George Watson (Medal of Honor)
|Died||March 8, 1943 (aged 27–28)
near Porloch Harbor, New Guinea
|Place of burial||at sea|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1942–1943|
|Unit||2nd Battalion, 29th Quartermaster Regiment L&B|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Medal of Honor
George Watson (1915 – March 8, 1943) was a private in the United States Army who was killed in action during World War II. He was one of seven African-American soldiers to receive the Medal of Honor for their actions during World War II, and the only one of the seven to earn his medal while serving in the Pacific Theater.
A resident of Birmingham, Alabama, he attended Colorado A&M (now known as Colorado State University) and graduated in 1942. He entered the Army on September 1, 1942, and was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 29th Quartermaster Regiment. He was a passenger aboard the U.S. Army controlled chartered Dutch steamer 's Jacob on March 8, 1943, which was near Porlock Harbor, New Guinea, when the ship was hit by Japanese bombers.
When the ship was abandoned, Watson remained in the water and, instead of trying to save himself, assisted soldiers who could not swim into life rafts. Weakened by his exertions, he was dragged down by the suction of the sinking ship and drowned. His body was never recovered.
For this action, Watson was originally awarded the Army's second-highest decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross. He was the first African American to receive the Distinguished Service Cross in World War II. The award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor in 1997. During a ceremony conducted on January 13 of that year, President Bill Clinton bestowed the Medal of Honor on seven African-American veterans of World War II. Only one of the recipients, Vernon J. Baker, was still alive to receive his award in person.
Awards and honors
Watson's military awards include the Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal. Watson had no known next of kin, so his medals are displayed in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum in Fort Lee, Virginia.
Several places and structures have been named in Watson's honor, including a field in Fort Benning, Georgia, and, in 1997, the United States Navy ship USNS Watson (T-AKR-310). The Watson is the lead ship of her class of large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off (LMSR) ships.
Medal of Honor Citation
"The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Private George Watson, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action on 8 March 1943, while serving with 29th Quarter Master Regiment, in action at Porloch Harbor, New Guinea. 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."
- List of Medal of Honor recipients for World War II
- List of African American Medal of Honor recipients
- "Medal of Honor recipients to be honored at Colorado State University October 24". Colorado State University. October 22, 2009. Retrieved November 20, 2009.
- Kelly, S.H. "Seven WWII vets to receive Medals of Honor" (PDF). Army News Service. United States Army Center of Military History. January 13, 1997. Retrieved April 12, 2010.