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Charles Joseph Watters
Major Charles J. Watters
Born (1927-01-17)January 17, 1927
Died November 19, 1967(1967-11-19) (aged 40)
Place of birth Jersey City, New Jersey
Place of death near Dak To Province, Republic of Vietnam
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch Air National Guard United States Army
Years of service 1962 - 1964 (ANG)
1964 - 1967 (USA)
Rank Major
Unit Army Chaplain Corps
173rd Support Battalion
Battles/wars Vietnam War
*Battle of Dak To
Awards Medal of Honor
Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Air Medal

Charles Joseph Watters (January 17, 1927 – November 19, 1967) was a Chaplain (Major) in the United States Army. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery exhibited while rescuing wounded men in the Vietnam War, specifically the Battle of Dak To. He was killed in the battle in a friendly fire incident when a 500-pound bomb was dropped on American paratroopers near the triage area where he was working. Chaplain Watters is one of seven chaplains to receive the Medal of Honor.[1]

Biography[edit | edit source]

Charles Joseph Watters was born on January 17, 1927 in Jersey City, New Jersey. Watters attended Seton Hall Preparatory School and went on to graduate from Seton Hall University. He was ordained as a Catholic priest[2] in 1953 and served in parishes in Jersey City, Rutherford, Paramus, and Cranford, New Jersey.

Watters was an active private pilot, flying small single-engine planes as far as Argentina. In 1962, Watters became a chaplain with the New Jersey Air National Guard. In 1964, he entered active duty as a chaplain with the U.S. Army. He began his first 12-month tour of duty in Vietnam on July 5, 1966. During his first tour, he was awarded the Air Medal and a Bronze Star for Valor. At the end of his first twelve months, in July 1967, he voluntarily extended his tour for an additional six months.

On November 19, 1967, Chaplain Watters' unit was involved in close combat with the enemy. For his "conspicuous gallantry ... unyielding perseverance and selfless devotion to his comrades" on that day, Chaplain Watters was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Watters is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Medal of Honor citation[edit | edit source]

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to

United States Army

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Chaplain Watters distinguished himself during an assault in the vicinity of Dak To. Chaplain Watters was moving with one of the companies when it engaged a heavily armed enemy battalion. As the battle raged and the casualties mounted, Chaplain Watters, with complete disregard for his safety, rushed forward to the line of contact. Unarmed and completely exposed, he moved among, as well as in front of the advancing troops, giving aid to the wounded, assisting in their evacuation, giving words of encouragement, and administering the last rites to the dying. When a wounded paratrooper was standing in shock in front of the assaulting forces, Chaplain Watters ran forward, picked the man up on his shoulders and carried him to safety. As the troopers battled to the first enemy entrenchment, Chaplain Watters ran through the intense enemy fire to the front of the entrenchment to aid a fallen comrade. A short time later, the paratroopers pulled back in preparation for a second assault. Chaplain Watters exposed himself to both friendly and enemy fire between the two forces in order to recover two wounded soldiers. Later, when the battalion was forced to pull back into a perimeter, Chaplain Watters noticed that several wounded soldiers were lying outside the newly formed perimeter. Without hesitation and ignoring attempts to restrain him, Chaplain Watters left the perimeter three times in the face of small arms, automatic weapons, and mortar fire to carry and to assist the injured troopers to safety. Satisfied that all of the wounded were inside the perimeter, he began aiding the medics ... applying field bandages to open wounds, obtaining and serving food and water, giving spiritual and mental strength and comfort. During his ministering, he moved out to the perimeter from position to position redistributing food and water, and tending to the needs of his men. Chaplain Watters was giving aid to the wounded when he himself was mortally wounded. Chaplain Watters' unyielding perseverance and selfless devotion to his comrades was in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.

In memory[edit | edit source]

The name Charles Joseph Watters is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial ("The Wall") on Panel 30E, Row 036.[3][4]

The bridge on Route 3 in New Jersey spanning the Passaic River between Clifton and Rutherford has been named in honor of Chaplain Watters.

Public School No. 24 in Jersey City was named after him in the 1980s.

Chaplain Charles J Watters Center in Fort Bragg, NC.

The Seton Hall University Army ROTC Ranger Challenge team is named the Charlie Watters Ranger Company. At the Roman Catholic Church of the Epiphany in Cliffside Park, NJ, there is a rose garden dedicated in memory of Watters. There is a memorial plaque located in the center of the garden. It was organized and constructed in the late 1990s by classmate and friend, Fr. Thomas Olsen, then pastor of Epiphany Church.

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Misseck, 2005.
  2. "The Army Chaplaincy — Vietnam Remembered". U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School, Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Archived from the original on 2007-10-26. http://web.archive.org/web/20071026012555/http://www.usachcs.army.mil/SPECFEAT/Vietnam1.htm. Retrieved 2006-07-04. 
  3. "Charles Watters, Major, Army". The Virtual Wall. http://www.virtualwall.org/dw/WattersCJ01a.htm. Retrieved 2006-07-04. 
  4. Arlington National Cemetery profile

References[edit | edit source]

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