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First Name: John

Last Name: Waters

Birthplace: USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Knight

Date of Birth: 20 December 1906

Date of Death: 09 January 1989

Rank: General

Years Served: 1931-1966
John Knight Waters

Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1931

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)


John Knight Waters
General, U.S. Army

John Knight Waters was born on 20 December 1906, the son of Arnold Elzey and Helen Knight Waters. He entered the Boys' Latin School of Maryland (BL) in September 1914, along with his brother Arnold Jr., and became a twelve year Latinist. (John's younger brother, Levin, also graduated from BL.)

John was a fine young man. His BL transcript reveals he was an excellent student and, according to the school records, he was the "finest type of boy." The 1925 Maroon and White yearbook states that "Johnny was one of the finest all around classmates." For many years he was at the head of the class; he also displayed exceptional abilities on both the football and baseball fields.

After BL, Waters attended Johns Hopkins University for two years. However, yearning for a military life, he eventually transferred to the U.S. Military Academy. His first year at the Academy, he played on the plebe football team. He also played lacrosse at West Point and in 1931 he was named captain of the Army lacrosse team. Waters graduated with the Class of 1931 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Cavalry.

He fell in love with, and married, Beatrice Ayer Patton, General George S. Patton's daughter, in 1934.

World War II

Waters was captured in Tunisia at Dejebel Lassouda when German forces attacked Sidi bou Zid during World War II. He was one of many American officers interned at POW Camp OFLAG XIII-B, approximately 1.8 miles south of Hammelburg, Germany. Patton claimed that he did not know that Waters was at OFLAG XIII-B and that he feared the Germans would execute the POWs rather than let them be liberated. According to some sources, the Third Army had received intelligence that Waters was indeed at the camp; that he had recently been moved there from Silesia.

The secret (and controversial) task force, known as Task Force Baum, was set up in late March 1945 by General George S. Patton and was commanded by Captain Abraham Baum. On the late evening of 26 March 1945, Baum was given the task of penetrating 50 miles behind German lines and liberating the POWs in Camp OFLAG XIII-B. Altogether the force numbered 11 officers and 303 men, 16 tanks, 28 half-tracks, and 13 other vehicles.

Task Force Baum had been shadowed by a German observation plane while enroute and its intentions were anticipated. The result of the mission was a complete failure; of the 316 members of the task force, 32 were killed in action during the raid and 35 made it back to Allied-controlled territory. The remaining 249 men were taken prisoner; Captain Baum among them. All of the tanks, half-tracks, and other vehicles were lost.

Waters had been shot by a defending guard as he and a German officer were trying to contact the task force. Badly wounded, he was treated by a Serbian doctor, Colonel Radovan Danic, the chief surgeon of the former Yugoslavian Army, who was also interned at the camp. The camp was liberated about a week to ten days later, but the only prisoners there were badly wounded and sick, the rest (including the remnants of Task Force Baum) had been moved farther east.

Controversy surrounds the true reasons behind the mission, which appears to have been to liberate Patton's son-in-law, John Waters. A furious General Dwight D. Eisenhower reprimanded Patton for the incident.

Post-War Career

Waters returned to duty in 1946 and became Commandant of Cadets at West Point. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1952 when he deployed to Korea as Chief of Staff for I Corps. His major command assignments include Commanding General for the 4th Armored Division and Commanding General for V Corps, both in Europe, as well as Commanding General for the Fifth United States Army, then headquartered in Chicago.

Significant other assignments for Waters were as Chief of the American Military Assistance Staff in Yugoslavia from 1955-57, and as Deputy Chief of Staff for Material Developments, Fort Monroe, VA. He also commanded the latter unit before taking command of U.S. Army, Pacific in Hawaii.

Waters retired from the Army on 31 August 1966.

Medals and Awards

Distinguished Service Cross (For his actions leading fellow prisoners)
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star Medal with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart
Prisoner of War Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 2 Bronze Stars
World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Korean Service Medal with 3 Bronze Stars
Republic of Korea War Service Medal
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation


Waters married Beatrice Ayer Patton on 27 June 1934 and they had two sons; John and George P. Waters. Their union lasted until her death on 24 October 1952.

Obituary from Chicago Tribune (IL) - 25 October 1952

Mrs. Beatrice Waters

Deceased Name: Mrs. Beatrice Ayer Patton Waters West Point, N. Y., Oct. 24 (AP)-- Mrs. Beatrice Ayer Patton Waters, 41, daughter of the late Gen. George S. Patton Jr., died yesterday of a heart attack in her home in nearby Highland Falls. She was the wife of Brig. Gen. John K. Waters who is in Korea. A native of Fort Sheridan, Ill., Mrs. Waters was graduated from Foxcroft School in Virginia. She leaves her mother, two sons, a brother, and a sister.

Death and Burial

General John Knight Waters died on 9 January 1989. He is buried next to his wife, Beatrice, at Immanuel Episcopal Church Cemetery in Sparks, Baltimore County, MD.

Honoree ID: 355   Created by: MHOH




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