Man tells story of World War I veteran great uncle

Local News

MAPLETON, Iowa (KCAU) – In 1918, Robert Otto’s great uncle, Harry Otto, was drafted to the US Military to fight in World War I. Robert Otto shares the story of his family member, who was also considered a hero.

“Every Memorial Day, we’ve gone to the cemetery to pay tribute to Harry,” Robert Otto said. He is the great nephew of Harry Otto, who served in the US Military during World War I.

“In July of 1918, he went with the draft from Onawa, Iowa to be served. There, he went through about a month of training at a couple places in the United States. And on August 29th, he was sent overseas,” Robert Otto said.

On November 7, 1918, Harry Otto was killed in action in France.

“They were in the battle of Hill 378 when he lost his life. This hill was one of the most bloodied places that the American soldiers fought to gain, and on November 8th, they were finally successful in gaining that hill,” Otto said.

Robert Otto says his great uncle was the only serviceman from the Danbury and Mapleton area killed in France during World War I.

“He was more or less considered a hero because on this hill 378, he died about 30 feet from the machine gun nest on top of that hill,” Otto explained.

If it wasn’t for one of Otto’s servicemen, Harry’s parents wouldn’t have received some of his belongings.

“He wrote a letter to Harry’s parents and in doing so, he was investigating the hill. He ran across a Lutheran hymnal and a testament book with Harry’s name on the inside,” Otto said.

After three years, Harry Otto was returned home and was laid to rest in Iowa.

“The services were held then on Sunday with the minister and a chaplain, and approximately 1,500 people attended. They had the service at the house and then they proceeded from there which was about a mile away from the Hartleben Cemetery,” Otto said.

And, the cemetery was renamed “Otto Cemetery” in Harry’s honor and is now maintained by Robert Otto and his wife.

“He was 24 years old, he wasn’t married, had no sons or daughters or immediate family to honor him throughout the years, so we’ve kind of taken it upon ourselves to be the ones to honor him,” Otto said.

On November 27, the Carlson/Frum and Loren Hollister Post will be at the Otto Cemetery to pay tribute to Harry, marking 100 years since his burial.

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