George Watson was born in Birmingham,
Alabama. At age 28, he was drafted into the U. S. Army with serial number 34229603. He attended basic training at Camp Lee, Virginia. Afterwards, he was sent to Charleston, South Carolina. Next, he arrived at Newport News, Virginia and embarked on the USS Hermitage (AP-54) as one of 10,000 troops departing on December 27, 1942. Traveling via the Panama Canal then across the Pacific, the vessel arrived at Brisbane on January 31, 1943.
A member of the 29th Quartermaster Regiment, 2nd Battalion as a laundry and bath specialist. He was assigned to the s'Jacob a Dutch freighter commandeered into American service. 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
Posthumously, Watson was the first black solider
to receive the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) during World War II.
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.
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 is displayed at the U. S. Army Quartermaster Museum in Fort Lee, Virginia.