SLOAN: All right, this is Stephen Sloan. The date is April 5, 2012. This is aninterview with Raymond S. Watson, and we're doing the interview for the Veteran's History Project [Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission's Texas Liberators Project]. And this is an interview that's conducted in the conference room of Carroll Library at the Institute for Oral History. Mr. Watson, thank you for sitting down with us today and taking some time to relate your story with us.
WATSON: I appreciate it.
SLOAN: I would like to start, as I mentioned earlier, if you could go back andtell us a little bit about your parents' family. You had talked about him working as a contractor in the oil fields or with an oil company in--no, not in the oil fields, but--
WATSON: Yeah, it, uh--they were in the--built equipment for the construction industry.
SLOAN: Oh, construction industry, yeah.
WATSON: Yeah, drilling rigs for foundations and what have you.
SLOAN: I see. You said you were born in California, of course, because he was on1:00a contract out there, right?
WATSON: Yeah, right.
SLOAN: But you grew up in Fort Worth.
WATSON: Grew up in Fort Worth, yes.
SLOAN: What are some of your early memories there in Fort Worth?
WATSON: Well, I hadn't thought about that too much, but it was--it was a townwhere we--first, we lived out in Benbrook on a farm. And it was about--Benbrook was about ten miles outside of Fort Worth, but now it's been gobbled up by Fort Worth, you might say. But--and I enjoyed being on the farm and--even though some people say it was a lot of work, but anyway, I did enjoy it. But at my--error 2:00that I made, when I got up one morning, I went in and lit the coal oil stove, but I didn't put the thing back together right, and it started a fire. And it burned down the house and everything in it and what have you. So we moved into town.
SLOAN: How old were you when you did that?
WATSON: I was--I was in the sixth grade, so I was probably--wasn't about--I'dsay, fourteen, about fourteen, about that time. So, anyway, I had to take the blame for it. (laughs)
SLOAN: But you got rid of farm life and moved into the--
WATSON: Got rid of farm life and moved to town. And basically, I started3:00throwing papers for the Star-Telegram. And I did that up through until the time I went to college. And my college I went to, the first year was out at what they called the NTAC [North Texas Agricultural College] out at Arlington, which is now University of Texas--Arlington. But then I went on to A&M [Texas A&M University]. And in my junior year they pulled me out because I had already signed a contract with--to be an officer. And so they pulled me out. And at A&M, after your junior year you'd go to summer camp, but since I didn't go to summer camp, they sent me to OCS [Officer Candidate School].
After OCS, well, first they assigned me to a chemical plant in Denver, Colorado,but then they sent me to Florida to take training for--to make landings, you 4:00know, in the foreign country, what have you. And that was about the time that they were getting ready to go into Europe, so they sent me to England. And I was at Southampton, England, for a little while. In fact, the outfit I was with did not go in on D-Day, but we went in--I asked for transfer to go back to--they put me in the transportation so that I could be on a boat to go into the landings. But then I asked for a transfer back to chemical warfare, which is--they had a 5:004.2 mortar, which is about the same as a 105 millimeter. But we had to stay with--we had to work with the infantry because the mortar didn't have the distance that artillery did. So I went in. They took my transfer and transferred me to Company C of the Eighty-Seventh Chemical Mortar Battalion, which shot high explosives and smoke screens. And so I was a forward observer for--when I went in, after the Battle of the Bulge started, of course.
SLOAN: That's when you went in, okay.
WATSON: Yeah. Yeah, that's when I went in--(both talking)
SLOAN: I'd like to go back a little, and I want to work up to what you weretalking about. But I'd love to talk about some of your memories of A&M in those war years, early on, before you went into the military. What do you remember 6:00most from those years studying at A&M?
WATSON: Well, we studied, as far as studying, chemical engineering, but as faras our military experience there, I was with the corps [Texas A&M Corps of Cadets]. And the first two years at A&M you had to be in military, but the last two years you had to sign a contract, you know, to be an officer, if you wanted to go ahead and continue in ROTC. So I did sign that, and in my junior year they pulled us out and I went to OCS, since I didn't have my summer camp. And after OCS they sent me to Florida so we could practice landings and what have you. And 7:00this was about the time they were thinking about going into France, so they sent me over there and sent me to Southampton. And I was at Southampton, but I didn't get called up for the landing. But I was there at Southampton when I did see many of the bodies coming back from--from what happened on the beach.
SLOAN: From the D-Day invasion, yeah.
WATSON: Yeah. But then they sent me on--they sent me on up to--right--shortlyafter that. Well, I say, not shortly after D-Day, but it was in December of, I think it was '44, I guess, that they sent me over to join the Eighty-Seventh Chemical Mortar Battalion. And we shot smoke screens for when we crossed--in 8:00river crossings and so forth, and then we shot the high explosives since it was 105--just about the same thing as a 105 millimeter.
SLOAN: Now, I know y'all had chemical shells, right? You didn't use them,but--(both talking)
WATSON: Well, we didn't have it at that time. Now, we did have them, but what wedidn't have in our outfit over there. They might have had it stored someplace, but we didn't have it there because we shot high explosives for the whole time I was there.
SLOAN: Well, now, why did you decide to go into chemical engineering? Why didyou decide to choose that as a route of study?
WATSON: Well, like most students, you know, you have some things you like to do,and you don't. And I decided that I didn't want to be on a drafting board for two or three years or four years, or whatever it was, after I got out of 9:00college. But I wanted engineering, so I picked an engineering course that I didn't think I'd be on a drafting board for a while. (both laugh) Now, that might be a strange reason for picking that, but that was at the time. But I was glad I did it.
SLOAN: Yeah. Well, going back, you talked about when you went into--waiting forOfficer Candidate School, you went through a month of basic training.
SLOAN: Are there some things that stand out from you from basic?
WATSON: Well, I learned about the two-star generals that bossed us around.(laughs) And we talked about that because my whole class went to--went down there. So we got a taste of the two-star--I mean, the two-stripe generals that 10:00bossed us around. So we learned a little humidity. (laughs) Not humidity--(both talking)
WATSON: --but humility, yeah.
SLOAN: There was humidity, though, I guarantee it. (laughs)
WATSON: There was humidity, I'll tell you for sure.
SLOAN: Did life in the corps prepare you for--
WATSON: I think so. I think so, because I had no problem with OCS and joining. Ithink, in the long run, I decided that the army wasn't my career. But I went through some rough times, but I also enjoyed the comradeships and so forth with the group that I was with. And I appreciated it very much.
SLOAN: Do you remember a moment or a time when you decided that the army wasn't11:00your career?
WATSON: Well, I think my first assignment was in Denver, Colorado, and it was achemical plant. And I guess it was a brigadier general or something that was the commander there. And we had to go in and eat, and they had all these procedures we had to go through and what have you. And I said if that was the army career, that wasn't for me. So that's when I started saying, well, I'll do what I can, you know, for the service, for the country, but that wasn't going to be my career.
SLOAN: Well, had you been following fairly closely what was going on with the12:00war during the early forties, when you were in school?
WATSON: Well, we got some of it. I didn't follow it as close as I'd like to. AndI've gone back and tried to read up on it, the strategies and all that sort of--but at that time, I didn't pay that much attention to it, I have to admit. But I knew that I wanted to go.
SLOAN: Well, can you talk about when you got to Southampton, what was the moodthere during that time?
WATSON: Well, we got there before D-Day and--of course, we didn't know anythingabout D-Day. And the people that I met over there, I appreciated very much. I think they were, as far as the ones that I was acquainted with, they were glad 13:00to see us there, and I enjoyed being with them. And the one thing that surprised me, I'd always read that there were Englishmen all over the world, but I would say that most of the people there that I met had not been over twenty miles outside of Southampton. And that surprised me because I've always read how the Englishman was all over the world. But the folks there, they were home folks.
SLOAN: They were about as well-traveled as folks from Fort Worth. (laughs)
WATSON: That's about right. That's about right. But some of the folks from FortWorth traveled a little bit. (laughs)
SLOAN: Well, what was your opinion of the Brits?
WATSON: I liked them. I liked them, I really did. The ones that--there were somethat you met that, just like any place else, that you wondered about, but on the 14:00whole I thought they were real nice and they appreciated us over there. And I enjoyed my stay while I was there in Southampton.
SLOAN: Now, what were you--I know you were there for several months, and so wereyou doing exercises? What were you involved in those months?
WATSON: Well, mainly we were--we went over there and while we was waiting--so weactually did work in the harbor. We actually went over to the Isle of Wight and worked with some--the English had a big oil installation over there, and we worked with them for a while. But mainly our work was around the harbor while I was there. But I asked for transfer to get back into what I really knew 15:00something about. Boats wasn't that. (laughs)
SLOAN: Well, I know you had new mortars by that time, right?
WATSON: We had the 4.2 mortar.
SLOAN: You had the 4.2, yeah.
WATSON: Which is about the same as a 105 millimeter, as far as the size of a shell.
SLOAN: Did you begin training on that, or did you have the old ones?
WATSON: We had--well, actually, they were newer mortars but it was the sametechnique that I used when I was in OCS, and also what we had down at A&M, actually.
SLOAN: Same principle.
WATSON: Same principle, yeah.
SLOAN: Well, I guess, if you would transition then to going into mainland Europeand, kind of, when you heard you were going to be deployed. And take us through--I guess this is toward the tail end of the Bulge, right? 16:00
WATSON: It was--yes, it was in December, which was when the US Army and theothers beginning to--you know, got things pulled together where they was pushing back. It was. And when I first went over--you know, a lot of times you think you'll be getting instruction from various people, but not that. I mean, I had to go over, find my way over to somebody in Paris, and I got direction. And some unit I got--that I went to, they furnished a driver, and they said, Well, it's up in Liege, or up in that part of the country, in Belgium. So we took out and I 17:00had a map, and just the driver and I. So we didn't have a whole lot of instructions on how to get there, where they were, and along the way I had to ask. Well, I knew the outfit that I was supposed to go with, but I didn't know where they were. So I had a little bit of a problem of finally finding out where they were. They were out in the woods, in the Ardennes Forest.
And that was--when I went in and reported to the colonel, that was quite anincident. He said, "I asked for a sergeant that I have, that has been through--since D-Day had been with me. And I asked for a battlefield commission for him. And they sent me you." He says, "You'll be out of here in two weeks, 18:00feet first." So that was my reception into the unit. But I did join the unit. And the unit commander was a Tennessean, and I had to wrestle him. I'll bet you we wrestled for two hours. I think after that they accepted me because it was a whole different story then. I became one of them.
SLOAN: Well, now, I got to ask about that. You had to wrestle him?
WATSON: Well, he said, "Let's fight," and so it was a wrestling match. Thankgoodness he didn't get the best of it. (laughs)
SLOAN: Did you have an audience while you were--
WATSON: Oh, we had the whole blooming platoon. (laughs) It was something,because, you know, over here the officers were separated from the enlisted men 19:00and so forth, but over there we were all together. I mean, we ate together, we had the same where we slept and so forth. It was the officers right along with the men. So, I mean, it was a lot different than what you'd be if it was on the stateside.
SLOAN: So a two-hour match.
WATSON: It was a two-hour match. I was tired, but anyway, he didn't get the bestof it, thank goodness. (laughs)
SLOAN: So it was smooth sailing after that as far as--
WATSON: Yeah, they accepted me. They accepted me. I mean, most of them had, ofcourse, had been there during--on D-Day and all the way through. And I came in. Of course, they thought I was a greenhorn. And I guess I was, to a certain extent, but I had been around mortars. I had been at A&M, where we did have a 20:00certain amount of military training. But anyway, they did accept me.
SLOAN: Well, now, what was the situation then? What was the Eighty-Seventh--
WATSON: Well, we were in the forest, Ardennes Forest, and they shelled us--theyshelled us quite a bit at the time. And the first thing I knew that a foxhole wasn't worth shooting at, because in the forest the artillery shell would hit the limbs and the stuff would fall right down, whether you was in a foxhole or not. But it--I think the--it was cold. We had more casualties from frozen feet than we had from people being shot. We had people being shot but, I mean, the most of our casualties were frozen feet. So you took care of your feet. And I learned that pretty quick. And I also learned not to go into a fire because, you 21:00know, you go in there and you get warmed up and so forth, and you come back and you've got to get used to cold all over again. So it was cold and it was different. (laughs)
SLOAN: Any other strategies you used to keep warm?
WATSON: Well, the most--the biggest strategy was to take care of your feet, thatyou didn't want frozen feet. And so I used everything I could to keep my feet warm. But you know, being young and I wasn't in bad physical condition, I accepted it. I didn't like it, but I found out that I didn't want to go to a fire very often because I'd have to get used to being cold again. So it was different, but so was war. (both laugh) 22:00
SLOAN: Now, were you shelling during that period? Were you--(both talking)
WATSON: What do you mean? Were we shooting the mortars?
SLOAN: Yeah, were you working your mortars?
WATSON: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah, we were. I mean, we used--we worked--theyassigned us to, usually, to a battalion. And that battalion was the attacking battalion because it needed mortar fire, and they could direct us because the artillery was a little bit separated and under separate command. But we worked right with the battalion commander, or the company commander that was, you know, the one assigned to go into the battle. And so we became just a part of them as far as that's concerned. And we shell--they would have some, at times, 23:00information on where the troops were, and they would ask us to shell that. And then, also, whenever--I was a forward observer. Whenever I saw something, like a tank or something like that, well, I also called fire in on that, as well as the fire that the battalion commander or the company commander at the time that we were attacking.
SLOAN: Now, this may be a hard question to ask, but were there things youlearned about working with mortars when you got into combat that were different than your training, as far as things you discovered, strategies or things like that?
WATSON: Probably the biggest thing that we discovered that we didn't even thinkabout was defective shells. And several of them blew up in the mortar. And 24:00probably who I replaced was one that was injured or--and I think he probably later died because the mortar blew up. So we learned to be very careful about when we put a shell in there that we protected ourselves. And at one time, when we got--we found out we had defective ammunition, we used the lanyard to let it go down and be away from the mortar. But then we got--you know, they overcome that problem with the 4.2 shell. And then we could go back. But that was the surprising thing to all of us. We got probably nearly as much casualties from 25:00ourselves than we did from the enemy.
SLOAN: Did you feel like y'all had pretty good accuracy out in the field withthose mortars?
WATSON: Oh yeah. That was good because we ourselves knew the layout. We knewwhere we were, the maps and so forth gave us--we were working with them. And so--and we were right there, so we could call the mortar fire in pretty accurate. Usually, the first one was a little long and the second was maybe a little short and the third one was pretty much on target.
SLOAN: Yeah. What about enemy mortar fire? Were y'all receiving much enemymortar fire?
WATSON: Yeah, we received quite a bit, both of the mortar fire and also fortheir artillery. You could see that big hole there where our particular unit 26:00was. It was just right--it was in where our unit was. And that was art--artillery fire, but we had mortar fire, too.
SLOAN: Now, one of the things I know about these new mortars you were using isthey were pretty quiet as far as the shell, kind of--
WATSON: Yes. Yes, they were when they went out of the mortar, but they weren'twhen they--(breaks off laughing)
SLOAN: Yes. (laughs)
WATSON: Because it was a, you know, 105 millimeter, and it was pretty explosive.
SLOAN: Yeah. Well, you talked about, kind of, enemy defenses beginning to give.
SLOAN: So I know you were dug in for a while. When did you start to become more mobile?
WATSON: Well, we started that--right at first, around Liege and what have you,27:00we were pretty stationary, but then there was a break and we started moving. And we moved pretty fast. They were beginning to retreat. And we didn't move too fast up to the Rhine River, but when we got to the Rhine River, after that we moved real fast because they were really retreating. But we spent quite a bit of time, when I first got there, because we were pretty stationary. It was going back and forth. But the First Army was the first one that got to the Rhine, and the Third Army was behind us, so they sent firepower down to the Third--well, the Seventh Army, excuse me. And we were part of that. We went down there and 28:00helped them to come up. I mean, we used what firepower we had to help them to come up to the Rhine River, so we could cross the Rhine River all at once. I mean, all the way from France down there all the way on up through Belgium. So we were sent down there until they came up to the Rhine River, and then they brought us back to the First Army.
SLOAN: Okay. Were you--in that--I guess in those river crossings you were usingsome of your smoke?
WATSON: Smoke was mainly used. However, if you've been to Germany, some of thatland there was just level. I mean, it was, for miles and miles. And whenever they were set and stationed we did use smoke, so that they didn't know of our 29:00movements up until--they could use us as smoke while the artillery could, you know, could use the high explosive. But we used both high explosive and smoke.
SLOAN: I know that had to be a good feeling when you became mobile.
WATSON: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. In fact, we had a hard time--and it moved fairly fastup until we came to the Harz Mountains. And that's--I don't know whether you've been there or not, but where we went up they just had one little shingled road going up. They had tanks, and their tanks were better than our tanks. Those ninety millimeter were much better than our seventy-five, there's no doubt about it. And we respect it. (laughs) But they had--they were positioned there to be 30:00able to--we just couldn't make it. And so they had to send people around to behind it, and come in from the rear to break the--so that we could break through. And we moved fairly fast until there, and then we were stalled there for a while. And it was a lot of shelling back and forth.
SLOAN: Now, you mentioned being, you know, you're working as a forward observer,so are you in a jeep out at the--?
WATSON: Well, partly. We had jeeps because we had to pull our mortars and whathave you, and the ammunition. We had our own ammunition--had to be with us. So we had several jeeps. And I did have a jeep assigned to me, but when you was 31:00with the army, you weren't in a jeep. But then we could use--we needed to, whenever we knew that there was going to be an assault on the Germans, they'd tell us where it was going to be, and we needed a place where we could get our platoons--the mortars set up and so forth. And sometimes we used jeeps to do that.
One time, when we was down with the Seventh Army, I went into the battalionheadquarters. They said they wanted to be covered in a certain particular area. And I said, "Well, you know, there is a town over here that would be ideal for us because it'd be in range and we'd like that." And they said, Oh, that town is 32:00taken, so don't worry about it. So I took a jeep over there and was driving into town, and a machine gun opened up on us. I went to one side, and the driver went to the other side. But we finally got back and got back into town. I didn't carry anything but a pistol and what have you. And we was sitting there, debating what we were going to do, and about that time, here came our tanks and our men coming into town. So the communications wasn't always the best in the world. But it was a godsend to see those guys coming in. (laughs)
SLOAN: I'll bet. You got to welcome them into town.
WATSON: We got to welcome them into town. No, we wanted to be sure they knew33:00that we were American. (laughs)
SLOAN: Well, that was after you crossed the Rhine, right? Yeah.
WATSON: That particular incident was after we crossed the Rhine. And that wasdown in the Seventh Army, but then they brought us back up to the First Army, VII Corps.
SLOAN: Can you talk a little bit more about getting bogged down there at theHarz Mountains? And you talked about them, you know, using the strategy of coming in from behind, but can you talk a little more about what you remember there?
WATSON: All I know is it was very little--where we were, there was only one roadgoing up into the mountains. And they had that covered with several tanks, and they had them stationed there. And I saw, one time, where one Mark IV knocked 34:00out three of our tanks just like that, because they had--the ninety millimeter had more range than our seventy-five. And so it was--and if we tried to send troops and smokes there and--I mean, put up a smokescreen and send troops in, when they got there they had no backup. So the strategy was right, whenever--whoever made the decision. I was just a lieutenant. Whoever made the decision to come around from the back and attacked them from the rear, that was--or we'd still be there. (laughs)
SLOAN: Yeah. (laughs)
WATSON: Or somebody would be. But anyway, that was the one point that really35:00bogged us down until somebody used a different strategy to come and break it open.
SLOAN: Well, I guess it wasn't long after that that you started seeing someGermans surrender.
WATSON: Oh yeah. They were beginning--right after that, they were beginning tosurrender. And they always said, Well, we're surrendering because we wouldn't do this with Russians, because we know what's going to happen over there, but we know that we can surrender and maybe still be alive. So they were surrendering pretty--(both talking)
SLOAN: Yeah, so that drove their desire to surrender to the Americans.
WATSON: That's right. That's right. That's right. And we didn't meet theRussians until Leipzig. But they--well, I don't know whether they liked to fight 36:00or not, but they felt a lot better over on the western front than on eastern front, I'll say that.
SLOAN: So what was your--did you get a chance to interact with any of theGermans that were surrendering?
WATSON: Some, not much. I will say this. We had one of our platoons thatwere--actually, they were in the basement of a house one night, and the SS came in and just killed them all, you know. And so it was hard to control some of these guys whenever they--they would accept a German prisoner, but a SS better 37:00watch out. But we had a hard time being sure that they didn't kill the SS boys, there's no doubt about that, though. I could say that--I would like to be able to say something different, but that was true. I mean, the Germans, they were kind of like us. I mean, they were regular people, except for the SS boys, and they were killers. There's just no doubt about it.
SLOAN: Now, was it from that position you went into Leipzig next, right?
SLOAN: Yeah, Leipzig. I'm sorry. Yeah. Was it not long after that that thesecond platoon--
WATSON: The third platoon?
SLOAN: What was it?
WATSON: Third platoon.
SLOAN: Third platoon? Okay. Went into Leipzig, right?
WATSON: Yeah, right.38:00
SLOAN: Now, I know--can you tell me that story because that's a story about yourmission going into Leipzig?
WATSON: Well, this was when the German troops were just coming in all over theplace, and we had forty thousand of them. And we wanted to build a fence and everything else, and so one of my jobs was go in to see the bürgermeisters of Leipzig--it's the bürgermeister of Leipzig, and get supplies and what have you. And he was arrogant as all get-out. He spoke English better than I did, but, you know, he wouldn't speak English to me. But anyway, yes, I had a run-in with him. And I didn't pull a pistol, but I sure wanted to. (laughs) But anyway, we had some other people with us and we just told them what we was going to do, or 39:00else. And--but a lot of the soldiers, well, they were kind of like us. But some of the officers were arrogant, there's no doubt about it.
SLOAN: Well--go ahead.
WATSON: I was just going to say, and, also, they had quite a bit of women thatwere captured, too. And in that camp we had about forty thousand, forty-one thousand, and I would say there would probably be a few thousand of them were women.
SLOAN: Well, I know handling all these prisoners, or all these--now, these wereprisoners of war that were surrendering?
WATSON: Yeah, right.
SLOAN: I know that had to be a logistical nightmare, just dealing with them.
WATSON: Oh yeah. Well, actually, we were fortunate enough in Leipzig to be able40:00to get by a storehouse that had quite a bit of food. But what we did do, we did--and they knew it. At nighttime we would shoot a machine gun over the whole thing, about five or six feet up. And if anybody was standing, or what have you, you know, they knew what was going to happen. But they were warned and they took--I mean, they didn't get--(laughs). We didn't have much trouble. I mean, I think they were ready to get out. They wanted to go home, and they knew that it was--that they weren't going to do what they wanted to do. So they were giving up at that time. 41:00
SLOAN: Well, one of the things I want to definitely ask you about is Buchenwald.If you could tell me a little bit about--if you could begin by when you maybe first heard of these sorts of places?
WATSON: Well, we weren't the outfit that went into Buchenwald. They were on ourright. And we heard that they were placed there where there were--there was a camp, and there were just a lot of dead people. And we didn't--I didn't--we didn't know what the camp was at the time, but later on found out about it. But it was--they told me some stories about it, all the dead people and what have you, that I had to go over there because--being a forward observer, we'd go up for two or three weeks, and then they'd be pulled back and let somebody go up 42:00again. And the time that I was back off the front line, I went over there to see what it was.
And I think you can see from some of the pictures we had that they stacked thebodies. They were just stacking up. They'd have them facing one direction on the first layer. The next layer, they'd turn them around forty-five degrees, and then they'd go up about five stacks high. And they were--I couldn't count how many people that were just--just dead. And every one of them were skin and bones. It was awful. I mean, the odor was bad and--well, you just didn't think a human could treat humans like that. But that was awful. I mean, anybody that saw 43:00that--it's something you don't ever want to see again. I mean, that many people just stacked up dead, and skin and bones to begin with.
SLOAN: Well, do you know how many days after liberation, how long it had beenliberated when you got to go in?
WATSON: Got to go in where?
SLOAN: The camp, how long it had been since it had been discovered?
WATSON: Oh, it was two or three days. Probably two days. It was--I mean, ittraveled fast. Communications traveled fast that way, and whenever that happened, well, the--it could have been three days, but I think it was about two days after they took over. Now, all the German--that were--had something to do 44:00with it, they had gone, but there were a few Germans around. But then I know that later on the--one or two of the generals had the whole town come in and just go over that whole thing. And they made some of them crawl over all the bodies. I don't know whether that was revenge or what, but the whole thing was just something that you never want to see again.
SLOAN: Were there still inmates in there, walking around?
WATSON: There were still some. There were still some that had not been killed.But there wasn't too many, but there were still some, yes. In fact, also about that time was when we were beginning to see a lot of American prisoners that 45:00were released. And they came in, and they were hungry. And they--they were pitiful because they weren't treated too well. I know that we had to watch our stuff because they'd steal it. (laughs) But I can understand that.
SLOAN: Did you get a chance to look around Buchenwald--or around the camp?
WATSON: I went through it. I went through it. They had a lot of steel doors andstuff. They didn't have the ovens like they had in some of the other camps, but they did kill. But of course, the barracks and all that sort of stuff, were 46:00just, you know, were really--they were awful.
SLOAN: So it sounds like at that time they were getting the bodies ready for burial.
WATSON: Yeah, they had them stacked up, getting them ready for burial. But theydidn't have a chance to do it. And I wasn't there when they brought the townspeople in, but I think that was an eye-opener for a lot of those Germans.
SLOAN: Now, were you encouraged--I know through some other readings, you know,Patton, Bradley really encouraged GIs to go see the camps. Were you encouraged to go see the camp?
WATSON: We didn't directly encourage. I mean, I didn't see any direct--somebodyfrom higher up come and do it, but we wanted to. Now, they might have encouraged 47:00some, I don't know. But our outfit--I just wanted to go over there. I'd heard about it, and I didn't believe it. But I did after I got there.
SLOAN: Did it affect at all how you thought about the enemy?
WATSON: Well, I didn't think how human beings could treat other human beingsthat way. I really didn't. But--well, it's hard to say. I think a lot of people either said, Well, you know, it didn't happen or--even Germans, or what have you. But I think it was--I don't know that just the basic people were much different than over here. I mean, a lot of them just didn't pay any attention to really what was happening. And I think I see that over here from time to time. 48:00But I think they got a real eye-opener.
SLOAN: I've talked to veterans who talk about not just their experience in someof the camps but, you know, their experience of war has stayed with them in a lot of ways, where they think about it or dreams or something like that. I'll go ahead and ask, if you're willing to share, if that's been true for you?
WATSON: Well, it has been, but I don't think that it's really affected me. Otherwords, I didn't want the army as a career, but if I needed to go back, I was ready to go back in Korea, and so forth, even though I had two daughters, what have you. But I felt that any situation like that, we need to do something. So I 49:00don't know. It didn't affect me to the point that I wouldn't do it again, I mean, if I was asked for service.
WATSON: The one thing I will say is, it did--we had some young people, and youknow, some of them were--I don't know. I guess they were hardened, but they would go--they see a ring or something on a dead body, they'd just cut the finger off and do that. I mean, some of that happened with our people. And that's something I couldn't take. I mean, anytime I found out about it, I tried to do something about it. But that trait, I guess, is in a lot of people, maybe 50:00all of us.
SLOAN: Well, I want to ask about a happy memory. When did you hear of the surrender?
WATSON: Well, we were in--I'll put it this way. We were in Leipzig, and we gotorders to go to Japan.
SLOAN: Well, now, I want to go to the German surrender. When'd you hear that?
WATSON: I know that.
SLOAN: Oh, I'm sorry. I just wanted to make sure.
WATSON: I know that. But we were, and of course--I better go back then, becausethis was after the German surrender.
WATSON: Yeah. Yeah, well, we really had a party. (both laugh) And we also had areal party when we met the Russians in Leipzig. Well, if you know how they 51:00party, well, they--(laughs) you just sit back and watch them.
SLOAN: There was vodka involved, probably.
WATSON: Oh boy. (laughs) There really was. But what I was going to say isabout--was about when the war was over--was another time that was a real celebration.
SLOAN: Well, I'm going to ask you about that in a minute.
SLOAN: So what was your impression of the Russians?
WATSON: Well, it's hard to say. The ones that we met, they were very joyful. Andthey had some kind of a fiddle. It wasn't exactly, but anyway, they had music, 52:00and they wanted to dance and they wanted to--when we met them in Leipzig, it was a very--well, a happy occasion. I mean, you couldn't keep from liking them, except some of them got a little bit on the boozy side. But it was--it was different. Our impression of it was probably not what a lot of other, you know, what a lot of them had experienced. But the ones that--I'll put it this way, they know how to party. (both laugh)
SLOAN: Well, it's such an interesting moment because relations with the Russiansis going to change so quickly--(both talking)
WATSON: That's right. That's right.
SLOAN: --after the war. But a lot of people forget.53:00
WATSON: That's right. That was--well, they really--if it hadn't been for theRussians, I think the outcome would have been different. I really do. I mean, that's because the Russians, that war--well, what they had over there, and the Germans came back. The Germans that I was able to talk to, they said, We're sure glad we're over here where the Americans are and not where the Russians are. If it--you know, if it had to be--if we had to be fighting somebody, well, it's a lot better fighting Americans. I got that impression. (both laugh)
SLOAN: So Germany surrenders, and I know you get instructions that you're goingto begin to prepare for the invasion of Japan. 54:00
WATSON: Japan, yeah.
SLOAN: Yeah. Can you talk about, kind of, that process?
WATSON: Well, I mean, it was really no different than the assignment that wewere having over there. Other words, we had a job to do, and we accepted it. I mean, I don't know of anybody in our outfit that, you know, that got mad, or what have you. It was just something that just--and we were glad that we were going to go back through the States, to get to see it. We had a month--they gave us a month and we went back. And, well, I was downtown Fort Worth the day that Japan surrendered. And that was a very--well, it was a very happy occasion. I 55:00didn't want to go over there, but I was going to go.
SLOAN: So you were there when you got news of the bomb being dropped, there inFort Worth.
WATSON: Yeah. And we got news of that, and then we also got news that Japan surrendered.
SLOAN: Do you remember what you thought when you heard of the bomb beingdropped? Of course, I know you had no knowledge of it, but--yeah.
WATSON: No. I mean, I know that maybe a lot of people thought that wasn't right,but to me--well, I think that was the thing to do. I really did. But there's a lot of pros and cons these days, but that's after the fact.
SLOAN: Well, I know the discussion of the casualties that taking the mainland of Japan--
WATSON: We just shook our head because they were going to fight to the last man.We knew that. And we weren't looking forward to it, but it was a job. 56:00
SLOAN: So that was a party. (laughs)
WATSON: That was a party. That was the best one. (laughs)
SLOAN: But I know you were in Fort Worth instead of Leipzig, so--yeah.
WATSON: Yeah, that was. That was. And it was--of course, I think that was aparty for nearly everybody in the States. I hope it was.
SLOAN: So, now, coming back, you went to France.
WATSON: We went to France.
SLOAN: And then the Queen Mary?
WATSON: We went over to England. Then we went from France--we boarded--I mean,then we went over and we boarded the Queen Mary up in upper London--up to England. Not on the French side, but on the western side. 57:00
SLOAN: Okay. Well, now, had you been able to keep contact with folks back home?
WATSON: Not too many. Not too many because the outfit I went in with, I wouldsay about 90 percent of them were from Pennsylvania, Michigan, upper New York, and that area. And so I really didn't keep a lot of contact with them. I think I had one or two occasions to communicate with one or two, but not too many, no. I know that a lot of people really enjoyed the getting together, and I would have, too, but I had a little family and I had to get on about my business.
SLOAN: Now, when were you married?
WATSON: I was married in November of '46.58:00
SLOAN: Okay. All right.
WATSON: I got back in about June of '46, I think, from Europe.
SLOAN: Well, now, you got back in June of '45, right? And then you went toBenning. You went to Benning and--(both talking)
WATSON: Right. Yeah, yeah. Shoot, yeah. Yeah, I got out June of '45, and then westayed at--we went to Fort Benning.
SLOAN: What were you doing at Benning for--?
WATSON: Well, we were training. We were training, even though it was after thewar. Well, you know, the army doesn't know anything to do except train you. (laughs)
SLOAN: I know your heart wasn't in it anymore, I'm sure.
WATSON: No, it didn't have the same effect that it did beforehand. But we didour job. I mean that, no doubt about it. I know that maybe a lot of people, you 59:00know--I don't know. But that was the job and that's what we did.
SLOAN: You were anxious to get back to College Station, weren't you?
WATSON: Yeah, yeah. The professors treated me a lot better. (laughs) And I got awhole lot of hours because I finished in the summer school. And that was--and usually it would take two semesters to do that, but they were good. (laughs)
SLOAN: Well, talk a little bit--you got to see A&M during the war and rightafter the war. Can you talk a little bit about changes, what it was like when you went back?
WATSON: Well, it was really a different environment, there's no doubt about it.60:00And a lot of the people that I went back to actually didn't serve in the army. Some of them did, but a lot of them didn't. I don't think they took the military training near--well, I shouldn't say that because I finished in summer school and it was maybe a different--but there wasn't a lot of emphasis on military training when I went--during summer school anyway. But I have to say that the professors treated us better. (laughs)
SLOAN: All you had to do was win a war for professors to treat you a littlenicer, huh? (laughs) Well, I know there were a lot of GIs that were pouring into 61:00A&M after.
WATSON: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, they were. They were, most of them not in the summerschool. But most of them came after that, but there were some in the spring that, when I say in the spring, early June I should say, that were glad to get back.
SLOAN: So you finished up that summer. That fall you got married.
WATSON: That's right.
SLOAN: And is that when you got your--did you go to Illinois then?
WATSON: No, I went ahead and, of course, got my degree in September.And--actually, I--let's see, I joined Anderson Clayton, which is a Houston company. And I first went to a plant in Sherman. And then I was assigned to go 62:00with a group to build a plant in Illinois, Jacksonville, Illinois. And I spent eleven years there with the crew building the plant and then starting it up. And then from there, I was transferred to California, where we built another plant in Fresno, California, and started it up.
SLOAN: Okay. Well, I've got to ask about Outstanding Young Man of the Year inIllinois in 1959. (both laugh) How'd you get Outstanding Young Man of the Year in Illinois?
WATSON: Well, I was--
SLOAN: You were outstanding.
WATSON: Sure. No, I was first elected president of the hospital, about a 150-bed63:00hospital. And then one of the bankers asked me to run for mayor. And I ran for mayor, and I did get to be mayor. And that was quite an experience. You learn something about a community that you never would dream of if you didn't. (laughs)
SLOAN: Did they know you were from Texas?
WATSON: They knew I was from Texas, and I got a lot of names there that I didn'tlike. But--(laughs) but enough of them did like me, at least to vote for me. But I've been to Chicago, and, you know, they were Yankees and all that, but they were real nice people. There is no--I mean, most of them were--it was a small 64:00community, about twenty-five, thirty thousand. And a lot of them were farmers. They had two colleges there, so it was--I changed my mind about some of the Yankees. (laughs)
SLOAN: So you came back from Fresno to Houston, is that right?
WATSON: I came back to Houston, yes. And I worked in the technical area, andthen they needed somebody up in one of the divisions. I went up as a vice president in one of the divisions up in Dallas. And then spent some time there, vice president of manufacturing and distribution, and then I went back to Houston. And worked quite a bit in South America, in Mexico and Brazil, São 65:00Paolo, Peru, and traveled quite a bit down in that area.
SLOAN: That's exciting.
WATSON: It was. It was. But they're nice people down there, too. Some of them inMexico told me that they were going get Texas and California back. (laughs) They may.
SLOAN: Might happen. Well, are there some questions I should have asked you thatI didn't get to ask?
WATSON: Well, maybe. I better not bring those up! (both laugh)
SLOAN: I want to make sure we've covered all we need to cover.
WATSON: Well, I guess the one thing that I was surprised about when I did go66:00into the unit that I went into, that the colonel told me that I was going to go out of there in two weeks. And that did surprise me a little bit. But it didn't intimidate me, but it did surprise me. They thought I was really a greenhorn, I guess. But there were a few things like that, but then there was a lot of good things. The celebration of whenever they felt that a smokescreen and the mortar fire helped a river crossing, and things like that. There were a lot of--it was nice to have people appreciate it.
SLOAN: Well, you just celebrated your eighty-ninth birthday, so you showed him.67:00
SLOAN: He thought you'd just have two weeks, and that was innineteen-forty--(both laugh) So you had a very successful career as--in administration in industry. What are the things you think you took from your military service that stuck with you? I know you decided you didn't want to stay in the military, but I know you learned some things there.
WATSON: Well, I think the discipline that you got, and the--what you wanted todo, or what you were assigned to do, that you wanted to do the best you could. And I think that showed up in the service as what needed to be done, and I think I tried to follow that through in whatever I did, whether it was building a 68:00plant or whether it was running a plant, or with so forth. But anyway, I think it was good training, and I would like to see a lot of other people get the same training. It's not anything that I'm different from anybody else, but I think the training helped out a whole lot.
SLOAN: Well, Robert DeBoard is with us. He's my graduate student that's filmingus today. And, Robert, did you have any questions that you'd like to ask Mr. Watson?
DeBOARD: No, nothing that comes to mind right now. I'm enjoying listening to thestories, though.
SLOAN: Well, both Robert and I want to thank you for your service, first of all,to our country.
WATSON: Thank you.
SLOAN: And I'm a professor, and I'm nicer to you (both laugh) because you served.
WATSON: You didn't have to teach me.
SLOAN: But we also want to thank you for taking some time out today to sit down69:00with us and share your story.
WATSON: Well, I appreciate it, and I appreciate what you're doing. And I'm gladto see some of this being brought out officially, you know, that happened. And I think y'all are doing a wonderful job.
SLOAN: Well, thank you. Thank you.
end of interview