02.22.17

SCHUMER AND HIGGINS HONOR BUFFALO NATIVE GEORGE WATTS, WWII VETERAN; PRESENTING SIX MILITARY SERVICE DISTINCTIONS EARNED DURING WAR

Thousands Of African American Soldiers During WWII, Like Buffalo Native George Watts, Were Denied Recognition During a Period When Our Nation’s Military Was Segregated  

Senator & Congressman Successfully Urged The Army To Award Long Delayed Service Distinctions To Veteran and Buffalonian George Watts 

Schumer and Higgins: Today, We Finally Honor An American Hero, Buffalo’s WWII Veteran George Watts, By Giving Him The Awards He Earned So Many Years Ago

 

Surrounded by local veterans in Buffalo, NY, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Congressman Brian Higgins today presented WWII veteran and Buffalo native George Watts with six military service medals. Like so many veterans from this era, Watts has been waiting many years to receive these long delayed distinctions.  

 

The American Campaign Medal which is awarded to military personnel within the American theater between December 1941 and March 1946; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal which is awarded to those who served in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater from 1941 to 1945;  the Philippine Liberation Ribbon  which is a military award of the Republic of the Philippines that is presented to any service member, of both Philippine Commonwealth and allied militaries, who participated in the liberation of the Philippine Islands between the dates of October 1944, and September 1945, the World War II Victory Medal which is awarded to all military personnel for service between December 1941 and December 1946; the Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII which is given to military personnel who served honorably during WWII, and the Expert Badge and Carbine Bar which is presented to military personnel upon completion of a weapons qualification course. Schumer and Higgins presented the ribbons and medals to Mr. Watts, joined by his wife and daughter.

“I am so pleased and honored to present these distinctions to George Watts. My father Abe is a World War II vet and this is special to me because every member of this Greatest Generation is precious and worthy of honor– but especially Mr. Watts. Mr. Watts is a true American hero, who displayed profound bravery when he stepped up to serve his country during World War II despite being compelled into a segregated unit based on the color of his skin. Watts put his life on the line for his nation, and he rightly deserves these medals as a thank you from the American people for his service,” said Senator Schumer. “I am pleased that the US Army heeded our calls to right this horrible wrong and decided to provide Mr. Watts the respect, thanks and recognition he deserves. On behalf of a grateful nation to this extraordinary member of our ‘Greatest Generation,’ I humbly say this to Mr. Watts: Thank you for your service. ”

“In 1946 Sergeant George Watts was honorably discharged from the United States Army following distinguished service during World War II,” said Congressman Higgins.  “He served in a segregated unit, selflessly fighting to protect our country’s freedom at a time when the nation was not yet extending him the freedoms and rights he deserved.  At long last, today, on behalf of a grateful nation we are honored to present him with military service medals more than seven decades overdue.”  

Schumer and Higgins explained that Watts was drafted and served in the Army from 1943-1946. During his time in the Army, he was placed in a segregated engineers unit that was run by all-white officers. According to Watts, despite being a battalion supply sergeant, he and his fellow soldiers were treated as second-class citizens. While Watts was assigned to work in the water purification department while he was stationed in Manila, Philippines during the war and was fortunate enough to be spared of fighting on the front lines, the Buffalo native reported that the segregation he faced was a separate kind of ugliness in the war. For example, according to a report in the Buffalo News, before Watts’s unit went overseas, he was stationed at Fort Niagara, where the German prisoners slept in steam-heated barracks while the men in his all-black unit slept in far worse conditions – in tar-papered shacks that were heated by two coal stoves.

 

But the most egregious offense of all, Watts said, is the fact that he was not awarded any of the war medals or ribbons he deserved. After reading Watts’s story in the Buffalo News, Schumer and Higgins urged the Army to awarded Watts the distinctions he was entitled to.  

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