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Private George Watson
U.S. Army, 29th Quartermaster Regiment

Click For EnlargementBackground
Private George Watson, 34229603 was from Birmingham, Alabama. Drafted into the US Army at age 28, he attended basic training at Camp Lee, Virginia. Then to Charleston, South Carolina and departed overseas from Newport News, Virginia on December 27, 1942 aboard the USS Hermitage to Australia via the Panama Canal with 10,000 troops aboard that disembarked at Brisbane on January 31, 1943.

s'Jacob
Click For EnlargementA member of the 29th Quartermaster Regiment, he was assigned to the Dutch freighter commandeered into American service, the s'Jacob. On March 8, 1943 off Porlock Harbor, the ship came under sudden attack by Japanese aircraft. Badly damaged by a Japanese bomb at 1:00pm, and the crew were ordered to abandon ship. Watson swam to help others who could not swim to reach life rafts. Watson drowned attempting to rescue others and was declared dead, his body was never recovered. It is believed he was unable to get clear of the turbulence when the ship sank.

Distinguished Service Cross
Watson was the first black solider to receive the Distinguished Service Cross during World War II.

Memorials
Watson is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at the Manila American Cemetery. At Fort Benning, Georgia there is "George Watson Memorial Field" named in his honor. The Alabama Veterans Memorial Foundation honored Watson with a special ceremony and commemorative plaque to be place in the Grand Memorial courtyard on Memorial Day, 2003.

Relatives
Watson is survived by his daughter Kay Adams and many grandchildren. Ms. Adams lives in the Cleveland, Ohio area.

Medal of Honor
Around 1.2 million African-Americans served in World War II, but none received the Medal of Honor during or after the war. In the late 1990's the Army conducted a three year long review of the records of 10 World War II black heroes to determine if they met the standards for the Medal of Honor. Of these, seven names were submitted to Congress and the President.

On January 13, 1997, at a White House ceremony, President William J. Clinton bestowed the Medal of Honor on these seven African American veterans of World War II. Only one of the recipients was still alive to receive his award in person. The others had died during the war or in the decades since, and were represented by next of kin. Private Watson's Medal of Honor resides in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum at Fort Lee, Virginia.

Medal of Honor Citation (March 8. 1943 Posthumous, awarded 1997)
Medal of Honor"For extraordinary heroism in action on 8 March 1943. Private Watson was on board a ship which was attacked and hit by enemy bombers. When the ship was abandoned, Private Watson, instead of seeking to save himself, remained in the water assisting several soldiers who could not swim to reach the safety of the raft. This heroic action, which subsequently cost him his life, resulted in the saving of several of his comrades. Weakened by his exertions, he was dragged down by the suction of the sinking ship and was drowned. Private Watson's extraordinarily valorous actions, daring leadership, and self-sacrificing devotion to his fellow-man exemplify the finest traditions of military service."

References
Honor Deferred: George Watson Sequence  video from documentary 4.4meg download

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Last Updated
January 3, 2014

 

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