The Nevada Patriotic Council is proud to announce Dennis Otto as their chosen Honorary Parade Marshal for this year’s Memorial Day observance.
Denny was drafted into the U. S. Army in August, 1969, when the United States was involved in the Vietnam conflict. He took his basic training at Fort Campbell, Ky., and six weeks later he was sent to Fort Bliss, Texas, for his Advanced Individual Training in air defense artillery. In January, 1970, Denny was deployed to Vietnam. Here he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 44th Artillery, commonly called a ‘Duster Unit’, near the demilitarized zone that divided North and South Vietnam.
Although originally intended for anti-aircraft defense in the Korean War, the M42 duster was also used during the Vietnam Conflict, primarily as an effective means of protecting ground units and guarding bridges and convoys, Denny and his duster unit guarded the perimeter of the 3rd Marine Division main base camp, performed mine sweeps and provided protection for outgoing patrols. The M42’s were light armored tanks with dual 40mm guns atop the turret. It was also equipped with M60 & M2 machine guns on either side. Denny was one of the gunners and the backup driver for their four-man crew responsible for one of two M42’s at the firebase.
March 12, 1970 a grenade was thrown into the communications bunker, where Denny was just finishing radio watch. North Vietnamese soldiers were climbing through windows and doors of the compound. The enemy had destroyed one of the M42’s, but U.S. troops used the second one until the guns were no longer operable. Although wounded with the grenade attack, Denny continued to fight against the enemy. With the big guns on the M42’s inoperable, the troops could no longer hold the firebase and had to withdraw to Camp Carroll 2 miles south. As wounded and remaining troops were being loaded for evacuation, Denny was shot two more times. As backup driver, Denny’s comrades loaded him in the driver’s seat of the M42, and he proceeded to pick up the wounded and remaining soldiers while under heavy enemy fire, before driving the two-mile stretch to Camp Carroll. Without clearance to enter the main gate, Denny realized the wounded, himself included, needed immediate medical attention, so, with approval of his sergeant, he drove the tank through the barbed wire perimeter and into the camp. Here he fell unconscious due to his injuries.
Denny doesn’t remember the next two weeks. He woke in a hospital north of Tokyo. After spending a month in Japan, he was transferred to Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Denver, Co, where, after multiple surgeries during the next 18 months, he was honorably discharged in October 1972. Denny was awarded a Vietnam service medal and two Purple Hearts in recognition of his service to the United States Army. In addition, he has been offered a Bronze Star Medal for heroic and selfless acts he performed at Khe Gio Bridge. He has yet to accept the award, though, insisting that the U.S. Army recognize the valiant actions of his fellow soldiers, who refused to leave him behind and carried him to safety. In October, 2012, Denny was one of many Vietnam veterans to participate in a Freedom Flight, giving him the opportunity to travel to Washington DC and see the memorial built in honor of our Vietnam veterans who paid the supreme sacrifice.
The Nevada Patriotic Council wishes to say thank you to Denny and his fellow Vietnam-era veterans.