US Army Quartermaster Foundation
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USN Watson.jpg (784218 bytes)

(Department of Defense News Release, April 9, 1997)

Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton has named a strategic sealift ship after a U.S. Army Medal of Honor recipient from World War II.

The name Secretary Dalton assigned, USNS Watson (T-AKR 310), honors U.S. Army Pvt. George Watson of Birmingham, Ala., who was awarded the nation's highest military award. While serving with the 2nd Battalion, 29th Quartermaster Regiment, Pvt. Watson distinguished himself on March 8, 1943, when his ship was sunk by Japanese bombers near Porloch Harbor, New Guinea. Pvt. Watson remained in the water and helped other soldiers reach their life rafts. Exhausted by these heroic efforts, Pvt. Watson was unable to get clear of the turbulence when the ship went down.

“By naming this ship after an Army Medal of Honor recipient, the Secretary of the Navy has created a lasting monument to an American hero.” said Secretary of the Army Togo D. West, Jr. “Pvt. Watson gave his life in the defense of our nation; now this ship will continue that legacy of service. This ship is a fitting reminder of selfless service by an extraordinary soldier, and of the history of accomplishment and mutual support shared by our two services.”

USNS Watson under constructionThe new Large Medium Speed Roll On/Roll Off (LMSR) ship is under construction at National Steel and Shipbuilding Company in San Diego, Calif. The ship will be operated by the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command, Washington, D.C. Watson's roll-on/ roll-off design makes it ideal for transporting helicopters, tanks, and other wheeled and tracked military vehicles. The ship will have approximately 390,000 square feet of cargo carrying space. Watson is 950 feet in length, has a beam of 105 feet and displaces approximately 62,000 tons when fully loaded. The gas- turbine powered ship will be able to sustain speeds up to 24 knots.

Military Sealift Command's second new LMSR is christened

Military Sealift Command Press Release - July 28, 1997

Large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ship USNS Watson (T-AKR 310) was christened July 26 at National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, San Diego, Calif. Named in honor of Army Pvt. George Watson, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during World War II, USNS Watson will become part of the Military Sealift Command's Afloat Prepositioning Force and used to preposition at sea ammunition, equipment and supplies for the Army.

Secretary of the Army Togo D. West was the principal speaker at the christening ceremony, and his wife, Gail, officially gave the ship its name.

"Pvt. George Watson exemplifies the partnership among soldiers, sailors and merchant mariners fighting for America. That partnership is as strong today as it was when Watson gave his life for his comrades," said Rear Adm. William H. Butler, USNR, who represented Military Sealift Command at the ceremony.

It is very appropriate that Military Sealift Command--whose mission is to provide for the ocean transportation of equipment, fuel supplies and ammunition to sustain U.S. forces worldwide during peacetime and in war--has one of its newest ships named in honor of a person who gave his life saving others during combat at sea. When Watson's ship was repeatedly attacked by enemy bombers, he helped others to make it to life rafts so that they might live, until he was so exhausted that he was pulled down by the tow of the sinking ship. The civilian mariners who crew USNS Watson will put themselves in harm's way to make sure that U.S. soldiers have what they need to get the job done.

As one of 19 large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships being built or converted at U.S. shipyards, USNS Watson is the first of seven new gas turbine propulsion LMSRs.

When the LMSR acquisition program is completed, the Navy will have approximately 5 million square feet of additional strategic sealift capacity.

Military Sealift Command takes delivery of USNS Watson

 Military Sealift Command Press Release - June 30, 1998

Military Sealift Command took delivery of USNS Watson, the first of 14 new construction large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships, called LMSRs, in late June. She is the first ship of the Watson class to be delivered.

Watson, named in honor of Medal of Honor recipient Army Pvt. George Watson, is the first of seven LMSRs to be built by National Steel and Shipbuilding Company in San Diego, Calif. USNS Watson was christened by Gail Berry West, wife of Secretary of the Army Togo D. West, last July.

Seven more new LMSRs -- the Bob Hope class -- are being built at Avondale Shipyards in Louisiana. Five converted LMSRs have already been delivered and are operating worldwide.

USNS Watson will be assigned to MSC's Afloat Prepositioning Program which prepositions on ships equipment and supplies for the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and the Defense Logistics Agency worldwide. Prepositioning improves U.S. capabilities to deploy forces rapidly in any area of conflict.

Watson is scheduled to be loaded with U.S. Army cargo in September (1998). USNS Watson will be crewed by 29 merchant mariners from Maersk Lines Limited under contract to MSC. In addition, up to 50 military personnel can embark to "monitor and maintain the military equipment on board, ensuring its readiness.

By the year 2001, MSC will have taken delivery of 19 LMSRs as part of the U.S. Navy Strategic Sealift Acquisition Program. The program is in response to the need for expanded sealift capability identified in a congressionally mandated study done in the early 1990s. The 19 LMSRs will provide five million square feet of sealift capacity early in the next century.

Large, Medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships - T-AKR Description: Military Sealift Command's newest class of ships - Large, Medium- speed, Roll-on/Roll-off Ships, or LMSR - will significantly expand the nation's sealift capability in the 1990s and beyond. Nineteen LMSRs will have been converted or built at U.S. shipyards by the year 2001.

Features: Large, Medium-speed, Roll-on/Roll-off Ships, or LMSRs, can carry an entire U.S. Army Task Force, including 58 tanks, 48 other track vehicles, plus more than 900 trucks and other wheeled vehicles. The ship carries vehicles and equipment to support humanitarian missions, as well as combat missions. The new construction vessels have a cargo carrying capacity of more than 380,000 square feet, equivalent to almost eight football fields. In addition, LMSRs have a slewing stern ramp and a removable ramp which services two side ports making it easy to drive vehicles on and off the ship. Interior ramps between decks ease traffic flow once cargo is loaded aboard ship. Two 110-ton single pedestal twin cranes make it possible to load and unload cargo where shoreside infrastructure is limited or nonexistent. A commercial helicopter deck was added for emergency, daytime landing.

Background: The need for additional military sealift ships was identified in a Congressionally-mandated study by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the early 1990s. The Mobility Requirements Study focused on Department of Defense transportation during the Persian Gulf War. It highlighted the urgent need for greater sealift capacity to transport military equipment and supplies during wartime and other national contingencies.

In response to the sealift shortfall, an ambitious Strategic Sealift Acquisition Program was introduced. Plans called for adding 19 LMSRs which will provide five million square feet of capacity early in the next century.

Watson Loads Army Cargo In Europe
By Lisa Gates
From Sealift, US. Navy Military Sealift Command, August 1998

Less than a month after being delivered to Military Sealift Command, USNS Watson arrived in Europe to start her first mission--the redeployment of heavy U.S. Army combat equipment from Europe to the United States.

After the long transit from San Diego, Calf., Watson reached the small German seaport of Bremerhaven in late July.  There, waiting on their pier since April, were more than 1,700 Army vehicles and 200 shipping containers filled with gear for transfer to the United States.

However, before docking pierside, Watson passed through a lock in the port with enough room to spare.  Her sheer hulking size and gray hull caused a stir among local port employees and officials who were used to seeing large ships, mostly auto transport vessels, dock there.

"For a ship as large as she is, she handles really well, "said Watson's master Capt. George Hynes about the ship's maiden voyage to Germany. "Her two bow thrusters and tight turning radius make her handle like a dream."

Once Watson's large stern ramp was lowered into place, members of the Army's 598th Transportation Terminal Group swung into action, getting the equipment prepared for loading.

For four days, local stevedores drove the various vehicles--humvees, large trucks and tractor trailers--up the stern ramp and into the depths of the ship, securing each one with shiny, new lashing equipment.

"You'll never see lashing equipment as shiny as this again," said Tim Pickering, a marine transportation specialist in the Sealift Program Office at MSC headquarters, who was on hand to watch the cargo operations.

Port cranes on he dock lifted the shipping containers onto the ship's main deck where stevedores, driving forklifts, placed them inside one of the ship's many cargo holds.

Once loading operations in Bremerhaven were completed, Watson cruised to Rotterdam, the Netherlands where another 45 Army helicopters were lifted aboard and lowered through the cargo hatches on the main deck.

The equipment being loaded--more than 200,000 square feet--belongs to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment which is returning to the U.S. after 11 months of duty with the NATO-led Stabilization Force in Bosnia/Herzegovina.  The equipment will be off-loaded in Beaumont, Texas, when the ship arrives in mid-August.

Watson, which is ideally suited for military cargo, was selected for the job due to the large amount of cargo needing to be moved.  Normally to move this huge amount would have required the use of two Fast Sealift Ships or three commercial chartered vessels.   By selecting Watson -- 950 feet in length and comparable in size to a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier--for this mission saved the American taxpayer potentially $3 million.   And, besides, it gave MSC the opportunity to showcase on of its newest large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships.

"It is an honor to be the first captain of a brand-new ship," said Hynes. "It's a rare opportunity these days for a U.S. merchant mariner to captain a new ship because there are not that many ones being built."

Watson will be loaded with Army prepositioning cargo in Charleston, S.C., in September.

 New Navy Ship Loads Army Cargo in Charleston, S.C.

Military Sealift Command Press Release - November 6, 1998

USNS Watson, one of the newest and largest ships in the U.S. Navy fleet, docks today at the Naval Weapons Station Charleston.  The large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ship, called an LMSR, will prepare to deploy for its official mission at sea -- afloat prepositioning in the Persian Gulf.

The ship, is named for an African-American World War II Medal of Honor recipient, Pvt. George Watson. Following USNS Watson's load-out  in Charleston, the ship will deploy in late November and arrive in the Persian Gulf in mid-December.

Operated by Military Sealift Command, afloat prepositioning ships preposition American military equipment and supplies in ocean-based strategic locations, combat-ready for U.S. fighting forces, if called.

Mrs. Gail Berry West, the ship's sponsor and wife of Secretary of Veterans Affairs and former Secretary of the Army Togo West, will visit the ship on Nov. 10 to view loading operations.

USNS Watson, a non-combatant cargo ship, is 950 feet in length and crewed by U.S. merchant mariners.

The ship's namesake, Pvt George Watson, a soldier with the U.S. Army's 2nd Battalion, 29th Quartermaster Regiment was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1996.

Pvt. Watson saved the lives of fellow soldier who were unable to swim by helping them reach life rafts after their troop ship was struck by enemy bombers near Porloch Harbor, New Guinea.  Exhausted from his heroic rescue efforts, Pvt. Watson perished when the sinking ship pulled him beneath the surface.

USNS Watson is emblematic of the proud service of African-Americans to the nation's defense and security.

General Characteristics: Watson Class
(From the Military Sealift Command Website)

Builder: National Steel and Shipbuilding Co.

Power Plant: 2 GE Marine LM gas turbines; 64,000 hp (7.7 MW); 2 shafts, cp props

Length: 951.4 feet (290 meters)

Beam: 106 feet (32.3 meters)

Displacement : 62,968 tons full load (63,969.2 long tons)

Cargo capacity: 393,000 sq. ft.

Speed: 24 knots (27.6 mph)

Ships: No homeport assigned

USNS Watson (TAKR 310)
USNS Sisler (TAKR 311)
USNS Dahl (TAKR 312)
USNS Red Cloud (TAKR 313)
USNS Charlton (TAKR 314)
USNS Watkins (TAKR 315)
USNS Pomeroy (TAKR 316)

Crew: 26 civilian crew (up to 45); up to 50 active duty

Return To: Watson Medal of Honor Page

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