Johnson -- Col Leon W Johnson


Leon Johnson graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in June 1926, and went to Fort Crook, Neb., as a second lieutenant in the 17th Infantry. He then took flying training at Brooks and Kelly Fields, Texas, and in early 1930, was transferred to the Air Corps with assignment to the 5th Observation Squadron at Mitchel Field, N.Y.
He was promoted to first lieutenant in December 1931.

General Johnson went to the Philippines with the 2nd Observation Squadron for a three-year tour in June 1932. He returned to the United States and entered California Institute of Technology where, in June 1936, he received his MS degree in Meteorology as a newly promoted captain. Going to Barksdale Field, La. as Base Operation officer in July 1937, he also commanded the 3rd Weather Squadron there. In August 1939, he was graduated from the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Ala., and returned to Barksdale for assignment as Operations Officer of the 3rd Bomb Group that went to Savannah, Ga. He was promoted to major in August 1940.

Early in World War II Johnson joined the 8th Air Force as Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations and went with it to England in June 1942, as a lieutenant colonel. The following January, he took command of the 44th Bomb Group, was promoted to colonel in March, and went with it to Africa on loan to the 9th Air Force during June and July.

On Aug. 1, 1943, he led the 44th Bomb Group, called the Eight Balls, as one of the five major elements in the massive B-24 bomber attack on the important oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania, for which action he received the Medal of Honor. The element he led became separated and temporarily lost from the lead elements. Colonel Johnson re-established contact with the mass formation and continued on the mission to discover the assigned target had been attacked and damaged by earlier B-24s.

The Medal of Honor citation reads, in part: "...Though having lost the element of surprise upon which the safety and success of such a daring form of mission so strongly depended, Colonel Johnson elected to carry out his planned low-level attack despite the thoroughly alerted defenses, the destructive anti-aircraft fire, enemy fighter airplanes, the imminent danger of exploding delayed-action bombs from the previous element. of oil fires and explosions, and of intense smoke obscuring the target. By his gallant courage, brilliant leadership, and superior flying skill, Colonel Johnson so led his formation as to totally destroy the important refining plants and installations which were the object of his mission. He personally contributed to the success of this historic raid the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty."

Colonel Johnson also received the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and Four Air Medals, besides being decorated by France, Belgium and Great Britain. In September 1943, he organized and commanded the 14th Combat Bomb Wing and in November was promoted to brigadier general. He continued in combat until the war ended. He returned to Headquarters Army Air Force, Washington, D.C., as Chief of Personnel Services and Assistant Chief of Air Staff for Personnel.

In April 1947, he took command of the 15th AF at Colorado Springs and in October received his second star. Returning to Europe in August 1948, he commanded the 3rd Air Division and in Feb. 1950, was given additional duty as Chief of the Military Assistance Advisory Group for the United Kingdom. In January 1952, General Johnson became CEO of the Continental Air Command at Mitchel AFB, N.Y., with promotion to lieutenant general that July. A year later, he had the additional duty as Senior AF Member on the Military Staff Committee of the United Nations. By April 1956, he was back in Washington as U.S. Representative to NATO's Military Committee and Standing Group. He was promoted to four-star general Aug. 31, 1957, and then served under Gen. Lauris Norstad as Deputy Commander (for Air) at NATO, Paris, and HQ SHAPE until his retirement July 31, 1961. He returned to active duty on Jan. 12, 1962, as Director of Staff for the Net Evaluation Sub Committee of the National Security Council.

See the
full citation at the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website.