WWII veteran finally receives military honors

Feb 23, 2017

For one local veteran, the effects of racism were allowed to linger for seven decades. George Watts, who served in a segregated unit in World War II, received his honorable discharge from the U.S. Army in 1946. He didn't receive his military service medals until yesterday.

More than seven decades after receiving his honorable discharge from the U.S. Army, George Watts received his military service medals at a Wednesday ceremony at a Buffalo fire house.
Credit Michael Mroziak

"This is 70 years too late," said Congressman Brian Higgins, who was joined by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown for a ceremony at a Buffalo fire station on Hertel Avenue. 

"This is righting an historic wrong, and the service to your nation is timeless in its courage and its commitment to fight for the freedoms that America has played a such an important role in establishing throughout the world."

According to a release from Senator Schumer's office, Watts was drafted and served in the Army from 1943 to 1946.  He served in a segregated engineers unit that was led by all-white officers. The unit was among those who fought to liberate the Philippines.

The Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon were among the honors bestowed upon Watts.

"We are just so proud of the work that you have done, of the service that you have rendered," Higgins said.

"On behalf of a grateful community, a grateful city and a grateful nation, we are proud to have been able to secure these medals that you rightfully earned."