Who We Are

Members of the Marine Corps League join together in camaraderie and fellowship for the purpose of preserving the traditions and promoting the interests of the United States Marine Corps, banding together those who are now serving in the United States Marine Corps and those who have been honorably discharged from that service that they may effectively promote the ideals of American freedom and democracy, voluntarily aiding and rendering assistance to all Marines and to their widows and orphans; and to perpetuate the history of the United States Marine Corps and by appropriate acts to observe the anniversaries of historical occasions of particular interest to Marines.

We are proud to be designated as the Lewis G. Watkins Detachment in honor of Oconee County’s only Medal of Honor Recipient.

Honoring Oconee County South Carolina’s Only Medal of Honor Recipient

Lewis G. Watkins was born June 7, 1925, in Seneca, South Carolina. During World War II he joined the United States Navy in 1943 before completing high school and achieved the rank of GM3 (Gunners Mate 3rd Class).   He served on various Naval ships in the Pacific during the war. After his discharge from the Navy in 1947 he returned home to complete high school in Greenville, South Carolina, and in 1949 became a police officer with the Greenville Police Department. On September 12, 1950, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps knowing he would be sent to Korea.

After completion of Recruit Training at MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina on November 17, 1950, he served at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and Camp Pendleton, California before going to Korea.  Watkins was assigned to Company I, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division in Korea.

On October 7, 1952, Staff Sergeant Watkins’ platoon was assigned to retake Outpost Frisco from the enemy. During the final attack, Staff Sergeant Lewis G. Watkins, despite earlier wounds, took an automatic rifle from a more badly injured Marine and opened fire on the enemy machine gun position holding up the assault. When a Chinese grenade landed among his men, he shoved them aside, picked up the grenade, and attempted to throw it at the enemy. The grenade exploded in his hand and wounded him mortally. His citation follows:

STAFF SERGEANT LEWIS G. WATKINS

UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS

Marine Corp League 1131

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a guide of a rifle platoon of Company I, in action against enemy aggressor forces during the hours of darkness on the morning of October 7, 1952. With his platoon assigned the mission of retaking an outpost which had been overrun by the enemy earlier in the night, S/Sgt. Watkins skillfully led his unit in the assault up the designated hill. Although painfully wounded when a well-entrenched hostile force at the crest of the hill engaged the platoon with intense small-arms and grenade fire, he gallantly continued to lead his men. Obtaining an automatic rifle from one of the wounded men, he assisted in pinning down an enemy machine gun holding up the assault. When an enemy grenade landed among Staff Sergeant Watkins and several other Marines while they were moving forward through a trench on the hill crest, he immediately pushed his companions aside, placed himself in a position to shield them and picked up the deadly missile in an attempt to throw it outside the trench. Mortally wounded when the grenade exploded in his hand, Staff Sergeant Watkins, by his great personal valor in the face of almost certain death, saved the lives of several of his comrades and contributed materially to the success of the mission. His extraordinary heroism, inspiring leadership, and resolute spirit of self-sacrifice reflect the highest credit upon himself and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

 DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER  President of the United States

Watkins’ remains were never recovered and he’s formally listed as buried in the NATIONAL MEMORIAL CEMETERY OF THE PACIFIC (PUNCHBOWL) (WALL OF THE MISSING), HONOLULU, HI, UNITED STATES.

His family honored him with a headstone in the family burial plot at the Wolf Stake Baptist Church cemetery at 550 Wolf Stake Church Road, Seneca, SC in Oconee County.

His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Watkins of Seneca, South Carolina, received notification that their son had been awarded the nation’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, in a letter from General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr.Commandant of the Marine Corps in 1953. The Medal was presented to Watkins’ parents in 1953 by Vice President Nixon in Washington, D.C. The Watkins family later loaned the medal to the Oconee Military Museum at Patriots Hall at 13 Short Street Walhalla, South Carolina 29691. Lewis Watkins is Oconee County‘s only Medal of Honor recipient. The postal facility in Seneca, SC was designated by law as the Staff Sgt. Lewis G. Watkins Post Office Building. In addition to the local Marine Corps League Detachment, the Walhalla Disabled American Veterans Walhalla, SC chapter also bears Watkins’ name.