Albert Watson II

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Albert Watson II
Albert Watson II.JPG
Born(1909-01-05)January 5, 1909
Mount Vernon, Illinois
DiedMarch 14, 1993(1993-03-14) (aged 84)
San Antonio, Texas
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Army
RankLieutenant General
Commands heldUnited States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands
United States Third Army
Commandant of Berlin
24th Infantry Regiment
Battles/warsWorld War II Korean War
AwardsArmy Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Legion of Merit

Albert Watson II (January 5, 1909 – March 14, 1993) was a United States Army lieutenant general. He participated in World War II and fought in a number of significant battles in the Pacific Theater, including the Battle of Okinawa. From May 1961 to January 1963, Watson served as Commandant of Berlin and commanded American military forces there when construction of the Berlin Wall began. A major diplomatic incident occurred when members of Watson's staff were refused access to East Berlin. Riots also broke out during his tenure following the death of Peter Fechter. From 1964 to 1965, Watson filled the position of Commissioner of the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands. He increased Ryuku autonomy but ultimately spoke against the significant lessening of American administration authority in the Ryukyus. Watson received two Army Distinguished Service Medals during his career.

Personal life[edit]

Watson was born on January 5, 1909, and grew up in Mount Vernon, Illinois.[1] His father was an army colonel and his grandfather, Albert Watson, was a member of the Supreme Court of Illinois.[2] His family raised him Episcopalian and he remained so throughout his life.[2]

Watson married Anne Dunlap Bucher and had two children with her: Albert Watson III and John B. Watson.[1] Both of his sons attended military schools in Pennsylvania.[2] He became reasonably fluent in German while serving in the country. His hobbies included playing tennis and golf.[1] The Berlin press also noted that he enjoyed horseback riding, bridge, light opera, and mystery novels.[3] Syracuse University holds the collection of his writings in their Special Collections Research Center.[4]

Military career[edit]

Watson graduated from the United States Army Field Artillery School as part of the 1934–1935 class.[5] Watson both graduated from and served as a member of the faculty at the United States Army War College. At the college he taught strategy, tactics, and geopolitics.[1]

Watson participated in Operations Reckless and Persecution, the Battle of Leyte, and the Battle of Okinawa during World War II.[1] He served mainly with the Tenth Army in New Guinea.[2] Afterward he served as the Director of Personnel Plans in the Office of Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel.[6] He also fought in the Korean War.[1]

Watson commanded the United States Third Army from 1963 to 1964.[7] He also commanded two infantry divisions stationed in West Germany, including the 24th Infantry Regiment.[1][2] Upon retiring he had reached the rank of lieutenant general.[citation needed]

Commandant of Berlin[edit]

Watson was Commandant of Berlin as a major general from May 5, 1961, to January 2, 1963.[8] In this position he fulfilled many roles, reporting to Ambassador Walter C. Dowling in a diplomatic role, General Lauris Norstad in a military role, and communicated directly to the United States Department of State through United States mission head E. Allan Lightner, Jr.[9] He received his first Army Distinguished Service Medal during his years as commandant.[10]

Construction of the Berlin Wall began during his tenure as commandant. In a show of defiance regarding a portion of the Wall set up there, Watson was ordered to set up a military presence in the Steinstücken enclave and sent continuing helicopter flights to the contested area. Tank showdowns would also take place in the wall's early years.[11]

A small diplomatic incident occurred when Watson cancelled an appointment with the Soviet Commandant of East Berlin, Soloviev. East German border guards, whose authority the United States did not recognize, denied access to his two aides and his interpreter after they did not show papers at the border despite being in an official army car and the American insistence that only Soviet officials could demand that American military show identification; this prompted Watson to turn around and send protest to the Soviets instead of meeting with them. Ironically, the meeting had in part been called to discuss the barring of an American official's entry into East Berlin less than a week earlier.[12] Watson responded by blocking Soloviev and his chief political adviser from entering the American sector.[13] A second diplomatic crisis occurred when Soviet official P. V. Signaov refused to meet with Watson over the latter's refusal to stop West German youth from throwing stones at East German buses.[14] He also dealt with the Peter Fechter incident and the riots that followed Fechters murder.[15]

Commissioner of the Ryukyu Islands[edit]

Watson became Commissioner of the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands on August 1, 1964. The State Department originally intended General Charles H. Bonesteel III for the role; when Bonesteel proved unable to fill the position due to failing eyesight, they offered Watson the job instead.[16]

In August 1965, Watson received Prime Minister of Japan Eisaku Satō, becoming the first Commissioner of the islands to meet with a Japanese head of government.[17] Watson also greatly increased the amount of aid that Japan was allowed to give to the islands far above the figures that his predecessors had allowed.[18] He made attempts to improve relations between the American military and Ryukyu legislature.[19] He expanded autonomy and Japanese involvement to an extent and expressed a more lenient attitude to the residents of the island chain.[20] However, he refused to give up United States administrative rights to the island, stating that doing so would lower troop mobility and threaten national security.[20]

Despite a promising start, Watson continued the trend of his predecessor and practiced a tumultuous relationship with United States Ambassador to Japan, Edwin O. Reischauer. The two accused each other of keeping the other out of the loop and breaking agreements.[18] He received a second Army Distinguished Service Medal at the end of his term as commissioner.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Associated Press (12 October 1961). "U.S. Berlin Army Boss Has Poise, Likes Poetry". Sarasota Journal. Sarasota, Florida. Lindsay Newspapers. p. 35. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e Lewis, Flora (1 April 1962). "Berlin Commandant: Maj. Gen. Albert Watson 2d Has What May be the Most Critical General's Job in the Army". The New York Times. New York City. The New York Times Company. p. 211.
  3. ^ Kempe, Frederick (2011). Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth. New York City: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-399-15729-5. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  4. ^ "Albert Watson II Papers". Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University. 2011. Archived from the original on 6 June 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  5. ^ "Graduates—The Field Artillery School, 1934–35 Class". The Field Artillery Journal. Fort Sill, Oklahoma: US Field Artillery Association: 388. July–August 1935. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  6. ^ The Judge Advocate General's School 1951–1961 (PDF). Charlottesville, Virginia: The Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School. 1961. p. 90. Archived from the original on 8 May 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2011.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  7. ^ "Commanding Generals". United States Army Central. 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-09-27. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  8. ^ Grathwol, Robert (1999). Berlin and the American Military: A Cold War Chronicle. New York City: New York University Press. p. 192. ISBN 0-8147-3133-3. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  9. ^ Goldberg, Alfred; Steve L. Rearden (1984). History of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Vol. 5. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. p. 165. ISBN 978-0-16-075369-5. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  10. ^ a b "Valor Awards for Albert Watson II". Military Times. Gannett Government Media. 2011. Archived from the original on 6 September 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  11. ^ Smyser, W.R. (2009). Kennedy and the Berlin Wall. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 132–140. ISBN 978-0-7425-6090-1. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  12. ^ Associated Press (24 December 1961). "U.S. Berlin Chief Cancels Russ Call". Milwaukee Journal. Milwaukee. Journal Communications. p. 60. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
  13. ^ Associated Press (30 January 1962). "Briton Offers Berlin Plan". The Register-Guard. Eugene, Oregon. Guard Publishing. p. 2. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
  14. ^ "Crisis in Berlin Cools Off A Bit". St. Petersburg Times. St. Petersburg, Florida. Times Publishing Company. 22 August 1962. p. 7. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
  15. ^ "Moscow Warns Riots Threaten Peace in Europe". Milwaukee Journal. Milwaukee. Journal Communications. 21 August 1962. p. 20. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
  16. ^ Johnson, U. Alexis (12 April 1964). "Document 12: Letter From the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson) to the Ambassador to Japan (Reischauer)". Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964–1968. Vol. XXIX, Part 2. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Historian. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  17. ^ United Press International (20 August 2011). "Japanese Leader Flees from Leftist Mob". Pittsburgh Press. Pittsburgh. E. W. Scripps Company. p. 10. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  18. ^ a b Sarantakes, Nicholas Evans (2000). "Reischauer vs. Caraway". Keystone: The American Occupation of Okinawa and U.S.-Japanese Relations. College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press. pp. 139–141. ISBN 0-89096-969-8. Retrieved 30 July 2011.
  19. ^ "U.S. Chief Seeks Ryukyus' Backing". The New York Times. New York City. The New York Times Company. 12 August 1964. p. 14.
  20. ^ a b Higa, Miko (March 1967). "The Reversion Theme in Current Okinawan Politics". Asian Survey. Berkeley: University of California Press. 7 (3): 151–158. doi:10.2307/2642234. JSTOR 2642234.