Marvin Gilbeck

Blair Soldier, Veteran of Italian Invasion, on Furlough
BLAIR, WI— (Special)—Private First Class Orlin Otterson, 22, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Otterson of Blair, is back from the European Theater of War, wearing four major engagement Stars, two Presidential Citations, the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman Badge, and with a record of miraculous escapes, not only from death, but capture as well. He is a veteran of Tunisia, Sicily, Salerno, and the Anzio Beachhead, coming through with but two small wounds from shrapnel, one in the left knee and the other on the little finger knuckle on the right hand.

Entering service in the Air Corps on  November 15, 1942, he was transferred to the Infantry. Before leaving for overseas on April 1, 1943, he received training at Camp Wolters, TX; Shenango, PA; and Camp Kilner, NJ. He landed at Casablanca and, in April, became a member of the Third Division in which he helped capture Tunisia.

After Tunisia, he went into amphibious training, preparatory to Sicily, and was with the first wave entering that island. He landed on July 10 and, by August 17, he was at Messina, just across the straits from Italy. His division made two landings behind the German lines in Sicily.   

Private First Class Otterson remained with the Third Division in Sicily, until September, when they were sent to Salerno, Italy. From there, he continued on up through Italy. For taking a mountain about 10 miles south of Cassino, his battalion received its first Presidential Citation for bravery. 

Private First Class Otterson landed at Anzio on January 22, 1944 and reached Rome, before he was sent to a rest camp and back to the States, where he landed on August 5. He is now at home on a 21-day delay en route to Fort Sam Houston, TX, a reassignment base. 

Private First Class Otterson was armed with an automatic rifle.

Marvin Gilbeck, husband of the former Lila Nordhus of Blair, was a member of the Third Division with Otterson and was killed in action in Italy. Also in his division was Milton Lee of Osseo.

Private First Class Otterson escaped death on one occasion, when he dropped into a foxhole, just as a Jerry let him have it and shot 60 holes into his pack with a machine pistol. On another occasion, he and some buddies lay down on some straw at dusk to take a rest. After lying a few minutes in one position, Otterson turned on his side and spied the wires of a booby trap. One night, his group, now reduced from 12 to six, stopped for a rest. He went back to the aid station for something and, on his return, he discovered that his companions had been captured. 

One morning, when he and a pal woke at dawn, they discovered a German soldier sleeping between them. They immediately took him prisoner.

"Sometimes we went five or six days on only a couple of Army rations," he said. "And, at times, our drinking water was limited to rain water as the retreating Germans blew up wells and everything in their path that might be of use to us." 

He saw Mt. Vesuvius in eruption, describing it as a beautiful sight but weird. He visited the ruins of Pompeii. He said the Italians, as a whole, were thrilled at the arrival of the Americans, but there were also the blackshirts, some of whom were captured with radio sets, etc., working as spies for the Nazis.

Private First Class Otterson and his cousin, Private Earl Otterson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Otterson of Blair, were in training together at Camp Wolters, went overseas together, but were separated when they reached Africa. Earl drove the truck that carried Orlin to the battlefront at Tunisia. Earl died May 26, this year, of wounds received in Italy.

Orlin has a brother, Private Burnette Otterson, in the service. Burnette, a member of a tank destroyer company, is now en route overseas.

Private First Class Otterson is a nephew of Mrs. Melvin Gunderson, nurse at the Whitehall Community Hospital.