Chesterton Tribune

Ott Family serves country since WWI

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Charles Ott served in the United States Army in WWI, his son David served in the U.S. Army in Korea and Tom, husband of his granddaughter, Audra, is currently serving in the Indiana National Guard, recently reactivated and on his way to the Middle East.

The Ott family, women and children included, recently celebrated Veteran’s Day, and shortly after shared their heritage with the Chesterton Tribune.

Ruth Ott, who will be 99 in January, recalls meeting her husband in Minnesota, after he was sent home in 1919, having been wounded in the Argonne Forest in Germany.

“It was only a couple of days before Armistice Day,” she says recalling what he had told her about the war.

“My father said many soldiers thought he was lucky he was shot so he could go home,” continues David, her son, explaining the story of his father’s sacrifice.

“(Charles) was wearing a red band around his arm, working on a team that went out to pick up wounded in the fields,” he says.

“They weren’t supposed to shoot at the rescuers wearing the red bands,” Ruth interjects.

“Nevertheless, they shot him three times in the jaw and shot-to-death the man on the stretcher, David continues, adding that his wounded father made his way back to cover in the woods by himself. It was machine gun ammo that hit him. He lost so much blood, they didn’t think he’d make it. They shipped him back to the states.”

“Charles lost his lower jaw and the end of his tongue. He could barely lick his lips, Ruth recalls.

“I was only 14 years old when he came to work for my father when he came back from the war,” she continues “We lived on a farm and he helped fill the silo.”

Ruth says Charles didn’t talk much about the war, but was not bitter about what happened to him. The two were married when she was 22 years old and they made their home in Malmo, Minn.

She recalls rationing during the war. However, they were fortunate living in farm country because of the dairy farm and garden. There was no electricity, and no indoor plumbing. Horse and buggy was used for travel, yet they were comfortable, she says.

“It was during WWI that canning meat was introduced,” “We boiled the meat for four hours, only three if it was roasted, then canned it,” she says.

While she talks, she works on a red mitten she is knitting for her granddaughter. She says she learned to knit like her mother, with four needles.

“Mother used to knit in the dark. You could hear the needles clicking, and if she needed to see, she would go close to the flame of the draft on the stove, then continue with the knitting,” Ruth recalls.

Son David and his wife Audrey have similar recollections of their youthful days in Minnesota. They grew up each recalling the first telephone, radio, refrigerator, and so many other firsts, many city folk take for granted.

“Our telephone number was 6-2-F-30,” says Audrey.

“Ours was one long and two short, says David.

“Living in Minnesota was a lot like ‘Little House on the Prairie,” David says.

The family, now gathered in the TV room, recalls some of Charles’ practical jokes. He was known for bringing levity to serious situations.

When asked how she felt about her son going into the service, Ruth says he did what he believed was the right thing to do. He wrote to her faithfully.

David, enlisted in the Army when he was 17, before he graduated from high school and finished high school in the Army. He served in the 7th Division July 1950 - Oct. 1951 in Korea.

“I was among the troops who went the farthest north in Korea and were forced back by the Chinese. We spent Thanksgiving on the Yellow River and Christmas in Pusan. We were some of the last to be shipped out of Korea,” he says.

“His feet and hands froze,” she says choking a little as she recalls the danger he faced.

David says he still has trouble walking distances as a result of his feet being frozen.

Audra’s husband, Tom Simms, has already served in Panama, Desert Storm and now is on his way to the Middle East.

When asked what advice Ruth has for Tom and other soldiers headed for war, Ruth pauses then recites by memory the 91st Psalm:

“‘He that dwelleth in the secret place the most High hall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee.

Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, the habitation;

There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.

With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.’”


Posted 11/18/2002