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First Name: George

Last Name: Watson

Birthplace: Birmingham, AL, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Date of Birth: 1915

Date of Death: 08 March 1943

Rank: Private (Recruit)

Years Served: 1942-1943
George Watson

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


George Watson

Private, U.S. Army

Medal of Honor Recipient

World War II

Private George Watson (1915 - 8 March 1943) was a U.S. Army soldier who was posthumously awarded the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions 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.

George Watson was a resident of Birmingham, AL, and he attended Colorado A&M (now known as Colorado State University) and graduated in 1942. He entered the Army on 1 September 1942, and was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 29th Quartermaster Regiment. He was a passenger aboard the Dutch steamer USAT s'Jacob on 8 March 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 award for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross. He was the first African-American to receive the DSC in World War II. The award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor in 1997. During a ceremony conducted on 13 January 1997, 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.

Medal of Honor

Citation: 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.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Purple Heart
Army Good Conduct Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
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, VA.


In 1997, the United States Navy ship USNS Watson (T-AKR-310) was named in his honor. The Watson is the lead ship of her class of large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off (LMSR) ships.

Several places and structures have been named in Watson's honor, including a field in Fort Benning, GA.

Death and Memorial

Private George Watson died of drowning on 8 March 1943 while heroically trying to save others in the water from a ship sinking after being bombed by Japanese planes. His body was never recovered and is buried at sea. His name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila, Manila City, Philippines.

Honoree ID: 1702   Created by: MHOH




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