Lieutenant General Thomas E. Watson



Lieutenant General Thomas E. Watson, who retired on 1 July 1950, after completing nearly 38 years in the Marine Corps, died 6 March 1966 in a hospital in the Panama Canal Zone. His last command, beginning on 1 January 1948 was Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. Prior to retirement, he assumed his final rank. Previously, he had commanded the Second Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and was Commanding Officer of the famed Second Division in the battle for Saipan and Tinian during World War II. For outstanding services in this capacity, he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a second Distinguished Service Medal. His citation reads in part, "As Commanding General of the Second Marine Division during the assault on the capture of Saipan and Tinian Islands, from 15 June to 1 August 1944, Major General Watson welded his unit into an effective striking force.

"Fearlessly moving ashore with his men during the critical period of the landing operations, he established his headquarters near the Japanese lines and personally directed his troops with brilliant tactical skill and aggressive determination against vigorous opposition, successfully routing the enemy.

"Although the division was depleted in numerical strength and physical endurance by twenty-five days of heavy fighting on Saipan, he expeditiously reorganized his forces and attained a high state of combat readiness for the subsequent landing on Tinian.

"Distinguishing himself by his indomitable fighting spirit and inspiring leadership throughout these hazardous operations, Major General Watson contributed in a large measure to the success of the vital Marianas Campaign."

Thomas Eugene Watson was born on 18 January 1892, in Oskaloosa, Iowa. He attended Penn College in Oskaloosa and on 11 November 1912, enlisted in the Marine Corps. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps on 20 October 1916.

For the next three years he was a member of the Second Provisional Brigade in the Dominican Republic and on several occasions participated in engagements with bandits in that country.

He returned to the States in April 1919, but one year later was again on foreign shore duty. On this occasion with the Guardia Nacional of the Dominican Republic.

In 1924, the General returned to the States and was assigned to the Marine Corps Base, San Diego, California, where he was Commanding Officer of the Recruit Detachment and Officer-in-Charge, Drills and Instruction.

Three years later, in March 1927, he joined the Third Marine Brigade in China and saw service in Shanghai, Tientsin, and Hsin Ho.

Upon return to this country he attended the Field Officers' School, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia, where upon completion of the course he remained as an instructor.

From October 1930, to February 1934, he was successively U.S. Naval Attache, Santo Domingo City, Dominican Republic, a member of the Major General Commandant's Department, Headquarters Marine Corps, Director of Operations and Area Commander, Nicaragua National Guard Detachment, and again a member of the Major General Commandant's Department.

After a year as Commanding Officer of the Naval Prison, Navy Yard, Mare Island, California, he assumed duties as Commanding Officer, Second Battalion, Sixth Marine Regiment and in July 1936, became Assistant Chief of Staff, Four Section, and Chief of the Planning Section, Fleet Marine Force.

In August 1937, he was assigned as a student at the Army War College, Washington, D.C. and upon graduation was ordered to Headquarters Marine Corps where he became Chief of the War Plans Section, Division of Plans and Policies. In November 1941, he assumed duties as Executive Officer of the Division of Plans and Policies.

Four months after this country's entry into World War II, the General joined the Third Marine Brigade as Chief of Staff and sailed for Samoa in April 1942, where he took command of the Brigade in August 1942.

In November 1943, he became Commanding General of Tactical Group One which included the Twenty-Second Marine Regiment and certain Army Units and led this organization in the assault and capture of Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands, from 6 February to 22 March 1944, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

General Watson became Commanding General of the Second Marine Division in April 1944, and led that organization in active operations against enemy forces at Saipan and Tinian in the Marianas Islands for which he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a second Distinguished Service Medal.

During the period 1-13 April 1945, the General led the Division as part of Task Group 51.2 in diversionary activities off the coast of Okinawa and as a floating reserve for the Tenth Army.

In August 1945, he returned to Headquarters Marine Corps and became Director of Personnel, which position he held until detached in June 1946. At that time he assumed command of the Second Marine Division and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

In addition to the Distinguished Service Medal with Gold Star, his decorations and medals include the Good Conduct Medal, 1912-16; Mexican Service Medal, 1914; Dominican Campaign Medal, 1916; Expeditionary Medal with Bronze Star, Dominican Republic 1916-19, 1920-24, China, 1927-28; Victory Medal with West Indies Clasp, Dominican Republic, 1918; Yangtze Service Medal, China, 1927; Second Nicaragua Campaign Medal 1931-33; American Defense Service Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four Bronze Stars; World War II Victory Medal; Dominican Military Medal of Merit with Diploma; and the Nicaraguan Medal of Distinction with Diploma. 

Marine Corps University