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WWII vet in segregated unit fights to get medals

Posted at 10:46 AM, Dec 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-13 19:19:28-05

This past Veterans Day, 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly brought you the story of World War II U.S. Army veteran George Watts from Buffalo.  Watts wanted to remind the public how thousands of WWII African-American soldiers did their duty, and some gave their lives, while being treated as second-class citizens in segregated military units.  However, it now turns out that Watts never received at least three medals for his military service.

Today, the veteran took his complaints to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer who is calling on the Army to immediately award the long-delayed medals.

"Somebody dug a big hole and buried it.  It has been kept under wraps," said George Watts about the history of segregated military units in the United States.

Watts is the last-known living Erie County WWII veteran who served in a segregated U.S. Army unit.  

"Whatever the white anybody said, you had no comeback," added Watts, who said soldiers in his unit were restricted on ammunition for fear they might shoot white officers.  

However, when it came to dangerous duty, Watts' group was sent to the South Pacific to flush-out fanatical Japanese soldiers who refused to surrender when WWII was ending in 1945.

"It was brutal," said Watts.

Watts served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946.  President Truman ended segregation in the military after the war was over.

The elderly veteran is now hoping more emphasis will be made on remembering and teaching about those who served in segregated military units.

You can watch Ed Reilly's Veterans Day story about the  93-year-old veteran as he and his family received a special VIP tour of the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum this past Fall.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is calling on the U.S. Army to right the "horrible wrong."  The senator said thousands of soldiers who served in U.S. segregated military units during WWII did not receive their proper medals like George Watts.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly has more in his report.