WWII Veteran Oral History interview
Date: May 19, 2003
Veteran: Arthur A. Otchy Sr.
US Army Air Corps, 1st Lieutenant, Aviation Ordnance Officer
1622nd Ordnance Supply Company, 46th Service Group, 5th Air Force
Interviewer: Michelle Carrara
Summarizer: Irving Bauman
Arthur Otchy was born in Union City, New Jersey in December, 1915. Otchy was a law student when he was drafted in the summer of 1941, and his entry into the military was delayed so that he could take the bar exam and await the results of the test. He was working as a law clerk when called into active service five weeks after hearing on his radio President Roosevelt’s announcement of the Pearl Harbor attack. Otchy formally entered the army at Fort Dix, New Jersey, in January, 1942. He recalled that all of his male relatives, even those who had children, ended up in the military in World War II.
Following basic training Otchy was transferred to Fort Riley, Kansas, for advanced training as a cavalryman, where he learned not only combat and weapons skills, but also how to care for horses. Since he had passed his bar examination, he hoped for an assignment to the Judge Advocate General Corps, but that was not to be. Since it became apparent early on that horse cavalry was not going to be a factor in the war, Otchy was reassigned from the cavalry school to an air base near Savannah, Georgia, where he worked as a clerk for three months. While there he witnessed pilot training exercises, including many that ended in accidents, including one incident in which the plane’s landing gear did not descend and it landed on its belly.
Otchy passed an examination for Officer Candidate School and was reassigned to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, home of the Ordnance Corps, where he learned the technical aspects of small arms, artillery and ammunition. On completion of his Aberdeen course, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and sent to Mitchell Field on Long Island as an aviation ordnance officer. Most of his time at Mitchell was spent as a small arms instructor, teaching pilots and air crews how to shoot rifles and handguns, and he was subsequently assigned around to different bases as an instructor.
During his assignment as an instructor, Otchy married a girl he had met in the summer of 1940 while he helped his parents manage their hotel in Long Branch, New Jersey. Following his marriage he lived with his wife in off-base housing, renting spare rooms from local families near the locations he was stationed. At one point he tried to change branches and was accepted into the Intelligence School at Fort Ritche, Maryland. Since he spoke both French and Armenian, he thought his chances to switch branches were excellent, but ultimately the army thought otherwise. After completing the Intelligence School course, he was transferred back to Ordnance as an Ordnance Supply and Maintenance Officer. While stationed at an air base near Richmond, Virginia in 1944, he received orders to go overseas.
After he received his deployment orders, Otchy’s wife went home to New Jersey, and he traveled to an overseas transport camp in Stockton, California, from where he boarded a troopship on October 9, 1944. He was fortunate to be an officer and shared a room with another officer. Enlisted men had to sleep in bunks stacked atop each other. Although he recalled that the meals aboard ship were good, and at times he felt he was traveling like a tourist, Otchy became, along with many other officers and enlisted men, seasick on the three-week long voyage across the Pacific.
Eventually the ship reached New Guinea, where Otchy joined the 1622nd Ordnance and Supply Company and remained there for three months until he and the unit moved on, via Liberty ship, to Hollandia Beach for a two week stay, and then on to the Philippines, where the company was stationed at Clark Field on Luzon. First lieutenant Otchy’s job was to make sure ammunition, which was brought to the air bases where he was stationed via truck and train, was unloaded and properly distributed to the fighter and bomber planes operating out of that location. His men also adjusted fuses in the bombs.
Although the fighting was over in the immediate area when the 1622nd arrived at each location, Otchy could see tracer bullets flying around at night in the hills beyond the unit perimeter, and he saw enemy dead stacked up like cordwood. At one point Otchy was riding in a jeep past a parked plane when a shell hit the plane and destroyed it. On another occasion one soldier in his company was struck by lightning and killed. Relations with the local population were good, and Otchy found the Filipino people to be friendly and happy to be liberated from Japanese occupation, but always hungry. American soldiers often traded food to the locals for souvenirs. Unfortunately, in a tragic accident, an American soldier shot a local peasant crossing a field, mistaking him for an armed Japanese soldier.
Otchy kept in touch with his wife by writing daily when he was overseas, and he was in charge of censoring his enlisted men’s mail home. He got most of his news from Time magazine, which was readily available. During the time he was in the Philippines he saw two USO shows, one with Eddie Cantor performing for the troops. While preparations for the invasion of Japan were underway, the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, effectively ending the war. Otchy believed that the use of the bomb was a necessity, and that President Truman made the correct choice in using it.
Following the end of the war in the Pacific, Otchy boarded a slow moving Liberty ship, which took three weeks to reach the west coast of the United States. He reached California on December 11, 1945 and then traveled by train to New Jersey, arriving home on Christmas Eve. While being mustered out of service at Fort Dix on February 22, 1946, he was asked if he wanted to join the army’s reserve force. Otchy declined, feeling four years of active service was enough.
Otchy went to work for Aetna Life Insurance after the war and then worked for Allstate Insurance in their claims department. He settled in Tenafly, New Jersey and joined the local American Legion and Lions’ club, as well as the Armenian Christian Church. Otchy later opened a law practice in Hackensack and practiced law successfully for twenty-five years until he retired in 1984. After retirement he moved to Bay Head, New Jersey and then Mantoloking, Elberon, and finally Fair Haven. He remained married for sixty-five years to the woman he wed while in the army. Otchy’s son served in Vietnam. At the end of his interview he showed pictures of his family and some of the areas he traveled to.
Arthur A. Otchy received the American Campaign medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign medal, the Philippine Liberation medal, and the World War II Victory medal. He passed away on August 6, 2008, at age 92.