Elinor Otto, one of the original Rosie the Riveters during World War II, who also worked on the iconic C-17 Globemaster III during much of her more than five decades as a Long Beach resident, has died. She was 104.
Otto, who lived in Long Beach from 1964 to 2019, when she moved in with family in Las Vegas, died at a hostpital early Sunday morning, Nov. 12, said her great-niece, Brenda Wynne. Hours earlier, on Veterans Day, Otto had a stroke and fell in her kitchen, said Wynne, who was holding her great-aunt’s hand when she died.
Otto was born on Oct. 28, 1919, in Los Angeles, but her parents and three sisters moved to San Diego, where she went to elementary and high school.
Otto started her first riveter job for the Rohr Aircraft Corporation in Chula Vista in 1942, a few weeks after the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
She was 22, recently divorced with a young son, and needed a job. She didn’t know how to use a rivet gun.
“But I learned fast,” Otto once said in an interview. “It was on-the-job training, and we worked hard because we wanted to win the war.”
After the war, she was laid off from her riveting job, along with thousands of other women. She tried other office jobs and even a carhop gig at a local drive-in, but none satisfied her desire for more activity — not the way building planes did.
Otto returned to aviation riveting work in 1951 for Ryan Aeronautical Corporation in San Diego and stayed there until she was laid off in 1964.
Then she learned Douglas Aircraft was hiring. So she moved to Long Beach.
Otto spent nearly 50 years at Douglas, which became McDonnell Douglas and, eventually, Boeing. During this period, she worked on Douglas commercial jets and, finally, the C-17.
Otto helped build all 279 Boeing C-17 cargo planes that were constructed in Long Beach. When she was laid off in 2014 as C-17 production was winding down — the last plane left Long Beach in 2015 — it ended a 66.5-year career working on aviation production lines.
“Don’t say I retired,” Otto said in 2018. “They laid me off.”
This story is breaking and will be updated.
Source: Orange County Register