The Battle of Iwo Jima, a brutal but defining moment in Marine Corps history, was filled with uncommon valor and heroic actions by Marines and Sailors. Marines like, Private Wilson “Doug” Watson, directly influenced the victorious outcome on the unforgiving island.
Watson was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, and was one of 12 children. He was raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he worked on his father’s farm. Watson enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in August 1942, and found himself in Bougainville, Guadalcanal, Guam, and the Battle of Iwo Jima where his actions earned him the Medal of Honor.
His citation reads,
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Automatic Rifleman serving with the Second Battalion, Ninth Marines, Third Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 26 and 27 February 1945.
“With his squad abruptly halted by intense fire from enemy fortifications in the high rocky ridges and crags commanding the line of advance, Private Watson boldly rushed one pillbox and fired into the embrasure with his weapon, keeping the enemy pinned down single-handedly until he was in a position to hurl in a grenade and then running to the rear of the emplacement to destroy the retreating Japanese and enable his platoon to take its objective.
“Again pinned down at the foot of a small hill, he dauntlessly scaled the jagged incline under fierce mortar and machine-gun barrages and with his assistant automatic rifleman charged the crest of the hill, firing from his hip.
“Fighting furiously against Japanese troops attacking with grenades and knee-mortars from the reverse slope, he stood fearlessly erect in his exposed position to cover the hostile entrenchments and held the hill under savage fire for fifteen minutes, killing sixty Japanese before his ammunition was exhausted and his platoon was able to join him.
“His courageous initiative and valiant fighting spirit against devastating odds were directly responsible for the continued advance of his platoon and his inspiring leadership throughout this bitterly fought action reflects the highest credit upon Private Watson and the United States Naval Service.”
For his actions on Feb. 26-27, 1945, Watson was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman at the White House Oct. 5, 1945. He married Patricia Sullivan and together they had three children.
Watson decided to continue his military service and enlisted in the Army where he served in the Korean War and eventually reached the rank of staff sergeant before retiring in 1966.
He passed away Dec. 19, 1994, in Russellville, Arkansas at the age of 72.
Marines are charged with carrying forward the memories of those who fought before them. The core values of honor, courage and commitment connect today’s Marines to generations of warriors who committed themselves to the nation’s defense. We are Iwo.