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Art Leatherwood

WATKINS, TRAVIS E. (1920–1950). Travis E. Watkins, Medal of Honor recipient was born at Waldo, Arkansas, on September 5, 1920. He attended schools in Troup, Texas, and enlisted in the United States Army in 1939. He was awarded the Bronze Star during World War II for meritorious action during the campaign for Guadalcanal. He married Madie Sue Barnett on April 15, 1948. They had two daughters.

During the Korean War, Watkins, now a master sergeant, was a member of Company H, Ninth Infantry, United States Army, near Yongsan, Korea. In action between August 31 and September 3, 1950, thirty men of his unit were isolated by an overwhelming enemy force. Taking command of the group, he established a perimeter defense and directed action that repelled fanatic enemy assaults. With his group surrounded and cut off from help, he moved from foxhole to foxhole, exposing himself to enemy fire, giving instructions and encouraging his men. When ammunition became critical he shot two enemy soldiers fifty yards outside the perimeter and went out alone to retrieve their weapons and ammunition. He was attacked and wounded by three others. He killed all three, gathered up the ammunition of all five, and returned to his amazed comrades. During a later assault six of the enemy began to throw grenades into the perimeter, making it untenable. Sergeant Watkins rose from his foxhole and engaged them with rifle fire. Though he was hit by machine-gun fire, he continued shooting until he killed the grenade throwers. He then collapsed, paralyzed from the waist down, but continued to encourage his men to hold on. When it became apparent that help would not arrive in time to hold the position he ordered the men to escape to friendly lines. Refusing evacuation because he knew his condition would hold his men back, he remained in his position and wished them luck. Through his aggressive leadership the small force had destroyed nearly 500 of the enemy. For his bravery and noble self-sacrifice Watkins was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, which his wife received from President Harry S. Truman in Washington, D.C., on January 9, 1951. He was buried with full military honors in Gladewater Memorial Park at Gladewater, Texas.

Dallas Morning News, July 30, 1951. Dallas News, July 31, 1951.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Art Leatherwood, "WATKINS, TRAVIS E.," accessed August 09, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwatr.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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