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Travis E. Watkins (September 5, 1920-September 3, 1950) was a soldier in the United States Army during both World War II and the Korean War. He posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions on August 31, September 1, September 2, and September 3, 1950.
Watkins served in the Pacific during World War II and earned a Bronze Star during the Guadalcanal Campaign. After returning to the United States at the end of the war, Watkins married Madie Sue Barnett on April 15, 1948; they had two daughters. He remained in the Army and was deployed to Korea as a Master Sergeant with Company H, Ninth Infantry Regiment, Second Infantry Division.
Medal of Honor citation.
Rank and organization: Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company H, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2d Infantry Division
Place and date: Near Yongsan, Korea, August 31, through September 3, 1950
Entered service at: Texas. Birth: Waldo, Arkansas
G.O. No.: 9, February 16, 1951
Citation: MSG Watkins distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. When an overwhelming enemy force broke through and isolated 30 men of his unit, he took command, established a perimeter defense and directed action which repelled continuous, fanatical enemy assaults. With his group completely surrounded and cut off, he moved from foxhole to foxhole exposing himself to enemy fire, giving instructions and offering encouragement to his men. Later when the need for ammunition and grenades became critical he shot 2 enemy soldiers 50 yards outside the perimeter and went out alone for their ammunition and weapons. As he picked up their weapons he was attacked by 3 others and wounded. Returning their fire he killed all 3 and gathering up the weapons of the 5 enemy dead returned to his amazed comrades. During a later assault, 6 enemy soldiers gained a defiladed spot and began to throw grenades into the perimeter making it untenable. Realizing the desperate situation and disregarding his wound he rose from his foxhole to engage them with rifle fire. Although immediately hit by a burst from an enemy machine gun he continued to fire until he had killed the grenade throwers. With this threat eliminated he collapsed and despite being paralyzed from the waist down, encouraged his men to hold on. He refused all food, saving it for his comrades, and when it became apparent that help would not arrive in time to hold the position ordered his men to escape to friendly lines. Refusing evacuation as his hopeless condition would burden his comrades, he remained in his position and cheerfully wished them luck. Through his aggressive leadership and intrepid actions, this small force destroyed nearly 500 of the enemy before abandoning their position. M/Sgt. Watkins' sustained personal bravery and noble self-sacrifice reflect the highest glory upon himself and is in keeping with the esteemed traditions of the U.S. Army.
In 1961, a housing complex at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, was named in his honor. The USNS Watkins, a supply ship, was christened on July 28, 2000. Watkins is buried in Gladewater Memorial Park in Gladewater, Texas.
A radio dramatization of his Medal of Honor story, originally produced by the Armed Forces Radio Service between 1951 and 1953 can be heard here: