12.13.16

SCHUMER REVEALS: BUFFALO WWII VETERAN HAS NOT RECEIVED AT LEAST THREE MILITARY SERVICE MEDALS EARNED DURING WAR; SENATOR CALLS ON ARMY TO IMMEDIATELY AWARD LONG-DELAYED MEDALS TO VETERAN, SAYING THAT FURTHER DENIAL OF RIGHTFULLY DESERVED MEDALS BECAUSE OF SEGREGATION OF ARMED FORCES UNDERMINES BUFFALONIAN’S VALOR AND SACRIFICES

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

Schumer Brings Case Directly To U.S. Army, Saying That Buffalo Native, George Watts, Earned and Should be Awarded At Least Three Service Ribbons For His Efforts During WWII

Schumer To U.S. Army: Give Buffalo WWII Veteran George Watts The Awards He Earned So Many Years Ago

Surrounded by local veterans in Buffalo, NY, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today met with WWII veteran and Buffalo native George Watts and his family to publicly call on the United States Army to award him at least three military service medals he never received. Schumer also heard first-hand from Mr. Watts himself on his unequal experience serving his country during WWII when blacks served in segregated units. 

“George 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. Unfortunately, despite putting his life on the line for his nation, he never received medals he rightly deserves for his service,” said Senator Schumer. “That is why I’m calling on the US Army to right this horrible wrong and provide Mr. Watts the respect, thanks and recognition he deserves – and that he should have received so many years ago. I will not stop pushing until this is a reality. 

“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,” said Senator Schumer

Schumer explained that Watts was drafted and served in the Army from 1943-1946. During his time in the military, he was placed in a segregated, all-black combat engineers unit that was run by all-white officers. According to Watts, despite being a battalion supply sergeant, he and his fellow service members 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 and ribbons he deserved. Specifically, Schumer said Watts is first owed the American Theatre Ribbon, which is awarded for service within the American theater between December 7, 1941 and March 2, 1946. Second, Watts is owed the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre Ribbon, which is awarded to any member of the US Military who served in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater from 1941 to 1945; this award was created on November 6, 1942 by an Executive Order issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Finally, Watts is owed the Philippine Liberation Ribbon Victory Medal, which is a military award of the Republic of the Philippines and 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 17, 1944, and September 2, 1945. Schumer also noted that Watts may be eligible for other war medals as well, and vowed to work with the U.S. Army to get the awards Watts rightfully and bravely earned. 

Schumer said thousands of African-American soldiers during WWII, like Watts, were denied recognition because of the shameful period in which our nation’s military was segregated. Schumer said this is unfair and it is high-time the US military finally right this wrong. Schumer said Mr. Watts’s sacrifice and service to his country will not be fully recognized until these long-delayed medals are awarded. Schumer said any further denial of these rightfully deserved medals would undermine this Buffalonian’s valor and sacrifice to his country. 

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