This month, Army Logistics will honor the contributions of several African-Americans who served in the Army.
There is no better model than Private George Watson, who was one of the 1.2 million African Americans who served in World War II. But none of those brave Soldiers received the Medal of Honor during or after that war. That changed in the late 1990s, following an extensive review by the Army of the records of World War II black heroes. In a ceremony in 1997, President Clinton bestowed the Medal of Honor on seven of them, all of whom had served with combat arms units with one notable exception, Private Watson, from Birmingham, Alabama, and a member of the 29th Quartermaster Regiment.
He was aboard a ship off the coast of New Guinea on March 8, 1943, when the ship was attacked by Japanese bombers and had to be abandoned. Instead of saving himself, Private Watson stayed in the water for a prolonged time, courageously helping others. Weakened by his efforts, he was eventually dragged down by the sinking ship and drowned.
In 1997, the Navy named a strategic sealift ship after the Medal of Honor recipient, and today the USNS WATSON is part of a fleet that prepositions supplies in strategic locations all over the world. Since Private Watson has no known next of kin, his Medal of Honor resides in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum, in Fort Lee, Virginia.
In proclaiming February as National African American History Month President Barack Obama said "America's greatness is a testament to generations of courageous individuals who, in the face of uncomfortable truths, accepted that the work of perfecting our Nation is unending and strived to expand the reach of freedom to all." Those words certainly apply to Private Watson.