William O. Watson, Jr.
1 Lt
U. S. Army
Korean War
Dates of Service: 6/15/1951 - 04/22/1955
Infantry Officer, 10th Special Forces Group Airborne

William was born at home in rural Pike County, Arkansas, as one of two sons of William O. and Herma Pate Watson. His family home, he says, was located on one of the largest peach orchards in the United States, totaling about 5,000 acres. Both his grandfather and his father were foremen of the orchard for the owner, Bert Johnson. Because of financial reverses during the Depression, the Missouri Pacific Railroad, which ran a line to the orchard, took over ownership. Later, William's father purchased a part of the business, while also working as a mechanic for a farm implements business. As a youngster William helped pack refrigerator cars with bushel baskets of peaches. William was working in the peach operation by "the time I was eight or nine," he recalls. He drove a tractor, cut weeds and bushes between rows of trees, and was paid ten cents or less an hour. The Watsons attended the Church of Christ on Sunday. On Saturdays they shopped and went to movies in the nearest town, Nashville. William's formal education began in a one-room school in Highland, a hamlet where orchard headquarters was located. After graduating from Nashville High School he attended the University of Arkansas, then transferred to Henderson State Teachers College, where he took ROTC. He graduated in June of 1951 with a degree in general business, and was offered and accepted a regular U.S. Army commission. Intent upon a military career, William chose infantry and was sent to basic infantry officer's school at Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia. On September 3, 1951, he married Mary B. Sumners. (They would have three children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.) William was assigned to the 1st Armored Division at Fort Hood near Killeen, Texas, where he remained until spring of 1952. He sailed to the Far East on the USS Private Joe P. Martinez (T-AP-187), a transport ship. Instead of entering a line infantry company in Korea, he was sent to an intelligence school. Upon completion in July of 1952 he was assigned to the 8240th Army Unit, an irregular warfare force with operational bases on both coasts of Korea. "I would call it similar to, or maybe a precursor to, Special Forces," he says of the unit. Based on an island on the west coast near the mouth of the Yalu River, forces from the 8240th raided the mainland to obtain intelligence. They also extracted prisoners from North Korean prisoner of war camps, although William says he did not. His outfit of approximately 80 men included partisans who were "ragtag deserters and malcontents and whatever, but who wanted to go fight the North Koreans." In one night raid onto the mainland his unit came under fire on the beach. He extracted his men while under enemy fire, an action for which he earned a Silver Star. (He later earned a Combat Infantry Badge for his service, among other honors.) Soon, William learned his oldest son was born on the day of that firefight. William returned to the States in April of 1953 and was assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group Airborne at Fort Bragg near Fayetteville, North Carolina. After jump school at Fort Benning, he was deployed to a base near Bad Toelz, Germany. There, the 10th, which consisted of approximately 800 personnel, helped build up and support partisan forces in Iron Curtain countries. William, by then a first lieutenant, was serving as an assistant S2, part of the intelligence arms of a staff, and concentrating on administrative duties. He resigned his commission on April 22, 1955. Back in the States he earned a graduate degree in accounting from the University of Texas at Austin and became a CPA. Moving to Shreveport in July of 1956, he went to work for an accounting firm, Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Company. He later went to work for Lyons Petroleum and its successor companies. Mary passed away in 1981. On March 5, 1983 William married Marva Brown. After retiring from Lyons Petroleum, he formed another oil and gas company, then after a few years "kind of eased into retirement". William is a member of the Special Forces Association Chapter, as well as the American Legion.