Wilson Watson was a young farmer in Arkansas when he enlisted in the US Marine Corps in August 1942. After completing training in California, Watson deployed to the Pacific theater, where he fought at Bougainville and Guam. Watson was a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) gunner with the 3rd Marine Division when he landed on Iwo Jima. A week into the campaign, Watson’s squad became pinned down by fire from a Japanese pillbox. Watson took matters into his own hands, storming ahead towards the fortification and clearing it of Japanese soldiers. That was just the beginning of Watson’s charge to push his squad forward. He killed 60 enemy soldiers in a one man standoff until his platoon caught up with him.
Medal of Honor Citation for Private Wilson D. Watson
“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.”
Signalman First Class Douglas A. Munro, US Coast Guard: Medal of Honor Series
To date, 3,525 have been awarded since the inception of the Medal during the US Civil War. Only one has ever been awarded to a US Coast Guardsman.