Obituary of George Watson, Sr.
Original Tuskegee Airman George Watson, a member of the ground crew of the famed all black, Tuskegee Airmen 332nd Fighter Group and the 96th Maintenance Group departed his life on Monday, June 19, 2017. He was one of five siblings. He was 96 years old.
George Watson, Sr., born on Hand Avenue in Wildwood, NJ, attended grade schools in Neptune, Asbury Park and Lakewood, New Jersey. He graduated from Lakewood High School in 1941 after four seasons as a quarterback and end on the football team.
George was predeceased by his wife of 71 years, Louise Watson; son, George Watson, Jr.; brothers, Harry Watson, Robert Newman and William Watson, Sr.
George volunteered for the U.S. Army on February 25, 1942. Following a short stay at Fort Dix, New Jersey, he was one of many to be selected and sent to Tuskegee, Alabama as the first group of recruits to help form the 99th, 100th, 301st and 302nd Pursuit Squadron, making up the 332nd Fighter Group and the 96th Maintenance Group, making him one of the original Tuskegee Airmen.
George served in Italy during World War II with the 96th and 523rd Service Groups and 332nd Fighter Group. While in Italy, he took part in OPERATION FUEL TANKS, better known as unauthorized procurement. He was with the 332nd Fighter Wing when segregation ended in the Air Force. He retired after 26 years of service from McGuire Air Force Base, NJ, as an aircraft and missile electrician.
George was the first of his race to serve as a recruiter for the Army and Air Force in Trenton, Lakewood and Asbury Park, New Jersey from 1951 through 1955.
George served overseas in Italy, Germany, England, Turkey and Iran. After military service, George spent 15 years with the New Jersey Bell Telephone Company as a frameman and Telephone Installer.
George, along with pilots Lt. Col. (Ret.) Lee Archer (Ace) and Lt. Col. (Ret.) Herbert Carter participated in a dedication ceremony to re-designate the 4406th Operation Group to the 332nd Expeditionary Group at Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait, October 1999. In 2003, George was a guest (two weeks) in Okinawa, Japan.
In 2005, George along with four others, at the invitation of Lt. Gen. Walters E. Buchanan, III, 9th Air Force and U.S. Central Command Air Forces, visited the 332nd Air Expedition Wing at Balad AB, Iraq. The group visited the 86th Airlift Wing Ramstein AB Germany, 386 AEW, Ali Ai Salem AB Kuwait and the 712 Airbase Group Moron AB Spain. The purpose of the visits was to inspire and motivate troops who are carrying on the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen in support of the global war on terror.
MILITARY SCHOOLS AND COURSES
Army and Air Force Recruiters School
Air Force Senior Non‑Commissioned Officers Academy
Aircraft and Missile Course
Warehouse Supervisor, Stock Control
Guided Missiles Course
Aircraft Electrician on following aircraft: B‑66, C‑135, C‑133, C‑130, C‑118, C‑47
MILITARY AWARDS RECEIVED
Honorary Three Star General awarded by General Rick Martin, USAF
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with 1 Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Air Force Good Conduct Medal with 1 Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Army Good Conduct Medal with 1 Silver Loop
European‑African‑Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two (2) Bronze Service Stars
American Defense Service Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
National Defense Service Medal with 1 Bronze Service Star
Air Force Longevity Service Award Ribbon
Air Force Commendation Medal
Sharp Shooter Medal
New Jersey World War Two Distinguish Service Medal
March 29, 2007, George along with other original Tuskegee Airmen, received the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in the Washington, DC Capitol Rotunda; also received a salute from the then Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush. George, along with 5 pilots, was the only enlisted member selected to appear on the stage during the ceremony in order to represent all of the enlisted members.
Key to the city of Tuskegee, Alabama
NAACP lifetime award
Commendation from Greenwood Cemetery Association of Lakewood, New Jersey for help in opening the cemetery after it was closed for two years.
National Tuskegee Airmen ‑ Lifetime award
Lakewood High School Hall of Fame and Lakewood High School Athletic Hall of Fame
Mayor’s Award of Lakewood, NJ
Community Service Award for Outstanding Contributions To The African‑ American Community by the Garden State Arts Center, NJ
Honorary Commander 353rd Maintenance Squadron, Okinawa, Japan, 2001 thru 2003. This honor was proclaimed and bestowed by Lt. Colonel William C. Davis, Sr., 353rd Maintenance Squadron Commander, Okinawa, Japan
Key to the city of Warner Robins, Georgia
Honorary Life member Navy Lakehurst Historical Society, NAES Lakehurst, NJ.
Honorary Commander 514th Maintenance Group for 3 years at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey. This honor was proclaimed by Col. Reginald C. Stroud, Commander.
BOOKS and EXCERPTS ABOUT GEORGE
Barack Obama, The Official Inaugural Book, page 66, Fiveties in association with Epicenter Communications
Distinguished African Americans in Aviation and Space Science, Oxyx Press
The Tuskegee Airmen 4th Edition, Charles E. Francis and Adolph Caso
The Tuskegee Airmen, Jacqueline Harris.
Unsung Heroes: A History of the Enlisted Airmen From the Dawn of Flight to Desert Storm.
George is the author of two books titled, Memorable Memoirs, which is a story about his life before and during World War II, and A Salute to the Beginning.
developed an easier way to repair aircraft engine harness, which the Air Force adopted.
attended Ricker College in 1959 and Ocean County College in 1982.
George started an American Legion chapter in Lakewood after he returned from overseas in World War II. The chapter was named after Captain Robert B. Tresville, a West Point graduate. Captain Tresville was a mentor Tuskegee Airman pilot who was killed overseas while on a mission.
A HAPPY FAMILY MAN
George Watson, Sr., married Louise Juanita Jackson (dec.) of Prattville, Alabama, on June 4, 1943. They were married for 71 years.
George’s favorite things to do were to simply spend time with his family and have family dinners. He was never really interested in eating at restaurants. He enjoyed cooking. His specialties, which he loved to share with everyone, were fried fish (every Friday) and all types of seafood. He could eat a whole head of cooked cabbage all by himself. His favorite meal was fried fish, corn on the cob, collard greens and/or cabbage, and hot-buttered cornbread. When it came to desserts, his daughter Tina’s sweet potato pie was king.
He loved to tell stories and talk about the good old days. His laugh was infectious. He would spend hours on the phone speaking with his longtime military friends.
George also spent countless hours speaking to and sharing his experiences with family and friends, active duty personnel, students in all grades, incarcerated veterans at both New Jersey State Prison and the Incarcerated Veterans of America, Inc. at Rahway State Prison and with basically anyone who he came into contact with!
Although he retired from the United States Air Force quite a while ago, his love of the military life never waned and he loved his country. He was a frequent visitor, many times more than once a week, to McGuire Air Force Base, Fort Dix Army Base and Lakehurst Naval Base. The bases were his favorite places to visit. He seemed to know everyone and everyone certainly knew him.
He was a music aficionado with a huge collection of vinyl records. Much, much larger than his music collection is his photo collection. George always enjoyed photography. He was a real shutterbug when it came to capturing memories on film. He documented EVERYTHING! The whole Watson family is now so appreciative and grateful for having a father and grandfather who possessed the foresight to preserve and provide access to such wonderful memories forever.
George leaves to cherish his fond memories: daughter, Tina Ann Watson; son, Maurice Allen Watson; sisters-in-law, Alice Watson of Sacramento, California and Bettye Upshaw of Detroit, Michigan; daughter-in-law, Cheryl A. Watson; grandsons, George Bryce Watson, III and Mark B. Watson; granddaughter, Kayla Starr Watson; niece, Bernita Johnson; nephews, William Watson, Jr., Roger Ray, Carl Ray, and Michael Ray; a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, relatives and longtime friends.
Funeral services will be 11:30AM, Saturday, July 1, 2017, Calvary Lighthouse Church, 1133 East County Line Road, Lakewood, where friends may call from 10AM. Interment to follow in Greenwood Cemetery, Cedar Bridge Avenue, Lakewood. Arrangements entrusted to Greenidge Funeral Homes, Atlantic City, where condolences may be left at www.greenidgefuneralhomes.com.
The family asks that memorial contributions be made in honor of George Watson to the Honorable Hannibal Cox Tuition Assistance Fund. George worked tirelessly many years to support this fund to assist students in their goals to further their education.
Mail checks to:
Honorable Hannibal Cox TAF
c/o Sharon Hunter
1 Durham Way
East Windsor, NJ 08520.