Private Henry R. Watkins

Henry_Watkinsribbon_PHribbon_apc

NAME:
Henry Raymond Watkins
NICKNAME: SERVICE NUMBER:
349571
HOME OF RECORD:
1026 1/2 Pine Street, Boulder, CO
NEXT OF KIN:
Mother, Mrs. Harriet B. Watkins
DATE OF BIRTH:
1924
ENLISTED:
January 14, 1942
DATE OF DEATH:
October 9, 1942
CAMPAIGN UNIT MOS RATE FATE
Guadalcanal B/1/2 Private KIA
CAUSE OF DEATH:
Drowning
INDIVIDUAL DECORATIONS:
Purple Heart
LAST KNOWN RANK:
Private
STATUS OF REMAINS:
Lost at sea, Sealark Channel
MEMORIAL:
Mountain View Memorial Park
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial


Service Number: 349571

Birth and Early Life:
Henry Watkins was born in Colorado around the year 1924. He was raised in Boulder by parents George and Harriet Watkins; the family was supported by George’s work as a miner. Few other details of Watkins’ life before his enlistment are known.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Watkins joined the Marine Corps on January 14, 1942; he would have been under the legal age of enlistment, and likely had to appeal to his parents for permission to go. He went through MCRD San Diego with the 10th Recruit Battalion.

Wartime Service:
Private Watkins assigned to Company B, First Battalion, 2nd Marines in the early spring of 1942. That summer, he boarded the USS President Jackson for a two-month sail across the Pacific. After leaving the United States, Watkins set foot on land only once before making an awkward and embarrassing mock landing on the island of Koro. There was no time for a second rehearsal; the ships weighed anchor and steamed off for the Solomon Islands.

At dawn on August 7, 1942, Watkins made his first combat landing; his company assaulted Florida Island in support of the landings on Guadalcanal just a few miles away. They encountered no live enemy and quickly secured their objective. Later that day 1/2nd Marines re-boarded their landing craft to return to the USS President Jackson, but Company B was diverted and ordered to make a landing on Tanambogo under cover of darkness. Planners hoped that the assault would relieve some of the pressure on the Paramarines fighting on nearby Gavutu, but the Japanese discovered the company’s boats and opened fire. Only a third of the men, mostly from First Platoon, made it to shore; the rest were driven off. The role that Watkins’ Second Platoon played is unknown, but they likely never touched dry land on Tanambogo.

Company B rejoined their battalion on now-conquered Tulagi a few days later. For the next two months, they garrisoned the tiny island. There were no Japanese to fight and little else to do; the men occupied themselves by building shelters, constructing fortifications they would never use (at least one company built a double line of barricades from sharpened eight foot logs, simply to stay busy), standing guard duty, and battling boredom. The first cases of malaria and dysentery were reported, and the worst cases evacuated.

Date Of Loss:
On October 9, 1942, Lieutenant Floyd E. Parks called his platoon together for a briefing. They were finally leaving Tulagi and heading for the fighting on Guadalcanal – and would be making a combat landing at the village of Aola, thirty miles from the nearest friendly forces. Most of the Marines welcomed this break in the monotony, and spent the day packing up their few belongings and combat loading their packs.

That evening, Second Platoon climbed into a Higgins boat tethered to a YP craft that would tow them the twenty miles from Tulagi to Aola. Night had fallen by the time they reached the center of Sealark Channel. The plywood Higgins boats groaned and creaked under the strain of their load. Each YP boat towed four Higgins boats lashed together in a chain, which meant the first boat in the chain took the most stress.

Watkins and his platoon were unfortunate enough to be in the first boat. When their YP suddenly increased its speed, the plywood hull of the Higgins boat split in half, dumping Second Platoon into the channel. Loaded down as they were for a combat landing, many of the Marines never had a chance to get out of their gear. Fourteen Marines of Second Platoon – including young Private Watkins – drowned in the channel, vanishing without a trace.

Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. Harriet B. Watkins

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.

Memorial:
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

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