Waters, John Knight, born 20-12-1906, in Baltimore, Maryland, United States, graduated from The Boys’ Latin School in Baltimore in 1925 and then attended Johns Hopkins University in Maryland for two years before deciding he wanted a military career. He relocated to Illinois in order to obtain an appointment to the United States Military Academy, from which he graduated in 1931 with a commission in the cavalry. Water was captured in Tunisia at Dejebel Lassouda when German forces attacked Sidi bou Zid during World War II.
Waters, who had married General George S. Patton’s daughter Beatrice Ayer in 1934, was one of many officers interned at Hammelburg. Patton claimed that he did not know that Waters was at OFLAG XIII-B and that he feared the Germans would execute the POWs rather than let them be liberated. According to some sources the Third Army had received intelligence that Waters was indeed at the camp, having recently been moved there from Oflag 64.
The task force, known as Task Force Baum, reached the camp
, which was 50 miles behind the front lines, on 27-03-1945 with some losses after running into several German units detaining in a marshaling area. It had been shadowed by a German observation plane while en route, and its intentions were anticipated. Abraham Jasper “Abe” Baum passed away on 03-03-2013, age 91. San Diego’s 2005 Veteran of the Year, he was also inducted in 2004 into the Rancho Bernardo Hall of Fame.
Lieutenant Donald Prell who was a POW with Waters at the camp, documented the events of that day:
Colonel Waters marched out the front gate carrying a white flag of surrender. Several American officers and a lone German officer were by his side. Waters was noticeably gaunt from more than forty pounds of weight loss. He walked slowly, intending to tell Captain Baum to stop firing.
Waters never made it. A German guard in a camouflage uniform, not knowing that a truce had been arranged by the camp commandant, steadied his rifle atop a fence post and took careful aim. The bullet entered John Waters’s right hip and exited through his left buttocks. He collapsed to the ground, where he lay until he could be carried back into the camp.
Badly wounded, he was treated by a Serbiandoctor, Colonel Radovan Danic, the chief surgeon of the former Yugoslavian Army, who was also interned at the camp. The camp was liberated about a week to ten days later, but the only prisoners there were badly wounded and sick, the rest (including the remnants of Task Force Baum) having been moved farther east.
Colonel Waters spent a year recuperating from his wounds. After returning to duty, he served as military aide to Secretary of War Robert Patterson , under President Franklin Roosevelt commanded various armored division units in the United States and Korea, was chief of the Military Assistance Staff in Yugoslavia and was commanding general of the Continental Army Command, responsible for ground defenses across the nation. Chief at West Point In 1949 he became an hereditary member of the Maryland Society of the Cincinnati.
Robert Patterson died on 22-01-1952, returning from meeting a client, on board American Airlines Flight 6780 which crashed on the approach to Newark Liberty International Airport in Elizabeth, New Jersey; he was age 60.
Waters was promoted to brigadier general in 1952 when he deployed to Korea as Chief of Staff for I Corps. His major command assignments include Commanding General for the 4th Armored Division and Commanding General for V Corps , both in Europe, as well as Commanding General for the Fifth United States Army, then headquartered in Chicago.
Significant other assignments for Waters were as Chief of the American Military Assistance Staff in Yugoslavia from 1955 to 1957, and as Deputy Chief of Staff for Material Developments, Fort Monroe, Virginia. He also commanded the latter unit before taking command of U.S. Army, Pacific in Hawaii. He retired on 31-08-1966.
Death and burial ground of Waters, John Knight.
Major awards for Waters include the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions leading fellow prisoners, the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and the Korean Service Medal. He died on January 9, 1989 at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, due to heart failure.
He married Beatrice Ayer Patton, daughter of General George S. Patton,
on 27-06-1934. The wedding took place at St. John’s Church in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts, with a reception immediately afterward at the Patton home of Green Meadows, South Hamilton. The couple had two sons, John and George P. This union lasted until her death on 24-10-1952.
He was a member of the Society of the Cincinnati, a historical and hereditary lineage organization.and he was buried with his wife Beatrix Ayer, on the Immanuel Episcopal Church Cemetery Sparks, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA