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Tuskegee Airman receives Purple Heart after 66 years

  • Published
  • By Pattie Odoardo
  • Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs
Former Tuskegee Airman, Tech. Sgt. (Ret.) George Watson Sr. was awarded the Purple Heart Monday at Tommy B's Community and Activity Center here.

Col. Gina Grosso, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst commander, and Congressman Chris Smith presented Watson with the Purple Heart for injuries he sustained more than 66 years ago after a German air raid on his encampment near Naples, Italy.

"When he was wounded, Mr. Watson did not want to report his injuries, fearful he would be hospitalized and not be allowed to continue with his unit," said Wilfred DeFour, a former Tuskegee Airman and close friend of Watson.

Unreported injuries are common among veterans and often lead to incomplete medical records. In Watson's case, the injuries he received were erroneously attributed to an automobile accident. It took many years to correct the record.

Watson brought his case to Smith in 1999. The congressman was able to help.

The medical board amended its records 11 years later, documenting the true cause of Watson's injury. His Purple Heart medal was approved in November 2009.

Watson fought during World War II alongside other black servicemembers known as the Tuskegee Airmen. The group overcame segregation and prejudice to become one of the most highly-respected fighter groups of World War II.

They proved African Americans could fly and maintain sophisticated combat aircraft. The Tuskegee Airmen's achievements, together with the men and women who supported them, paved the way for full integration of the U.S. military.