Colonel John Carl Johnson (U.S. Army retired), 88, peacefully passed away at home in Edmond, OK with his wife, Nancy, by his side on April 3, 2022. He was born September 23, 1933 to Ellen and Ernest Johnson in Memphis, TN. John was the only child of his parents. John’s father, a Memphis policeman and the first generation of Swedish immigrants, instilled in his son the enduring virtues of perseverance, thrift, and courage. WW II was the backdrop of John’s formative years. On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, John vividly remembered being in the living room with his parents reading the comics from the Sunday paper when the bombing of Pearl Harbor was announced over the radio. As a boy, John spent the summer of 1943 with his Aunt Grace in Georgia who lived near Ft. Benning. During that summer, as he watched airplanes flying in and out of the base, John’s dream to have a military career was set.
John attended elementary school and Snowden Jr. High School in Memphis, TN. After graduation from Central High School, Memphis, TN in 1951, John attended Columbia Military Academy. John was the Winner of the 1952 Post Graduate Medal at Columbia Military Academy as well as qualifying for U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Coast Guard Academy and Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Course (ROTC).
John chose the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, NY and was a graduate of the West Point Class of 1956. After graduation from the U.S. Military Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree, John’s educational achievements include: U.S. Army Intelligence School, Fort Holabird, Maryland; U.S. Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island; U.S. Air War College, Montgomery, Alabama; and Troy State University, Montgomery, Alabama-Master of Science degree. Colonel John Carl Johnson was a true American hero. Colonel (then LTC) Johnson was awarded The Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in action in the Republic of South Vietnam during the period of 16 May – 8 June 1972. He was awarded The Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry in combat 25 May – 8 June 1972 while serving as Senior Advisor, 15th Regiment, attached to the 21st Infantry Division, Army of the Republic of South Vietnam. The 15th Regiment was the most forward element of the division, spearheading the offensive operation to break the siege of An Loc. On 25 May 1972, the regiment had advanced to within a few kilometers of An Loc when it came under a fierce attack by an estimated five NVA regiments supported by tanks, mortars and artillery. Seeing that then – CPT Tiberi, his last remaining Battalion Advisor, had been badly wounded and incapacitated, Colonel Johnson immediately and repeatedly exposed himself to horrific enemy direct fire as well as artillery and mortar barrages to pull CPT Tiberi back into the relative safety of a foxhole. There, Colonel Johnson administered first aid throughout the day and night, while at the same time directing airstrikes and advising his counterpart on appropriate military actions to counter the devastating enemy attack. Intense combat would continue nonstop for nearly two weeks, during which time Colonel Johnson would lead the regiment on several counterattacks, inflicting enormous casualties on the enemy, destroying countless enemy weapons, demoralizing the enemy soldiers, and confusing the enemy senior leadership. Colonel Johnson’s tactical genius, combined with uncommon leadership, resolve, and gallantry served as a rallying point for the 15th Regiment. Despite the horrendous casualties and the insurmountable odds, the regiment prevailed and An Loc was liberated. Colonel Johnson would also earn the Bronze Star Medal, 3 Purple Hearts, Legion of Merit, The Meritorious Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Distinguished Service Medal, and numerous other decorations for his repeated bravery and extraordinary leadership. Colonel Johnson was awarded the Oklahoma Distinguished Service Medal for exceptional meritorious performance of duty as Senior Army Advisor to the Oklahoma Army National Guard during the period of June 1977 –June 1981. In 2012 Colonel Johnson was honored as a recipient of the prestigious Legion of Valor and he was a 2018 Inductee into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame. Colonel Paul Tiberi, who served with Colonel Johnson during the siege of An Loc, nominated Colonel Johnson to the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame, wrote the following: “Colonel Johnson saved my life under the most horrendous combat against highly determined hostile forces. I would not be alive today were it not for his uncommon valor. Thus, some may consider my testimony subjective. But, I would be privileged to nominate Colonel Johnson even had he not saved my life. Why? Because I had the honor of serving with many outstanding leaders and incredible heros in combat, one of whom was awarded the Medal of Honor; and, I can state unequivocally I have known no more courageous soldier or more inspiring and selfless leader than Colonel Johnson. I should add, both of my sons served multiple tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other dangerous areas of military operations. On each of those days, I prayed someone with just a smidgen of Colonel Johnson’s courage, skill, and selflessness was leading them.”
This giant of a man could not merely fade into the sunset upon retiring from the Army after 26 years of distinguished military service. Instead, he championed “Jobs for Vets” for the State of Oklahoma; worked as a legal administrator; was a teacher/counselor for disadvantaged youth at the Guthrie Job Corps; and, the owner-operator of an automobile repair shop. In 1998 Colonel retired to a life of chasing big bass across the great state of Oklahoma, east Texas and Florida. Over the years he and Nancy enjoyed Friday Night Club Reunions in Memphis, TN with dear childhood friends and October Fests spent in the Hill Country of Texas with longtime military friends Colonel (Ret) Charles and Kaye Arneche. John also spent many long afternoons of rocking chair visits with close neighborhood friends, especially Steve Ochs. Colonel Johnson enjoyed a full life in which he did things his way with few regrets.
John is survived by his wife, Nancy, and son from his first marriage, John Kevin (Betty) Johnson of Bixby, OK; grandsons Christopher (Sarah) Johnson of Broken Arrow, OK and Dr. Derek (Jenna) Johnson of Sapulpa, OK; and five greatgrandchildren, Nathan, Samuel, Micah, Emma, and McKenzie Johnson: Nancy’s children, Evan (Brandie) Peter of Austin, TX, Clint (Leah) Peter of Augusta, KS, and Sarah Peter of Augusta, KS; grandchildren, Jacob and Carson Peter of Austin, TX; Kaleb, Mariah, and Elijah Peter of Augusta, KS: Second wife, Sylvia, and her children, Scooter, Carol, and Tony (June) Valuikas. He was preceded in death by his parents, Ellen and Ernest Johnson; first wife, Priscilla Hamil Johnson; step daughter, Margie Valuikas; and step grandson, Harold Abbott.
Colonel Johnson will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery with Full Military Honors, the date of which is pending.
Posted online on June 25, 2022
Published in The Oklahoman