Retired Aug. 1, 1973. Died June 25, 1997.
Major General James H. Watkins is deputy director, Defense Mapping Agency, Department of Defense, Washington, D.C. The agency has the mapping, charting and geodesy responsibility for the Department of Defense.
General Watkins was born in 1919, in San Saba, Texas, where he completed high school and received letters in five different sports. After high school, he studied engineering, played football, and ran track at Tarleton State College, Stephenville, Texas, from 1937 to 1940. He then entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and while at the academy played football and completed flying training. He received his pilot wings and commission as second lieutenant when he graduated from the academy in June 1943. He received a master's degree in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology, 1950; attended the Canadian National Defence College, 1964-1965; and has continued graduate studies at the University of Texas, University of California at Los Angeles, University of Maryland, The George Washington University, and Georgetown University.
After graduation from West Point, General Watkins trained in B-17 aircraft. During World War II in 1944, he served as a flight commander and squadron executive officer with the 483d Bombardment Group in North Africa and Italy. He flew 50 combat missions in the European Theater of Operations and participated in the first shuttle of American bombers into Russia in June 1944.
He returned to the United States and in June 1945 was assigned as an instructor in electrical engineering at the U.S. Military Academy. From June 1950 to June 1954, General Watkins was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the office of the Assistant for Atomic Energy where he was associated with the development of nuclear weapons.
General Watkins then was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe as an operations staff officer, then executive officer to the deputy chief of staff for operations. He returned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force in January 1957 as chief, General Officer Branch, Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel.
He was transferred to Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, in August 1961, as commander of the 3510th Flying Training Group and in August 1963 was appointed deputy commander of the 3510th Flying Training Wing. In September 1964 he became a student at the Canadian National Defence College.
In August 1965 General Watkins returned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force for a third tour of duty, this time as chief of the Flying Training Division, Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel. In May 1966 he became secretary of the Air Staff.
He returned to Randolph Air Force Base in August 1968 as commander of the 3510th Flying Training Wing and in July 1969 assumed duties as deputy chief of staff for operations, Air Training Command.
In February 1971 General Watkins was transferred to the Republic of Vietnam as chief, Air Force Advisory Group, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. In that position, he was responsible for implementation of the Improvement and Modernization Program (Vietnamization) of the Vietnamese Air Force. While there, he flew more than 200 combat missions, mostly with the Vietnamese Air Force in 12 different types of aircraft.
General Watkins was assigned as deputy director, Defense Mapping Age Department of Defense, in June 1972.
His military decorations and awards include the Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with eight oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Distinguished Unit Citation Emblem, and several combat decorations awarded by the Government of the Republic of Vietnam.
He was promoted to the grade of major general effective Sept. 1, 1971, with date of rank Nov. 4, 1967.