Following in Our Father's Footsteps

Otis Compton enlisted in the Army on February 3rd 1943, and, after a ’90-day-wonder’ officers’ training program, shipped overseas as a 2nd Lieutenant in January of 44. Over the course of his service, he rose to the rank of Captain in the 1277th Army Corps of Engineers.

From Southampton, England, he crossed the English Channel shortly after the D-Day invasion, in early June of 1944. The Engineers built and replaced bridges, repaired bombed airports, and cleared mines and booby traps, sometimes under strafing attacks from enemy aircraft. Making their way across France, south of Paris, they built and repaired bridges that allowed the Army to cross into Germany. On a pass to Paris, he saw the Eifel Tower, Notre-Dame, and the Folies Bergère. Going forward, they cleared the streets of Hamburg, made their way through Munich and eventually were at the gates of Dachau after its liberation. He took a picture out the window of Hitler’s home in Berchtesgaden.


Otis, Dorothy, and June


Throughout his journeys, he kept up correspondence with his wife Dorothy and their small daughter June. They missed each other terribly, talked about the minutiae of their daily lives, and fought like cats and dogs about her plans for her career path after he returned home. He said often that he hated the war and was only there to ‘win it and return home to them.’ His large family, including a brother in the Navy and a brother in a POW camp in the Pacific, also wrote often. Remarkably, both Otis and Dorothy retained all of these letters.

Dorothy survived Otis by nearly 20 years, and during that time she started the task of organizing the letters. After Dorothy’s death, their middle daughter Donna took up the task, not realizing the extent of the collection, which contains more than 400 documents. Over four years, she transcribed the letters. Taken together, they tell the intimate story of a pair of flawed but remarkable people separated by a world at war, struggling at times to maintain a relationship through some of the hardest circumstances any generation has had to endure.

Through transcribing the letters, Donna developed a growing curiosity about her father’s route through Europe and finally into Austria. As one of the final parts of this process, two of Otis and Dorothy's daughters (KC and Donna) plan to visit Europe, retracing their father's footsteps and visiting many of the key places that feature in their correspondence. Older sister June, who is not able to make the trip, will stay in touch through electronic media.  


From left to right: June, KC, and Donna in 2017


This GoFundMe is intended to help them make that trip. The goal is to use their experiences to augment the letters Otis and Dorothy sent to each other during the war; to see the places they only know from letters over half a century old, and to reconnect with the memory of their now-departed father.  All three of Otis and Dorothy's daughters have worked as professional writers, including poetry, prose, and online and print journalism.

I'm Otis' grandson Dan.  I am currently living in Frankfurt, right in the middle of the path that my grandfather traveled across the continent.  I will plan the logistics of the trip and take care of all the details, since that's relatively easy for me to do from here.  None of us are wealthy, though, so any financial assistance helps.

We're planning the trip for September 2018. Funds will go to cover two plane tickets from the USA to Frankfurt, a rental car, and lodgings. We're not planning to stay anywhere fancy, and will most likely just use AirBnB. If we happen to go over, extra funds will be spent on flights/cars with more legroom. Ain't none of us spring chickens.


Otis and Dorothy's grave


Otis and Dorothy with grandchildren Dan (me!), Wendy, and Charles, approximately 1973


Donna and KC, approximately 1954


Donna and KC at Mesa Verde approximately 1964


Donna visiting KC in Seattle post-chemo, 2016.



More information about their daughters' writing careers:
KC's page on Medium
More of KC's writing

Donna's book about her work counseling survivors of the OKC bombing

June's Amazon author page


Here's a blog about the 1277th ACoE from the family of another soldier from the batallion:
http://johnrpriest.tumblr.com/

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Organizer

Dan Warren 
Organizer
Oklahoma City, OK
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