Otis enlisted in the Army as a private in 1946 and became a machine gunner and later a squad leader while serving three years on occupation duty with Eighth U.S. Army in Korea following World War II.

He was then selected for admission to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and was commissioned a second lieutenant of armor in 1953. He later taught at West Point and received a master’s degree in mathematics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

During the Vietnam War, Lt. Col. Otis distinguished himself while commanding Headquarters Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, during the Tet Offensive.

Facing an enemy battalion of over 600 Viet Cong soldiers while defending Tan Son Nhut Air Base on Jan. 31, 1968, he led his soldiers killed over 300 enemy troops in the ensuing battle and took 24 prisoners.

For: "Repeatedly exposing himself to savage enemy fire, he led his men in a fierce attack that totally destroyed the enemy forces. His fearless leadership in the heat of battle," the citation for the Distinguished Service Cross read, "was instrumental in preventing the vital military installation from falling into enemy hands."

As a result of his total service in Vietnam, in addition to the Distinguished Service Cross – the nation’s second highest award for bravery – Otis received the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, eight Air Medals and three Purple Hearts.

The squadron he commanded during the 1968 Tet Offensive received the Presidential Unit Citation.

Promoted to brigadier general in 1974, he directed the XM-1 Tank Task Force during the upgrading of the engine and weapon systems of the combat vehicle.

After his promotion to major general, he commanded the 1st Armored Division, and as a lieutenant general, he was selected to be the Army’s deputy chief of staff, for operations and plans, at the pentagon.

Following his tenure at the Training and Doctrine Command, General Otis culminated his career by serving as the commander-in-chief, U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army, during the height of the Cold War.

Here, he was instrumental in applying the overall strategies adopted during the evolution of the AirLand Battle Doctrine that emphasized the Army must leave behind the notion that winning the fight must not be restricted the traditional "main battle area."

After his retirement, Otis continued serving the nation as a member of the Defense Science Board, and chairman of the board of Army Science and Technology at the National Academy of Sciences.

He also served as an Association of the United States Army Institute of Land Warfare senior fellow, where he was called upon many times to testify before Congress on military matters.

He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Barbara; one son, Peter, and his wife, Lisa; and two daughters, Caren Otis; and Nancee Groh, and her husband, Jeffrey; and four grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project, P.O Box 75817, Topeka, Kan.