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John P. Otjen (born January 7, 1942) is a retired United States Army officer. He attained the rank of lieutenant general, and his command assignments included First United States Army and the 8th Infantry Division.

John P. Otjen
John P. Otjen (U.S. Army General) 2.jpg
U.S. Army photo of Otjen as Deputy Inspector General in 1992.
Born (1942-01-07) January 7, 1942 (age 77)
San Antonio, Texas
Allegiance United States
Service/branchEmblem of the United States Department of the Army.svg United States Army
Years of service1964–1995
RankUS-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant General
UnitUnited States Army Infantry Branch
Commands heldFirst United States Army
8th Infantry Division
2nd Brigade, 8th Infantry Division
2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment
Company A, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment
Battles/warsVietnam War
AwardsDistinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal with "V" device for valor and three oak leaf clusters


Early lifeEdit

John Putnam Otjen was born on January 7, 1942 in San Antonio, Texas, the son of Theo Putnam Otjen and Jean Mather Leesly.[1] Otjen grew up in Elm Grove, Wisconsin.[2] In 1960, he graduated from Brookfield High School in Brookfield, Wisconsin.[2]

Otjen attended the United States Military Academy.[3] The Corps of Cadets took part in a 1964 birthday celebration for Douglas MacArthur (MacArthur's last).[3] During preparations for the event, organizers realized that Otjen's great-grandfather Theobald Otjen was the Congressman who had appointed MacArthur to West Point in 1899.[3] This resulted in Otjen getting to meet MacArthur for an individual discussion, and both the family connection and the meeting were widely reported in U.S. newspapers.[3]

Early careerEdit

After his 1964 graduation from West Point, Otjen completed the Infantry Officer Basic Course and Ranger School.[4][5] Otjen was also a graduate of Airborne School and the Pathfinder course.[5] In 1965, he was assigned to 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, a unit of the 101st Airborne Division.[6]

In 1966, Otjen went to Vietnam as a liaison officer on the staff of 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, a unit of the 25th Infantry Division.[5] His continued Vietnam War service with the 25th Division included platoon leader,[7] executive officer,[2] and commander of 2nd Battalion's Company A,[6] and aide-de-camp to the 25th Division commander, John C. F. Tillson.[8] He was promoted to captain in 1967.[9]

Otjen completed the Infantry Officer Advanced Course, and also graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1971 with a master of business administration degree.[4] He was promoted to major in 1974, and graduated from the United States Army Command and General Staff College in 1976.[4]

In 1977, Otjen was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea.[4] From 1979 to 1981, Otjen commanded 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, which had recently been re-flagged from 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry.[5]

In 1981 he graduated from the United States Army War College, after which he served as assistant chief of staff for personnel (G-1) on the staff of the 8th Infantry Division.[5] From 1982 to 1985 he commanded 2nd Brigade, 8th Infantry Division.[5]

After completing his brigade command, Otjen served as chief of staff for the 1st Armored Division[5] and deputy chief of staff for support at Central Army Group in Heidelberg, West Germany.[10]

Later careerEdit

From 1989 to 1990, Otjen was assistant division commander of the 8th Infantry Division.[10] He commanded the division from 1990 to 1992, and began the process of mobilizing the organization to take part in Operation Desert Storm.[11] Some 8th Division units took part in the conflict, but the bulk of the division did not deploy before the conflict ended.[12] Otjen was the 8th Division's last commander before the organization was inactivated in 1992.[13]

From 1992 to 1993, Otjen was the Army's Deputy Inspector General for inspections, training and automation.[14] During his time in this post, Otjen was co-chairman of a working group which provided advice to the Secretary of Defense on the issue of lifting the government's ban on homosexuals being allowed to serve in the military.[15] The group recommended keeping the ban in place; Secretary of Defense Les Aspin considered this recommendation and several other options before issuing the regulations that became known as the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy.[15]

From 1993 to 1995, Otjen was commander of First United States Army, and oversaw the organization's relocation from Fort Meade to Fort Gillem.[16] Otjen retired in 1995.[16]

Post-military careerEdit

After his retirement from the military, Otjen was deputy director of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.[17] He was later an executive with L3, a defense contractor.[18]

Awards and decorationsEdit


Otjen and his wife Ann M. Otjen are the parents of three children, Thomas, Michael and Sarah.[14]




  • Leung, Shirley (June 30, 1995). "1st Army Leaves Fort Meade". Baltimore Sun. Baltimore, MD.
  • Jones, Bob (Advertiser correspondent) (May 1, 1966). "The Bad Breaks Keep Plaguing Sergeant Bode". Tropic Lightning News. Củ Chi Base Camp, South Vietnam: Public Affairs Office, 25th Infantry Division.
  • Lippman, Thomas W. (Washington Post) (August 27, 1993). "Outside Study Challenges Findings Of Internal Pentagon Study on Gays". The Tech. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • "West Point Cadets to Bring MacArthur Birthday Salute". Minneapolis Morning Tribune. Minneapolis, MN. Associated Press. January 25, 1964. p. 3.
  • "1st Brigade 2/14th". Tropic Lightning News. Củ Chi Base Camp, South Vietnam: Public Affairs Office, 25th Infantry Division. November 4, 1966. p. 7.
  • "2nd Bn, 14th Inf". Tropic Lightning News. Củ Chi Base Camp, South Vietnam: Public Affairs Office, 25th Infantry Division. January 20, 1967. p. 9.
  • "Receiving Promotions in Vietnam". Waukesha Daily Freeman. Waukesha, WI. April 1, 1967. p. 2 (Saturday Review).
  • "Photo caption: Watching children from the village of Tan Thoi frolic on a new piece of playground equipment". Tropic Lightning News. Củ Chi Base Camp, South Vietnam: Public Affairs Office, 25th Infantry Division. May 15, 1967. p. 3.
  • "Fort Meade commander retires today". Baltimore Sun. Baltimore, MD. September 28, 1993.
  • Hartman, Bob (June 1, 2016). "Know Your Companions: LTG (Ret.) John P. Otjen" (PDF). The Free State Officers Call. Fort Meade, MD: The Military Order of the World Wars: General George G. Meade Chapter. p. 2.



Military offices
Preceded by
James H. Johnson Jr.
Commanding General of the First United States Army
Succeeded by
Guy A. J. LaBoa
Preceded by
David M. Maddox
Commanding General of the 8th Infantry Division
Succeeded by
Unit inactivated