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Otto Schwarz, 1923-2006

categories: Department News, In the News, USS Houston & Military History

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Otto C. Schwarz, founder of the USS Houston Survivors Association, died on August 3, 2006. A Seaman First Class on the heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA-30), Otto participated in the Battle of the Java Sea and the Battle of Sunda Strait during World War II. Along with his fellow surviving crew members, he was taken prisoner of war by the Japanese following the sinking of the ship in the Battle of Sunda Strait in March 1942. As a POW, Otto worked as slave labor on the Burma-Thai Railroad, where many Allied POWS died due to the brutal conditions.

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Following the war, Otto founded the USS Houston Survivors Association as a way to maintain the bonds between his fellow shipmates. He published the Blue Bonnet newsletter for decades before declining health forced him to pass along the editorship to Val Roberts-Poss and Lin Drees. He encouraged his fellow survivors to preserve their own history, gradually building a significant collection of documents, photographs, and artifacts which the organization donated to the University of Houston Libraries in 1981. (This collection continues to grow). The story of the USS Houston (CA-30) and her crew has been preserved through the USS Houston Monument in downtown Houston, the permanent USS Houston exhibit here at the UH Libraries, and a number of books, oral histories, and documentary films.

Those of us who knew Otto will remember his incredible passion for the ship, his knowledge of almost every aspect of the ship’s history, and his drive to commemorate the lives of his fellow crew members who perished during the battle or in the POW camps. He was a man of great personal warmth, deep patriotism, and immense modesty.

Otto is survived by his wife Trudy, and his sons John and Edward.

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