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Alumni Ink: Military Medicine and Cold War: A Flight Surgeon's Reflections

Air Force veteran Jerald Watts 59M 60MR 64MR shares a candid reflection on his involvement in some of the 20th Century's most memorable international events.

By Michelle Valigursky

Jerald Lee Watts
“There was a time in the past century when every able-bodied American male, eighteen years of age or older, was obliged to serve a compulsory two or more years in the United States military,” writes Jerald Watts 59M 60MR 64MR in his newest memoir Military Medicine and the Cold War: A Flight Surgeon’s Reflections. He goes on to write, “As young members of the military we met everyday life situations in the most personal manner, often not thinking of the greater picture.”

While Cold War tensions escalated in the 1960s, author and physician Watts served in the United States Air Force. As a flight surgeon, he advocated for his air crews worldwide during intense international events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet intimidation of West Berlin, the American participation with United Nations’ forces in the former Belgian Congo, and the buildup and beginning of the Viet Nam conflict.

In his most recent memoir, Military Medicine and the Cold War: A Flight Surgeon’s Reflections, Watts relives the often harrowing and emotional journey of his military years. In the book, as his career begins he reflects on the men and women with whom he served. “I soon recognized that little bit of insanity in the pilots and air crews that I saw in surgeons, a daring lifestyle that accepted and pushed life to the limit. We all seem to push life to the edge.” He adds, “My service was to be an experience that taught me to respect those men and women as the core of our best society, those bright individuals who risked their lives on a daily basis to do a job and to protect the American dream.”

His earlier memoir, Promises Kept, is a story of Atlanta's Grady Hospital during the 1950s and 1960s, a period of Racial Segregation to Integration. For this work, Watts earned a nomination for Georgia Author of the Year in 2010 by the Georgia Writers Association.

Now retired after practicing orthopaedic surgery for over 30 years he resides in Peachtree City, GA with his companion, author Ellen Hunter Ulken and his English Setter, Luke.