PVT George Watson

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George Watson was born in 1915 Birmingham, Alabama. Apart from his birth, little is known about his early life. He attended school in Colorado and graduated in 1942. Like many men that year, Watson then accepted the call to arms in defense of his nation.

As an African-American, the career opportunities in the Army were extremely limited. Consequently, Watson joined the 29th Quartermaster Regiment after basic training. With the war in full swing, Watson’s unit was immediately transported to the Pacific on board the American controlled Dutch Steamer USAT Jacob. They arrived on March 8, 1943.

As Watson and his unit waited to disembark the Japanese attacked the Jacob while she was moored near Porlock Harbor, New Guinea. With little defense against the devastating assault, the Jacob took several direct hits and the order to abandon ship was issued. Troops threw themselves into the sea, many of whom had been severely wounded. Fortunately, Watson had avoided injury and being a competent swimmer was able to head towards the few life rafts that were available. As he did so, he looked back to see many of his comrades were not so lucky.

The wounded soldiers and those who could not swim flailed about in the sea in need of help. Watson turned from the rafts and headed towards the men. The Japanese continued to rake the sea with gunfire making it all the riskier. Time and time again he swam back to rescue troops and bring them to safety. Watson continued saving his comrades until he reached the point of exhaustion. As he swam towards the steamer once more, she slipped beneath the waves. The subsequent drag proved too strong for the exhausted Watson to escape and he was sucked to the bottom with her.

As news of his gallantry spread, it was evident to the Army that a heroic and distinguished act had taken place. However, for African-Americans of that era, the Medal of Honor was too far out of reach despite the inexplicable gallantry they consistently displayed. Watson was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and was the first African-American to receive that award during WWII.

However, as the decades passed the US military realized such men had been overlooked. They instituted a review in the early 1990’s to determine those that might have been excluded due to race. In 1997, George Watson was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. With no family to receive Watson’s medals, they are on display at the US Army Quartermaster Museum in Fort Lee, Virginia. Also, the ship USNS Watson was named in his honor.

We honor you, George Watson.

(Submission by: GP Cox. #Repost @Pacific Paratrooper)

Maj Corbin B. Willis Jr.

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Corbin grew up in Colorado and with his best friend and sister Betty they had many fun adventures. He graduated from high school and enlisted in the Army Air Corp. He was trained as a fighter pilot and then transferred to the Air Force as a B-17 pilot when the need arose. During WWII while on his 22nd bombing mission over Germany they were shot down and he became a POW. He was liberated at the end of the war, served in the Korean war and in the military until he retired as a Major after 20 years.

He married the love of his life Margaret (Peggy) Taylor in 1949. They traveled all over the world while he served in the military. They are the parents of four children. After military retirement they settled in Alameda, California to raise their family. Corbin worked as the purchasing agent for Alameda Hospital until he retired from that position and they moved to Sandy, Oregon. Together they enjoyed traveling, playing bridge, and reading. Corbin had an continuous thirst for knowledge. He could not go within 200 miles of a museum or a point of interest without taking a detour to see it. He was an accomplished painter and spent many years teaching in schools about the war and his POW experience.

We honor you, Corbin Willis, Jr.

(#Repost @Myers Mortuary)

SGT Joseph Edward Brown

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Drafted by the Army twice, Joseph Brown had two widely disparate experiences in the military. He graduated from high school in June 1945 and went into the Army during the final days of World War II, suffering degrading conditions at a Texas base where he and other blacks were subject to inferior accommodations. In 1950, he was called to serve again in Korea, but this time, he was assigned to an elite unit and attended leadership school. Because Brown had been a pre-med student in college, he was asked to supervise a medical unit; he even had some white soldiers under his command with the 74th Engineer Combat Battalion, Medical Detachment. In only five years, the Army had changed, moving, in Brown’s view, more quickly to integrate its ranks than the civilian world. “During the Korean War, the black soldier began to be accepted on an equal basis as a combat soldier.”

We honor you, Joseph Brown.

(#Repost @Veteran’s History Project)

Hazel Ying Lee

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Hazel Ying Lee was the first Chinese-American woman to pilot aircraft for the U.S. military. After taking her first flight in 1932, she fell in love with flying and earned her pilot’s license later that year. Lee moved to China ahead of the Second Sino-Japanese War and sought opportunities to serve her family’s native country. After the Chinese Air Force rejected Lee based on her gender, she worked as a commercial pilot in China.

Upon returning to America at the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Lee became one of only two Asian-American pilots under the Women Airforce Service Pilots program. The program was launched in the wake of World War II, in which female civilian pilots were assigned to noncombat missions within U.S. borders, although they were not considered official members of the military at the time. Because of her prior pilot training, Lee qualified for the Air Transport Command and became one of only 132 women trained to “fly pursuit,” meaning she could captain the faster, more powerful fighters. Lee died in 1944 when her aircraft collided with another on a runway in Great Falls, Montana.

We honor you, Hazel Lee.

(Submission by: Ninzel Rasmuson #Repost @Mic Network Inc)

SSG Ernest E. Gallego

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America was at war in the summer of 1943 when Ernest Gallego graduated from high school. He tried to enlist but had to wait until he turned 18 that November for the Army Air Force to take him. His ambition was to be a pilot but he failed the depth perception test and chose gunnery school because it offered him a faster track to an assignment overseas. From their base in Italy, he and his crew flew more missions than they originally thought would earn them rotation back to the States, because the brass increased the magic number. After V-E Day, Gallego was on a ship headed home, expecting to fly more missions, when he heard the news of the Japanese surrender.

We honor you, Ernest Gallego.

(#Repost @Veteran’s History Project)

LT Ruth Deloris Buckley

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Ruth Buckley enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps after graduating from the University of Minnesota’s School of Nursing in 1940. Buckley was first stationed in North Africa, working in the pre-operation tent. She was exposed to the enormity of the war through her interaction with the young servicemen. “Suffering was written in every line of their tired faces and clenched teeth.”

On the way from Africa to Italy, her ship was sunk by a German bomber who ignored the giant red crosses painted on the vessel’s side and deck. Buckley and her fellow nurses took to the lifeboats and were picked up by a British destroyer. On a beach in Italy, another bomber dropped his payload in an effort to avoid a pursuing plane, and Buckley was severely wounded by shrapnel. After recovering, Buckley turned down offers to return to the United States, and instead went back to work in Italy.

Buckley and the 95th Evacuation Hospital followed the troops as the front line moved up through Italy, and into liberated France.  Although her service as an Army nurse put her life in danger and meant witnessing the horrors of war first hand, Buckley had a great passion for the services she performed. “There were many compensations for the dangers I faced and chief among them was the privilege of serving our wounded… they are the grandest, gamest, finest soldiers in the world.”

We honor you, Ruth Buckley.

(#Repost @Pritzer Military Museum and Library and @Veteran’s History Project)

Capt Robert D. Hales

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Robert Hales completed his bachelor’s degree in communications and business at the University of Utah in 1954, and in 1960 he earned an MBA from Harvard. Following college, he served for four years in the United States Air Force as a jet fighter pilot flying F-84 and F-100 aircraft. He was stationed in Florida between 1955 and 1959. He often spoke about his training and background in the Air Force.

“While training to be a jet fighter pilot, I prepared to make such vital decisions in a flight simulator,” he said in a talk to male LDS Church members in April 2007. “For example, I practiced deciding when to bail out of an airplane. My friend who had not prepared to make that decision stayed with the plane and died in the crash.”

While serving in the military, he took its motto “Return with Honor” to heart. He would share this in his later messages with LDS Church members.

“This motto was a constant reminder to us of our determination to return to our home base with honor after we had expended all of our efforts to successfully complete every aspect of our mission,” he said.

He was an American businessman, and member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1994 until his death on Sunday, October 1, 2017. As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Hales was accepted by the church as a prophet, seer, and revelator. At the time of his passing he was the fifth most senior apostle.

We honor you, Robert Hales.

(#Repost @KSL and Wikipedia)