• linden
  • Union
  • March 09, 1950
  • January 17, 1970
  • Marines
  • RANK:
  • CPL
  • KIA
  • South Vietnam


Otto J. Ostenfeld was born on March 9, 1950. His home of record is Linden, NJ. In December 1967 Otto left his home in the middle of his senior year of high school and traveled to Miami, Florida. From January 1968 to March of the same year, Otto attended USMC training in Paris Island, South Carolina. While in South Carolina Otto wrote to his parents in good spirits believing that he would be fighting in Korea.

Otto provided to be a very prolific writer. He wrote often to his family and friends through his time in service. Before his graduation on March 22, 1968 he wrote often about his eagerness to improve his fitness and his increasing ability to shot his M-14 rifle. At graduation Ostenfeld was promoted to Private 1st Class. He continued to Camp LeJeune in North Carolina for 1st Intensive Training Regiment.

Around May or June 1968 Otto traveled to San Diego California where he got a tattoo and then had a stopover in Hawaii. Finally he arrived in Da Nang in Vietnam. He was in the Platoon H&S, 81st Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Regiment and 1st Division. He wrote his parents on June 10, 1968 and tried to ease their concern but downplaying his platoon's involvement. He requested WD-40 to help with his M-16. Six days later he wrote his parents that a sniper was firing at their unit every night and they would soon go after him. Otto explained what equipment he carried on his person: "3 canteens, a bayonet and a 23 magazine and a LAW (Light Anti-Armor Weapon) or 2."

Later in July of 1968 Otto was transferred to the scouts (H&S Company, S-2 Scouts, and 1st Battalion [Rien] 27th Marines). His new job was to go out and get information and find booby traps. Another scout he worked with mentioned killing 181 NVA in 51 days as a member of 4 man team. Otto also mentioned working with a Vietnamese man named Ton who had come over to the American side. Otto's letters also described mortar attacks, performing operations in the Jungle, using his different weapons, and purchasing a camera, a Topcon Re-2. Otto also wrote about the effects of typhoons and the difficulty of sending souvenirs of a NVA belt and uniforms back home to his family. By September 1968 Otto had been promoted to Lance Corporal.

On November 19, 1968 Otto wrote a letter to his parents that could not cover up the harsh realities of the War:
"Dear Mom and Dad,

How has everything been with you? Ok I hope. One of my buddies got messed up pretty bad about 4 days ago. He stepped on a booby trap; it broke both of his legs and one arm, messed up his guts and knocked out 3 of his teeth. He's getting a discharge in three months. Da Nang got a rocket a few nights ago. The rocket went right over where I was, you could hear the impact. 88 VC were killed a few days ago when they tried to take an ARVN compound. Some NVA walked upon and ambush and killed one Marine and wounded another. The NVA were dressed like Marines with Flack jackets and helmets, they walked right up on them. Well nothing else much to write about. If Adam gets any ideas about getting out of school and joining the service make sure it's the navy or air force.

Your son,

In January 1969 Otto was transferred to Lima Co. because of a dispute with the Lieutenant. He also put in a request for C.A.P. By April 7, 1969 Otto was a member of the C.A. P. (Combined Action Program) in Quang Tri Province. On August 20, 1969 (estimated date) Otto was wounded in the DMZ during a late night ambush. His family received a letter from a fellow Marine who stated that Otto saved his life that night. Otto's wounds were considered life threatening and he was awarded a Purple Heart. Based on medical records, he suffered from shrapnel wounds to his scrotum. Otto spent 1 ½ months in St. Albans Hospital recovering from his wounds.

On October 21, 1969 Otto returned home to Linden, New Jersey for 20 days before volunteering to return to Vietnam. On November 10, 1969 he returned to RVN as a member of the Combined Action Platoon number 1-4-6 in My Lai. Otto was interviewed by Associated Press Writer Peter Arnett in December 2, 1969 because he was stationed near the hamlet that became famous following the investigation of the My Lai Massacre. His picture was featured in the story entitled "Linden G.I.: Typical Day at My Lai."

On December 10, 1969 Otto was wounded in a fire fight, shrapnel wound to his right calf, and admitted to the 27th surgical hospital in Chu Lai. Otto received a Gold Star of his wound which was considered life threatening. He wrote a letter to his parents a day later and never mentioned his wounds.

Over a month later on January 17, 1970 Otto Ostenfeld was killed in action in the Sen Tinh District in Quang, Nagai Province near the town of Chu Lai. He was returning from patrol when he stepped on a trip wire, which detonated an 81mm round. He suffered traumatic amputation of both legs with massive blood loss. Death was determined to be immediate. Ostenfeld was awarded in total a Purple Heart and two Gold Stars for his service.

Many of his fellow soldiers have remembered Otto by posting on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Website. Here are a few poignant quotes:

"Otto enlisted in Miami as a runaway from home in New Jersey. Was our platoon "House Mouse" Had trouble with frequent need to make head call. DI's busted his chops but he took it all with his chin up." -Kevin P.

"Your brother [Otto] and I first met at the Miami induction center where we had our medical along with 200-300 Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guardsman and of course Marines. I remember that he had gained permission to join from his parents because he was only 17 years old. We were put on a train at midnight that night and rode all night and the next day never sleeping as a result of our sharing life stories of each other and of our anticipation of what was to come, the adrenalin was unbelievable and kept us going. Were excited, afraid and proud. I felt a special kinship to your brother as I was a couple of years his senior. I was very proud of his effort in boot camp as his job was extremely demanding but gave him a purpose that helped him overcome the hardships that came with position that he held. I remember Otto receiving a meritorious promotion to Private First Class on graduation day and believe me he was ten feet tall. At graduation I introduced him to my parents who had lived for a while in New Jersey. After our infantry training at Camp Geiger North Carolina I lost track of Otto and have always wondered his fate and am saddened to have confirmed what I feared after discovering the Ostenfeld name on a KIA roster from somewhere in New Jersey. I was really hoping to someday hear his distinct raspy voice in a crowd someday and continue our friendship. Please assure your family of this man and his good natured, high spirited attitude that made him a leader of Marines. Your brother had a special place in my heart."-Kevin B.

Source: NJVVMF and the Ostenfeld family.


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