Billy Watts was born on November 14, 1921, in Ben Wheeler, Texas. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy Aviation Cadet Program on May 7, 1942, and was commissioned an Ensign and designated a Naval Aviator on February 16, 1943. After completing fighter transition training and carrier qualification training, Ensign Watts served as an F6F Hellcat pilot with VF-18 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) from October 1943 to March 1944, and during this time he was credited with the destruction of 2.25 enemy aircraft in aerial combat. He then served as an F6F pilot with VF-17 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-12) from January to June 1945, adding another 6.5 enemy aircraft to record, for a total of 8.75 enemy aircraft destroyed in the air during World War II. Lt Watts left active duty and joined the Navy Reserve on November 2, 1945, and retired as a Lieutenant Commander from the Navy Reserve on November 1, 1959.
His Navy Cross Citation reads:
For extraordinary heroism as Division Leader of a Fighter Plane in Fighting Squadron SEVENTEEN, attached to the U.S.S. HORNET, in action against enemy Japanese forces in Kure Bay, Japan, March 19, 1945. Participating in a daring fighter strike on major units of the Japanese Fleet, Lieutenant (then Lieutenant, Junior Grade,) Watts dived through intense enemy antiaircraft fire to press home a strafing attack on a Japanese aircraft carrier. Unable to release his bomb, he received altitude and led his division in a bombing attack on a cruiser. Subsequently, he aided in strafing a large tanker which was left burning, and assisted in an attack on an airfield which resulted in the destruction of six parked aircraft and the infliction of severe damage on airfield installations and hangars. He took part in strafing and exploding a locomotive and then joined in two strafing runs on a seaplane base, destroying two four-engined patrol planes and two single-engine seaplanes and inflicting serious damage on seven others. His courage and devotion to duty reflect the highest credit upon Lieutenant Watts and the United States Naval Service.