Sunday, December 02, 2012

TFH 12/2: Sergeant James E. Johnson, USMC

James Edmund Johnson was born in Pocatello, Idaho on New Year's Day, 1926. At age 17 he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on the service's 168th birthday: November 10, 1943. He served honorably with the Marines for the rest of World War II in the Pacific, including taking part in both the Peleliu and Okinawa landings. He was discharged back to civilian life on February 7, 1946.

Two years of life as a college student and a machinist didn't satisfy the 22-year old Idahoan. He reenlisted with the Marines on January 13, 1948. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, he was part of the 1st Marine Division and participated in the Inchon landing in September.

By November, the UN forces led by the Americans had almost conquered North Korea when the Chinese Communists intervened. Thousands of Americans found themselves surrounded at the Chosin Reservoir, including Johnson.

One of the Marines' mantras is "every man a rifleman." On December 2, 1950, Johnson was a squad leader of a provisional rifle platoon made up of artillerymen from the 11th Marine Regiment attached to Company J, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. As his unit was about to be overwhelmed, he looked death in the face and stood alone to cover the withdrawal of his comrades. His heroism above and beyond the normal call of duty resulted in the presentation of the Medal of Honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for the Korean War:


Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps, Company J, 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein.). Place and date: Yudam-ni, Korea, 2 December 1950 (declared missing in action on 2 December 1950, and killed in action as of 2 November 1953). Entered service at: Washington, D.C. Born: 1 January 1926, Pocatello, Idaho. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a squad leader in a provisional rifle platoon composed of artillerymen and attached to Company J, in action against enemy aggressor forces. Vastly outnumbered by a well-entrenched and cleverly concealed enemy force wearing the uniforms of friendly troops and attacking his platoon's open and unconcealed positions, Sgt. Johnson unhesitatingly took charge of his platoon in the absence of the leader and, exhibiting great personal valor in the face of a heavy barrage of hostile fire, coolly proceeded to move about among his men, shouting words of encouragement and inspiration and skillfully directing their fire. Ordered to displace his platoon during the fire fight, he immediately placed himself in an extremely hazardous position from which he could provide covering fire for his men. Fully aware that his voluntary action meant either certain death or capture to himself, he courageously continued to provide effective cover for his men and was last observed in a wounded condition single-handedly engaging enemy troops in close hand grenade and hand-to-hand fighting. By his valiant and inspiring leadership, Sgt. Johnson was directly responsible for the successful completion of the platoon's displacement and the saving of many lives. His dauntless fighting spirit and unfaltering devotion to duty in the face of terrific odds reflect the highest credit upon himself and the U.S. Naval Service.

Sergeant Johnson's remains have never been recovered and/or identified. A cenotaph in his honor was erected at Arlington National Cemetery, and he left behind a wife and an infant daughter.

Today's 1st Marine Division still has 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines as an infantry component and the 11th Marine Regiment as their artillery component. 3/7th Marines is home based at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms and the 11th Marines at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, both in California.

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