In Memory of U.S. Marine Corps Second Lieutenant
Lester Arthur Watson
Sturgis, South Dakota, Meade County
August 22, 1937 -- July 20, 1968
Killed in Action in Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam
Lester Arthur Watson was born on August 22, 1937, in New
Underwood, South Dakota, to Squire and Vivian (Bowman) Watson.
Lester had two brothers, Jeff and James, and he had three
sisters, Rita, Connie, and Clara Ann, who died in 1944. Their
hometown was Sturgis in Meade County. Lester went to Sturgis
High School, where he graduated in 1955. After high school, he
first entered the Marine Corps. After his first enlistment
period, he came home, attended, and then graduated from Black
Hills State University in Spearfish in 1966. Lester never
married. He enjoyed drawing and writing poetry. He worked as a
surveyor and in security at the Minute Man Missile sites near
Belle Fourche. It is said that he always had his nose in a book,
even as a child. Lester is remembered as quiet and kind of shy.
He liked sports such as golf, tennis, basketball and softball
and sometimes played them with friends and family.
After a seven-year absence from the Marines, he re-entered
the Marine Corps at Quantico, Virginia, on December 8, 1967.
After further training and being commissioned as an officer, Lt.
Watson arrived in Vietnam on July 1, 1968 and was assigned to
lead the 1st Platoon of “D” Company, 1st Battalion of the 27th
Regiment, 1st Marine Division stationed just south of Da Nang.
On July 17, 1968, just days before his death and just shortly
after he arrived in Vietnam, Lester wrote a letter to his
brother, Jeff. A few paragraphs read as follows:
Finally, you may have heard from the folks
where I am over here. I have been put on temporary duty as a
security for convoys running from Da Nang north to Phu Bai.
My platoon will be on this duty at least this week and
possibly one or two more. Then we will be back down south of
Da Nang as usual. In case you’re wondering, I can’t think of
a thing I need for my birthday. You could go down and have a
steak at the steak house for me.
The USO shows and I don’t get along. The
day we left camp for this duty they had a show we missed.
The day we left Da Nang for Phu Bai and the day we left Phu
Bai for Da Nang they had USO shows.
I have to get my gear packed to pull out
for Da Nang this morn so will sign off. Let me know how
things go there and I’ll keep you informed on the course of
2nd Lieutenant Lester Arthur Watson was killed in action on
July 20, 1968, in Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam “as result
from fragmentation to the head and body when the vehicle he was
riding in was hit by a hostile rocket round while on a convoy.”
The death of Lester was really hard on his brother Jim because
“Lester was his mentor and best friend.” The remains of Lt.
Watson were returned to Sturgis, and he was buried with military
honors at the Black Hills National Cemetery.
Photo on left: taken by Lester’s brother, Jim,
when they were in college at BHSU together
Lester Watson is currently survived by two sisters, Rita
Doyle of Santa Barbara, CA, and Connie Watson of Sturgis, SD;
and one brother, James Watson of Meridian, ID.
In closing, his sister, Connie, had the following to say on
behalf of the family: “Lester was a kind, gentle man who was a
good friend to everyone.”
This entry was respectfully submitted by Carson
Christofferson, 8th grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish,
South Dakota, on February 3, 2006. Information for this entry
was provided by the Watson family and friends via Connie Watson,
Sturgis, sister of Lester, an application for a Vietnam veterans
bonus, and articles from the Rapid City Journal from July 26,
1968, and July 31, 1968. Profile approval by Connie Watson.