Watson, Leroy Hugh, born 03-11-1894 in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of furrier George Washington Watson and Sarah Ann (Callahan) Watson. He attended the public schools of St. Louis and was a 1910 graduate of McKinley High School.
Watson received appointment to the United States Military Academy in 1911. On 16-06-1915 he married Alice Virginia Furey at Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York. They were the parents of four children including Margaretta Watson Gierszewicz (1921-2013).On 10-04-1943 he married Elizabeth Livingston at the rectory of St. Anne’s Catholic Church in the District of Columbia. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1945. On 26-12-1946, he married Liba Besinova of Prague, Czechoslovakia at a Christmas night ceremony at the residence of United States Ambassador Laurence Steinhardt. They were the parents of one child. On 09-08-1950, he married Beulah B. Beggs at Los Angeles, California.
Leroy graduated in 1915, a member of “The class the stars fell on”, and was ranked 151st of 164. Watson was appointed a second lieutenant of Infantry and initially assigned to border security with the 22nd Infantry Regiment at Camp Harry J. Jones, Arizona during the Pancho Villa Expedition.
He was soon transferred to the 11th Infantry and promoted to first lieutenant. He received his promotion to captain in May 1917.
In June 1917, Leroy Watson was transferred to the 51st Infantry, a unit of the 6th Division. He served as regimental exchange officer and regimental adjutant before commanding a battalion, and briefly commanded the regiment during the first week of November.
The 51st Infantry arrived in France in June 1918, and Watson was promoted to major in July. He was the regimental adjutant for most of the war, and took part in combat from August until its end in November, including the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, earning his first award of the Silver Star. After the Armistice, Watson remained in Germany as part of the Army of Occupation. He returned to the United States in June 1919 and demobilized with his regiment at Camp Grant, Illinois on June 19.
After his regiment was demobilized, Watson remained at Camp Grant and served as a recruiting officer. Leroy graduated from the Infantry School’s course for field grade officers in 1921. After graduating, Watson was retained at the Infantry School as an instructor, where he remained until 1925. In 1922 he was reduced to his permanent rank of captain, and he was promoted to major again in September 1925.
In October 1925, Watson arrived for duty in the Panama Canal Zone, and he successively commanded 3rd Battalion, 42nd Infantry (1925-1927), and 3rd Battalion, 33rd Infantry (1927-1928). In 1928, Watson returned to the United States to become a student at the Command and General Staff College. He graduated in 1930 and remained at the college to serve as an instructor.
In 1934, Watson graduated from the Chemical Warfare School’s course for field grade officers, and he was also a 1934 graduate of the United States Army War College. Later that year he was posted to Fort McPherson, Georgia. In 1936 Watson received assignment to the Army General Staff in Washington. In 1937 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. In 1940 he was assigned to the staff of the Philippine Department.
At the start of World War II, Watson completed the Tank Officer’s Course and was assigned as executive officer of the 66th Armor Regiment. commanded by the then Colonel George Smith Patton. Leroy was also promoted to colonel in 1941 and assigned to command 40th Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade. When the Army reorganized its armor forces into divisions in February 1942, it created three brigade-level Combat Commands in each. Originally named 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Combat Commands, these organizations were later re-designated Combat Commands A, B, and R (Reserve). When the 3rd Armored Division was fielded in 1942, Watson was named commander of the division’s 1st Combat Command (Combat Command A) and promoted to Brigadier General.
In August 1942, Watson was named commander of the 3rd Armored Division and promoted to Major General. After completing its organization and training in Louisiana, California, and Pennsylvania, the organization arrived in Somerset, England in June 1943, where it continued to train.
Watson led 3rd Armored Division during combat in France beginning in late June 1944 as part of First United States Army. Unhappy with the division’s progress in Normandy, in early August 1944, VII Corps commander Major General James Lawton Collins decided to relieve Watson of command. Collins’ superior, General Omar Nelson “Brad” Bradley, a West Point classmate of Watson’s, initially disagreed with Collins, but ultimately decided to concur with Collins’ decision. Watson was replaced by General Maurice Rose.
When Watson was relieved of command, he requested to remain in the area of combat operations in France at any rank rather than return to the United States in a training or administrative role with a General’s rank. Impressed by Watson’s request, Bradley informed his superior Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower (another of Watson’s West Point classmates) at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), and they agreed to retain Watson in France. He was reduced in rank to colonel and assigned to Bradley’s staff at Twelfth United States Army Group Headquarters.
On August 14, 1944 General Norman Daniel “Dutch” Cota, the assistant division commander of the 29th Infantry Division, was promoted to Major General and assigned to command the 28th Infantry Division . After considering possible replacements for Cota, Bradley and Eisenhower decided on Watson. (The 29th Division fell under XIX Corps, not VII Corps, which meant the 29th’s leaders would not report to Collins, a circumstance that likely factored into Bradley and Eisenhower’s decision.) Watson served with the 29th Division during combat in France and Germany throughout the rest of 1944 and early 1945. In December 1944, he was promoted to Brigadier General. In August 1945, Watson was appointed to command the 79th Infantry Division, which he led during post-war occupation duty in Germany until it was inactivated in December 1945
Following the war, Watson served as commander of the International Military Tribunal Command in Germany,
where he worked to enhance security and ensure that none of the Nazis on trial for war crimes were able to escape. His later assignments included command of Sixth United States Army’s Southern District, command of Fort Lewis in Washington state, chief of Civil Affairs for the U.S. Far East Command, and commander of US Defense Advisory Group, Japan. In early 1953 he was promoted to Major General, and he retired later that year.
After retiring from the Army, Watson resided in Beverly Hills, California and was appointed assistant to the president of Fletcher Aviation, with responsibility for providing oversight, advice and guidance for Fletcher’s military aviation projects and programs. He was subsequently promoted to vice president and retired from Fletcher following a 1961 heart attack.
A Republican, Watson also served for eight years on the Beverly Hills City Council beginning in 1960. From 1962 to 1963 he served as mayor after being elected by a vote of his peers on the council.
In 1965, Dwight Eisenhower authored a Reader’s Digest article on leadership, and cited Watson’s relief as commander of the 3rd Armored Division and request to remain in France at a lower rank as a notable example of selfless service. In an interview about the article, Watson began to object to the way Eisenhower had characterized his pre-relief performance, but then stopped himself and told the reporter that most of the details in Eisenhower’s article were correct, and there was no point in arguing about the rest.
Leroy Jr “Roy” Watson was born in Fort MacPherson, Ga. on 30-12-1917, the son of Captain (later Major General) Leroy Hugh Watson and Alice Furey Watson. The years of his youth were the pleasant ones of an Army boy, moving from Post to Post with his family and absorbing the service lore which he loved so much. He first entered West Point with the Class of 1940. After some difficulties with the Dept. of Mathematics in his Plebe year, he was turned back to join the Class of ’41. It was our great gain. He graduated with us, standing in the upper quarter of the class. Roy chose the Infantry on graduation in order to get into the newly forming Armored Force. His first assignment as a Platoon leader was to the Third Armored Division at Camp Polk, Louisiana. Within six months he was a Company Commander, and a extremely capable one. In the summer of 1942, Roy made a most difficult decision. He decided that opportunities for combat duty would come to him sooner in the Army Air Force, and thus transferred to that branch of the service. Roy soon won his wings and was sent to England in 1943 to command a B-17 Squadron. Thereafter, during World War II. Roy proved himself an outstanding pilot, commander and operational staff officer. He flew a total of 208 combat missions and was awarded the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross with Cluster, the Croix de Guerre with Palm and the Air Medal with Three Clusters.
In late 1944, Roy, suffered the first of two personal tragedies when his wife Sheila died suddenly while he was in England. In the summer of 1958, Roy received a second tragic blow in the death, after a long illness, of his beloved wife Ethel. Roy, age 41, passed away in his sleep on 10-03-1959 at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona. He leaves his two lovely daughters, Louise and Sheila, his father, Major General Leroy Hugh Watson, his stepmother, two sisters and a younger brother.
Death and burial ground of Watson, Leroy Hugh.
In retirement, Watson was also active with the Winsor Memorial Heart Research Foundation of Los Angeles. The foundation worked with him on the “Watson Project,” a procedure Watson devised for clearing obstructed blood vessels.
Leroy Watson died in Beverly Hills on 12-02-1975 age 81 and is buried with his wife Beulah Beggs, at West Point Cemetery on 19-02-1975. Section XXI, Row A, Site 13.