Ralph James Watson – Colonel,United States Air Force

From a contemporary press report

Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Ralph James “Doc” Watson, a 1934 graduate of Centerburg High School, was interred with full military honors on Friday, July 23, 2004, at Arlington National Cemetery.

The family members met officials at the ANC Administration Building and from there were escorted to a location where a USAF Band, the Honor Guard and the caisson were waiting. Watson’s ashes were transferred onto the caisson for the burial procession. During the ceremony, family members walked behind the caisson to the burial site a few yards from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Following a eulogy delivered by USAF Chaplain Titus, the band played “Abide With Me’ and “Amazing Grace.” A rifle salute and the playing of “Taps” followed. Family members remarked on the awe-inspiring experience of the ceremony, the sight of all the grave markers and the realization of just how many service men and women have given their lives so that Americans can live in freedom.

Watson was a highly decorated World War II Ace fighter pilot, and was one of the youngest colonels to serve in the Army Air Corps/U.S. Air Force. His World War II career included meritorious service in the European and North African Combat Theaters, where his five aerial combat kills in his P-51 Mustang earned his “Ace” status.

Watson was a past president and chairman of the board of the American Fighter Aces Association. He was featured in the film “The True Aces,” which still appears on national television, and in the W.W. II documentary film “Fight for the Skies” with Ronald Reagan.

In his post-war career, Watson played a key role in establishing the first jet airbases in Turkey, flew supersonic and experimental aircraft, and worked for Rockwell/North American Aviation. He served as Senate liaison to the USAF before becoming a top lobbyist with Rockwell, where he promoted the development of the X-15, the B-70 bomber, the Apollo space capsule, the Minuteman ICBM, the B-1 bomber and the Space Shuttle programs. Watson was held in high esteem by many congressmen, senators and presidents, who valued his honesty and patriotism in the course of the defense of the nation.

Centerburg, Ohio, and “the farm on 314” was Doc’s home and he always found time for some rest and recuperation visits there. He and his brother, Boyd, would play golf, walk the farm sharing memories of the good old days, and go home a couple of pounds heavier from the good home cooking, according to family members.

Watson, who described his venture into death as “being ready to hit my final target,” will be missed by family and friends.


  • VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 08/01/1940 – 08/01/1957
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 05/31/1916
  • DATE OF DEATH: 12/14/2001
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 07/23/2004

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