Leroy H. Watson

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Leroy H. Watson
Leroy Hugh Watson (US Army general).jpg
Watson as commander of the Fort Lewis army post, circa 1950. US Army Public Affairs photo.
Born(1893-11-03)November 3, 1893
St. Louis, Missouri
DiedFebruary 12, 1975(1975-02-12) (aged 81)
Beverly Hills, California
Buried
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1915-1953
RankMajor General
Service number03896
Commands held3rd Battalion, 42nd Infantry
3rd Battalion, 33rd Infantry
40th Armored Regiment
Combat Command A, 3rd Armored Division
3rd Armored Division
79th Infantry Division
International Military Tribunal Command, Germany
Southern District, Sixth United States Army
Fort Lewis
Chief of Civil Affairs, U. S. Far East Command
U.S. Defense Advisory Group, Japan
Battles/warsPancho Villa Expedition
World War I
Occupation of Germany (1919)
World War II
Occupation of Germany (1945)
Occupation of Japan
AwardsSilver Star (2)
Legion of Merit (2)
Bronze Star Medal (2)

Leroy Hugh Watson (November 3, 1893 – February 12, 1975) was a career officer in the United States Army who attained the rank of major general. A 1915 graduate of the United States Military Academy ("The class the stars fell on"), Watson served in the Pancho Villa Expedition and World War I.

During World War II, Watson commanded the 3rd Armored Division from August 1942 to August 1944. Concerned that he was not leading the division effectively during combat in France, his superior, Omar Bradley, a West Point classmate and lifelong friend, relieved him of duty. Rather than request a stateside assignment that would allow him to keep his temporary rank, Watson agreed to accept a reduction in rank in order to remain in France. Watson was reduced in rank to colonel and assigned to the staff of Bradley's Twelfth United States Army Group. Soon afterwards, Brigadier General Norman Cota was transferred from assignment as assistant division commander of the 29th Infantry Division to commander of the 28th Infantry Division and promoted to major general. Watson was selected to replace Cota at the 29th Infantry Division. In November 1944, he was again promoted to brigadier general, reclaiming general officer’s rank less than three months after his demotion. In August 1945, Watson was appointed to command the 79th Infantry Division, which he led until it was inactivated in December 1945.

Following the war, Watson served as commander of the International Military Tribunal Command in Germany, where he worked to enhance security and ensure that none of the Nazis on trial for war crimes were able to escape. His later assignments included chief of Civil Affairs for the U.S. Far East Command and commander of US Defense Advisory Group, Japan. In early 1953 he was promoted to major general, and he retired later that year.

After retiring, Watson lived in Beverly Hills, California, where he served on the city council and was mayor from 1962 to 1963. He died in Beverly Hills on February 12, 1975 and was buried at West Point Cemetery.

Early life[edit]

Leroy H. Watson was born in St. Louis, Missouri on November 3, 1893,[1] the son of furrier George Washington Watson and Sarah Ann (Callahan) Watson.[2] He attended the public schools of St. Louis and was a 1910 graduate of McKinley High School.[3]

Watson received appointment to the United States Military Academy in 1911.[3] He graduated in 1915, a member of "The class the stars fell on", and was ranked 151st of 164.[4] Watson was appointed a second lieutenant of Infantry and initially assigned to border security with the 22nd Infantry Regiment at Camp Harry J. Jones, Arizona during the Pancho Villa Expedition.[5] He was soon transferred to the 11th Infantry and promoted to first lieutenant.[5] He received his promotion to captain in May 1917.[5]

World War I[edit]

In June 1917, Watson was transferred to the 51st Infantry, a unit of the 6th Division.[5] He served as regimental exchange officer and regimental adjutant before commanding a battalion, and briefly commanded the regiment during the first week of November.[5]

The 51st Infantry arrived in France in June 1918, and Watson was promoted to major in July.[5] He was the regimental adjutant for most of the war, and took part in combat from August until its end in November, including the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.[5] After the Armistice, Watson remained in Germany as part of the Army of Occupation.[5] He returned to the United States in June 1919 and demobilized with his regiment at Camp Grant, Illinois on June 19.[5]

Post-World War I[edit]

After his regiment was demobilized, Watson remained at Camp Grant and served as a recruiting officer.[4] He graduated from the Infantry School’s course for field grade officers in 1921.[1] After graduating, Watson was retained at the Infantry School as an instructor, where he remained until 1925.[4] In 1922 he was reduced to his permanent rank of captain, and he was promoted to major again in September 1925.[4]

In October 1925, Watson arrived for duty in the Panama Canal Zone, and he successively commanded 3rd Battalion, 42nd Infantry (1925-1927), and 3rd Battalion, 33rd Infantry (1927-1928).[4] In 1928, Watson returned to the United States to become a student at the Command and General Staff College.[1][4] He graduated in 1930 and remained at the college to serve as an instructor.[4]

In 1934, Watson graduated from the Chemical Warfare School’s course for field grade officers, and he was also a 1934 graduate of the United States Army War College.[1] Later that year he was posted to Fort McPherson, Georgia.[6] In 1936 Watson received assignment to the Army general staff in Washington.[7] In 1937 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. In 1940 he was assigned to the staff of the Philippine Department.[8]

World War II[edit]

From 1946's The Cross of Lorraine: A Combat History of the 79th Infantry Division, June 1942-December 1945

At the start of World War II, Watson completed the Tank Officer's Course and was assigned as executive officer of the 66th Armor Regiment.[9] He was promoted to colonel in 1941 and assigned to command 40th Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade.[10] When the Army reorganized its armor forces into divisions in February 1942, it created three brigade-level Combat Commands in each.[11] Originally named 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Combat Commands, these organizations were later re-designated Combat Commands A, B, and R (Reserve).[11] When the 3rd Armored Division was fielded in 1942, Watson was named commander of the division’s 1st Combat Command (Combat Command A) and promoted to brigadier general.[12]

In August 1942, Watson was named commander of the 3rd Armored Division and promoted to major general.[13] After completing its organization and training in Louisiana, California, and Pennsylvania, the organization arrived in Somerset, England in June 1943, where it continued to train.[14]

Watson led 3rd Armored Division during combat in France beginning in late June 1944 as part of First United States Army.[15] Unhappy with the division’s progress in Normandy, in early August 1944, VII Corps commander J. Lawton Collins decided to relieve Watson of command.[16] Collins’ superior, Omar Bradley, a West Point classmate of Watson’s, initially disagreed with Collins, but ultimately decided to concur with Collins’ decision.[16] Watson was replaced by Maurice Rose.[14]

When Watson was relieved of command, he requested to remain in the area of combat operations in France at any rank rather than return to the United States in a training or administrative role with a general’s rank.[15] Impressed by Watson’s request, Bradley informed his superior Dwight Eisenhower (another of Watson's West Point classmates) at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAFE), and they agreed to retain Watson in France.[16] He was reduced in rank to colonel and assigned to Bradley’s staff at Twelfth United States Army Group Headquarters.[16]

On August 14, Norman Cota, the assistant division commander of the 29th Infantry Division, was promoted to major general and assigned to command the 28th Infantry Division.[17] After considering possible replacements for Cota, Bradley and Eisenhower decided on Watson.[16] (The 29th Division fell under XIX Corps, not VII Corps, which meant the 29th’s leaders would not report to Collins, a circumstance that likely factored into Bradley and Eisenhower’s decision.) Watson served with the 29th Division during combat in France and Germany throughout the rest of 1944 and early 1945.[16] In December 1944, he was promoted to brigadier general.[16] In August 1945, Watson was appointed to command the 79th Infantry Division, which he led during post-war occupation duty in Germany until it was inactivated in December 1945.[18]

Post-World War II[edit]

Following the war, Watson served as commander of the International Military Tribunal Command in Germany, where he worked to enhance security and ensure that none of the Nazis on trial for war crimes were able to escape.[15] His later assignments included command of Sixth United States Army's Southern District,[19] command of the Fort Lewis army post,[20] chief of Civil Affairs for the U.S. Far East Command,[21] and commander of US Defense Advisory Group, Japan.[22] In early 1953 he was promoted to major general, and he retired later that year.[22]

Civilian career[edit]

After retiring from the Army, Watson resided in Beverly Hills, California and was appointed assistant to the president of Fletcher Aviation, with responsibility for providing oversight, advice and guidance for Fletcher's military aviation projects and programs.[23] He was subsequently promoted to vice president and retired from Fletcher following a 1961 heart attack.[24]

A Republican,[25] Watson also served for eight years on the Beverly Hills City Council beginning in 1960.[26][27] From 1962 to 1963 he served as mayor after being elected by a vote of his peers on the council.[28][29]

In 1965, Dwight Eisenhower authored a Reader's Digest article on leadership, and cited Watson's relief as commander of the 3rd Armored Division and request to remain in France at a lower rank as a notable example of selfless service.[30] In an interview about the article, Watson began to object to the way Eisenhower had characterized his pre-relief performance, but then stopped himself and told the reporter that most of the details in Eisenhower's article were correct, and there was no point in arguing about the rest.[30]

Death and burial[edit]

Watson died in Beverly Hills on February 12, 1975.[15] He was buried at West Point Cemetery.

Awards[edit]

Watson's awards included the Silver Star (2), Legion of Merit (2), and Bronze Star Medal (2).[1]

Family[edit]

Watson was married four times. In 1915, he married Alice Virginia Furey (1896–1942).[31] They were the parents of four children - Sarah (Sally, a nun in the Sisters of Charity) (1916-2005), Leroy Jr. (1917-1959), Margaret (Peggy) (1921-2013), and Robert (1933-1990).[24][32]

In 1943, Watson married Elizabeth Livingston (1891-1958), and they divorced at the end of World War II.[33][34] While stationed in Germany after the war, he married Liba J. Besin (1923-1949), a native of Czechoslovakia, with whom he had a daughter, Antoinette.[35][36] In 1950, he married Beulah Beatrice (Beggs) Pellekaan (1890-1990) of Beverly Hills, the widow of a Shell Oil Company executive.[37]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Official Army Register for 1949.
  2. ^ "1900 United States Federal Census".
  3. ^ a b "St. Louisan Gets Military Diploma By Record Effort", p. 8.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Biographical Register.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Supplement, Biographical Register.
  6. ^ "Army Orders".
  7. ^ "Changes Scheduled at Fort McPherson".
  8. ^ "Army Orders for February 3".
  9. ^ The National Cyclopedia of American Biography.
  10. ^ "Camouflage Proves Too Expert A Job".
  11. ^ a b Lorraine 1944.
  12. ^ "3rd Armored Officers Get Advancement".
  13. ^ "3rd Armored Division Commanders".
  14. ^ a b "Combat Chronicle, 3d Armored Division".
  15. ^ a b c d "Leroy Watson, Normandy General, Dies".
  16. ^ a b c d e f g "Normandy and Northern France".
  17. ^ "Command and Staff: 29th Infantry Division".
  18. ^ "Combat Chronicle, 79th Infantry Division".
  19. ^ "500 Boy Scouts Set Up Camp At Fort MacArthur".
  20. ^ "Commanders at Fort Lewis/Joint Base Lewis-McChord".
  21. ^ "Gen. Watson Joins SCAP Civil Affairs".
  22. ^ a b "Army Secretary Shifts Generals".
  23. ^ "Appointments: Maj. Gen. Leroy H. Watson".
  24. ^ a b "L. H. Watson, Retired General, Dies at 81".
  25. ^ "Names in the News".
  26. ^ "How Los Angeles County Cities Voted".
  27. ^ "Compliments Give B. H. Council a Glow".
  28. ^ "2 Cities Get New Mayors".
  29. ^ "Week in Review: Eugene Gunther Elected Mayor".
  30. ^ a b "21 Years Later".
  31. ^ "New York State Marriage Records".
  32. ^ "Air Colonel Found Dead".
  33. ^ "Maj. Gen. Leroy H. Watson Marries Magazine Editor".
  34. ^ "Indiana Death Certificates".
  35. ^ "New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1957".
  36. ^ "Funerals: Liba J. Watson".
  37. ^ "Brig. Gen. Watson Weds Beverly Hills Matron".

Sources[edit]

Newspapers[edit]

Books[edit]

Internet[edit]

Magazines[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Jack Freeman
Mayor of Beverly Hills, California
1962-1963
Succeeded by
Eugene W. Gunther