Watson, John Henry III

John Henry Watson, III
Born: August 15, 1921
Hometown: Madison, NJ
Class: 1944
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Deck Cadet
Date / Place of death: July 8, 1943 /
Bermuda Naval Base
Date / Place of burial: July 9, 1943 /
Catholic Cemetery, Prospect, Bermuda
1947 / St. Vincent Cemetery, Madison, NJ

Age: 21

 

John H. Watson signed on aboard the SS Peter Minuit as a Deck Cadet at Baltimore Maryland on May 7, 1943. The ship sailed for New York where it finished loading and then for Casablanca North Africa on May 14,1943. The Peter Minuit arrived safely in Casablanca, discharged its cargo and sailed for the return voyage to Baltimore, MD on June 23, 1943 as one of the ships in convoy GUS–8A.

At 1000 on July 5th, Deck Cadet John Watson was on deck helping the Chief Mate,
Jerome V. Cherry, stream a fog buoy from the stern of the vessel. During the evolution
Watson’s right leg got caught between the towing wire and the starboard chock, cutting
his leg off below the knee. The ship’s crew did their best to treat the injury, but the
trauma was beyond their skill. An hour later, the doctor from one of the escort vessels,
the USS Stockton (DD 646), boarded the vessel by small boat to treat Watson. After
seeing the extent of the wounds, he decided to transfer Watson to the destroyer for
treatment. At 1356, Watson arrived on board the Stockton, and later that day, the
doctor amputated Watson’s leg at the thigh. Shortly thereafter the Stockton began a
high speed run to Bermuda to bring Watson to the medical facilities there.

When the Stockton arrived in Bermuda on the morning of July 7, 1943, Watson was
transferred to the Naval Air Station Dispensary. He was given several blood
transfusions throughout the day. However, at 0810 the following morning, Watson died
from shock and loss of blood. At his request, last rites of the Roman Catholic Church
were performed, and he was buried the following morning at the Catholic Cemetery in
Prospect, Bermuda. A funeral mass was conducted by the Reverend A.G. Burman of
St. Theresa’s Roman Catholic Church. The American Consul General of Bermuda,
William H. Beck, attended the service, and six enlisted Naval men acted as pallbearers
for Watson. In a letter to Watson’s mother, Beck noted that a small silk American flag
was found in Watson’s wallet. According to Watson’s sister, a Catholic Nun, Watson’s
body was returned to the United States in 1947 against the wishes of his mother. He
was re-interred with full military honors in the Watson family plot in St. Vincent’s
Cemetery, Madison, NJ.

Cadet John H. Watson, III was posthumously awarded the Atlantic War Zone Bar, the
Victory Medal, and the Presidential Testimonial Letter.

John H. Watson was the youngest of Frederick G. Watson and Evangeline Shapter
Watson’s six children. Growing up, John had three older sisters (Evangeline, Margaret
and Frances) and two older brothers (Frederick, Jr. and Harold). According to the 1930
U.S. Census, Frederick Watson was working as an attorney while Frederick, Jr. was
employed as clerk in a law office, perhaps his father’s. John’s sister recalled that John
wanted to become a banker. She said that after graduating from Madison High School
he went to night school where he was taking courses in banking. However, at some
point he wanted to join the merchant marine. A friend of the family who was a State
Senator helped to expedite John’s admission to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at
the request of his mother.

Photo of USS Stockton (DD-646)

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