Edwin Martin “Pa” Watson was a United States Army Major General, friend and a senior aide to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, serving both as a military advisor and Appointments secretary (a role that is now encompassed under the duties of the modern-day White House Chief of Staff).
Watson became Senior Military Aide to the newly inaugurated President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. He helped FDR navigate the bureaucracy of the War Department and the Army, especially during the crucial years prior to America’s entry into the Second World War. He was also appointed the President’s Appointments secretary in 1938 after the previous secretary Marvin H. McIntyre’s illness prevented him from continuing with his duties, managing access to the President and dictating the tenor of his daily schedule.
By virtue of his proximity to the President, Watson was present at some of the defining moments of the Second World War. These included a meeting about the Einstein–Szilard letter, which would eventually lead to the creation of the Manhattan Project, and FDR’s agreement to the Atlantic Charter alongside British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, providing a framework for those values that would guide the post-war world. He was in constant contact with Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz. He attended the Teheran Conference where the first of the negotiations between FDR, Churchill, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin took place. Although in poor health, he attended the Yalta Conference in February 1945 as well, where the Big Three negotiated for the future of Europe.
The War Department, in recognition of his service, posthumously awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal, which was presented by President Harry Truman and Eleanor Roosevelt to his widow Frances Nash Watson.