Allen Dale Olson

Recently our Museum received in an assortment of military family artifacts, a German Roemer, a traditional wine glass of the Rhine Valley, with an inscription etched in its bowl: “General & Mrs. Glenn K. Otis, CINCUSAREUR, Farewell Dinner” along with four stars signifying his rank. Looking at that name triggered many memories of the five or so years I worked with General Otis (one of eight U.S. Army Commanders I served in Europe).

Because of our museum’s mission to tell the stories of family life in the military, I want to share two examples of how General Otis recognized the sanctity of family life. A meeting we had attended at Ramstein Air Base had gone long past dinner, and as we approached the general’s car for the ride back to Heidelberg – about an hour’s drive, the Ramstein Base Commander offered us a helicopter, to save us some time.

“Thanks,” General Otis said, “but my driver is one guy late for dinner at home. A chopper would require your crew and my opening the air field in Heidelberg, six or seven guys with their evenings disrupted. We’ll go by car.”

One afternoon in Washington, I left the Pentagon for a meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army taking place in a hotel on Connecticut Avenue. In line in the Metro Station to use the ticket machine, I noticed the man in front of me having trouble making the machine take his dollar bill. Excusing myself, I offered him one of my crisp bills. As he turned around, he exclaimed, “Ole, what are you doing here?” General Otis was headed for the same meeting.

As a four-star, it would have been fairly normal for an Army car and driver to haul him around the city. But ever conscious of other people’s needs, Glenn Otis opted to take the subway. “For one thing,” he told me, “I don’t know how long I’ll be at this meeting or what I’ll get into afterward with some of the other West Pointers. No sense tying up a driver whose probably got a dozen more things to do before he gets off work.”

He was my CINC longer than any of the other seven USASREUR Commanders I worked with, thethe one I got to know best, and I always found him very devoted to the staff who served him.

I wasn’t there for his farewell dinner in 1988, but for a few moments as I unwrapped the donated wine glass, I could picture what a decent, respectful event it must have been.

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