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EAA Pays Tribute to 'The Colonel'

Otis Prichard

March 24, 2011 — Lt. Col. Otis B. Prichard (U.S. Air Force-Ret), of Green Bay, Wisconsin, who flew B-17s in World War II and played a role in one of the most famous escape efforts of all time, passed away on Saturday, March 12. He was 88. Otis, EAA 199373 and a member since 1982, flew with 8th Air Force, 96 Bomb Group. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942 and received his pilot wings with the class of 43D at Luke Field in Arizona.

Otis flew multiple bombing missions when stationed in England until he was shot down in the North Sea in July 1943. After his capture by the German Navy, he spent the duration - 22 months - as a POW in several POW camps in Germany and Poland. One of those camps was Stalag Luft III, the camp that inspired the movie The Great Escape.

In fact, Otis helped dig the now famous tunnels used by the 76 POWs – mostly Commonwealth airmen – to escape the camp. Otis and the other Americans at Stalag Luft III were transferred to another camp, but they helped build the tunnels and worked on the early escape plans.

After the war Otis continued to serve as a member of the Air Force Reserves and the 440th unit out of Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Field, where he rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He retired from active duty in 1971.

When Otis was laid to rest last Sunday, March 20, a planned fly-over by EAA’s B-17 Aluminum Overcast had to be canceled due to weather. The aircraft was scheduled to be making final checkout flights that day in preparations for the 2011 tour that starts April 1.

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