James H. Watson left the University of California Berkley in 1941 to enlist in the U. S. Navy, where he would serve until the end of World War II. Additionally, he served on a series of Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT). Watson recalls a number of personal accounts including his UDT’s rescuing of a young Japanese girl afloat in the Pacific Ocean.


Interviewee: James Watson

Interviewer: Rachel Brown

Date of Interview: December 2, 2013


That Little Life

Well, we were patrolling…. We were far out from what was going on. I had the deck, and I had fantastic eyesight, 40/20, and I spotted this little white dot in the distance. I guess I advised the captain;  I should have. We headed out there to see what it was, and it was this little girl, little Japanese girl, with a life jacket and brown hair. She’d been there, God knows, but the destroyers had hit on, radar had shot about fifty Japanese, Saipans.  They didn’t know what they were, they could have been anything. But they were merchant ships. I don’t know how many people survived, but she did. And we got her aboard, poor little thing.  We had to help get the clothes off her.  We guess she was about eleven or so. Well, we couldn’t tell. We had a Pharmacist Mate aboard.  We didn’t have a doctor but he gave her some medicine. Got her clothes washed. Meanwhile, before all of that, I picked her up, put her down, and I said, “We’re going to take you up, we’re going to clean you up” because she kept pointing at me.  She wanted me to hold her, for pete’s sake. So I did. And with that, she coughed up the biggest tapeworm you ever saw, poor little thing. But we got her all cleaned up. And there was a prison ship that wasn’t too far because we could actually get her there.  We put her aboard to be taken care of.  And I, many, many times, wondered what happened to her.  Did she survive?   She seemed to be in good health. What her life might have been, and how happy we all were that we had a hand prolonging that little life. I can still see it.